By the end of September some 80 individual artists will have benefited from SANCTUARY, the innovative new artist development residency at Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts.
Set up with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation artists are not only offered space at Lighthouse in which to devise and develop new work, crucially, their expenses are covered – 105 days of support have been made available to 18 companies over the Spring and Summer months.
“Throughout the last lockdown, Lighthouse was a hive of activity with artists and companies meeting from their spare rooms and kitchen tables to debate the way forward in readiness for the full reopening when they can again present new work,” explains Paula Hammond, Producer: Artist Development.
“Lighthouse has a long track record of helping artists and companies when possible, but it’s tended to be on an ad hoc basis. SANCTUARY has provided a fully funded framework for support that is more proactive and responsive.”
A steering group of seven local artists has been formed to help shape and inform activity for the year ahead and, in consultation with other Dorset arts agencies, a programme of year-round support that meets the needs of artists living and working in Dorset is being developed.
“I’ve worked with Lighthouse for more than 20 years and as an organisation it has been incredibly supportive through this period,” says steering group member Niki McCretton, artistic director of The Lyric Theatre in Bridport and Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company, which has been developing a new adaptation of Pinocchio with live action, music and puppetry that will premiere at Lighthouse in October before a national tour.
“I was in discussion with Lighthouse during lockdown to help inform the Sanctuary Programme. It is important to listen to artists and others who support and champion artists, like myself, and the team have spent time working alongside The Lyric to understand what artists need and also don’t need. Sanctuary, therefore, has artists needs at its core and has been hugely important to the region’s artistic community. It has been an open door to artists with ideas who want to work on them and see where they go. You have no idea how unusual that is. For once, at last, we have felt valued and understood.”
As well as Stuff and Nonsense, well-established companies such as Angel Exit, Joli Vyann and Gandini Juggling have also been supported – the latter spending three days working with lighting designer Guy Hoare developing a new show, At Heart.
SANCTUARY has seen emerging talent supported with time and space as well as the in-house expertise of the technical team at Lighthouse. Folk group The Last Inklings experimented with new technology and techniques ahead of their album launch; Gemma Alldred is developing and reworking her one-woman show, True and False and Josh Tucker, a graduate of the famed East 15 Acting School, is returning to his hometown with his new company Paper Mug to work on a children’s show called Michael Recycle. Josh is no stranger to Lighthouse – he used to work behind the bar.
“Covid has been terrible,” adds Niki, “but it has forced everyone to think differently and to that extent it has been energising – there’s good reason to make the most of that and carry those exciting ideas forward.”
Something that Lighthouse is only too aware of.
“As a receiving house, Lighthouse is highly skilled at taking work that is already made and presenting it to audiences, SANCTUARY has enabled us to be more involved in the creative process and support artists to make work in our spaces,” adds Paula.
“With fundraising, that level of support for artists will continue and become embedded in Lighthouse planning – there’s more to come.”
Over the coming months plans include a series of invitational ‘Go See & Supper’ events for Dorset artists, a playwriting competition to be launched later this summer, a series of live performance arts commissions and, early next year, the first Dorset Artists Festival.
:: Potential donors and sponsors can find out more about this ambitious programme of support for artists by emailing Tom Shallaker, Fundraising Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Mark Morreau - Niki McCretton at Lighthouse