Creating a buzz in arts world

Live At LICA's programming team, from left, Fiona Sinclair, Alice Booth, Richard Smith and Matt Fenton.
Live At LICA's programming team, from left, Fiona Sinclair, Alice Booth, Richard Smith and Matt Fenton.

Live at LICA, a relative newcomer to the city’s arts scene, is already punching way above its weight when it comes to productivity.

Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts was set up in September 2009 from the merger of the Nuffield Theatre, Peter Scott Gallery and Lancaster International Concerts, and in just three years has facilitated major productions, exhibitions and performances, winning critical acclaim.

A number have gone on to world renowned venues such as the Southbank in London and The Old Vic in Bristol, putting Lancaster’s name on the international arts map.

But Live at LICA’s laidback director Matt Fenton says its not all about prestige, and the organisation, based at Lancaster University, has been building in-roads into the community for some time now.

“Because we’re campus based, we’ve been trying to engage new people with what we’re doing,” he said.

“We’ve got fewer people coming from Morecambe so we thought why not take some projects there, let’s go where the audience is.”

Cue the mechanical “whale on tour”, an interactive theatre experience which is making its way down the north Lancashire coast from July 21 – 27, including a stop off at Heysham St Peter’s School.

In August, Morecambe’s Winter Gardens will also host Sea Breeze, which uses music, voices, projection and breath to create an atmospheric performance.

The project has been produced by Alice Booth, Live at LICA’s creative producer.

Live at LICA’s team of 12 also includes visual arts curator Richard Smith, music programmer Fiona Sinclair and Jamie Wooldridge, who looks after marketing.

The organisation, which receives funding from the university, Arts Council England and Lancashire County Council, turned over £580,000 last year.

“We’re essentially one of the ways that the uni engages with the general public,” Matt said.

“Our programme is not just for the students, it’s for everyone, and we feel the work is accessible.

“Our ticket prices are excellent value for money as well.”

The LICA building, built three years ago, is an incubation unit for many of the stage performances.

It is also the most sustainable university building in the UK based on Breeam standards.

Previous Live at LICA productions have included work with the Candoco Dance Company, Imitating the Dog, and more recently aerial theatre company Ockham’s Razor.

“For Ockhams Razor we brought together artists from many different backgrounds and Alice recruited a community choir who rehearsed with a musical director and then presented the performance in the Nuffield over six nights.

“It got great reviews in the national press meaning information about us is travelling the country.”

As a Lancaster Arts Partner, Live at LICA has also been involved in Light Up Lancaster, which it hopes to grow in the future.

Matt believes Lancaster’s arts future is positive.

“We’ve got big respected arts organisations that are all working together and that is amazing in a city the size of Lancaster.

“There’s an issue with retaining artists in Lancaster, and attracting people to stay here, and also graduate retention.

We need to build even more opportunities to create and show new work so more creative graduates choose to stay here.

It’s about the buzz and the vibe of a place, these are things that make people think - this is a very creative place to be based.”