Artist Development is deeply rooted in the work of The Old Courts. Since opening its doors, The Old Courts team have been fully committed to providing resources, support, and a network to enable and further the progress of artists in building their practice. Engagement also remains at the forefront of The Old Courts ethos. Workshops to enable upskilling have been a constant over the years; aside from catharsis and fulfilment of a great workshop, it’s sessions like this that can provide a gateway to local work opportunities in the arts.
We spoke with actor, Maria Lowe who has been on quite the journey with The Old Courts over the years having been involved in several shows and projects. The 26-year-old from Springfield, Wigan first began her journey into acting with the help of a drama teacher. Maria told us “I had already dealt with a lot in my life, and I definitely had confidence issues and acting was the first thing I felt I was truly good at and had a passion for”. Lowe then went onto study Performing Arts at John Rigby College and then studied at the Royal Exchange Theatre Company for three years. Upon completing her studies, Maria decided that Drama School wasn’t the route for her and went onto work in different theatres across Manchester such as The Lowry and Home. Maria told us “I didn’t want to feel the pressure of exams at drama school, working at different theatres was my way of working with and meeting people within the industry”.
Maria’s first introduction to the artistic happenings at The Old Courts came after attending none other than a workshop which was delivered in collaboration with Healthy Arts. Healthy Arts is an Arts Organisation based in Hindley, whose work is centred around providing exciting and bespoke heritage and arts-based projects and performances. The intention of the workshops was to create and develop a performance to present at The Old Courts. According to Maria, this experience enabled her to forge new and local connections with other artists and groups such as Wigan Little Theatre.
“The Old Courts feels like a home away from home now, I attend workshops here, I begin my nights out here in Bailiff Bar, I watch shows in the theatre, I bring family members to different music events, I see it as a safe space”.
After feeling that she had hit a creative opportunity dry spell, Maria took to social media in search of more local creative opportunities, she told us “Jonny Davenport (Artistic Director, The Old Courts) responded to my social media post and arranged a meeting with me to discuss upcoming events, projects and networking to get involved in”. After attending a research and development workshop last year to help bring to life a unique show, Maria was cast in Bunker of Zion, which premiered at Wigan Pier last summer.
This year, there have already been some fantastic artistic opportunities delivered by The Old Courts with the help of other fantastic arts organisations. In February and March of this year ‘Old Courts Creatives’ was born, bringing 8 creatives aged 18-30 together to work alongside professional artists from across the performing arts industry to showcase work created over an intensive making weekend. The only criteria to apply for this project was that someone of the age requirements considered themselves to be, at whatever level or capacity, creative, whether that be in performance, music, movement, design, art and more. Maria told us that the chance to develop new skills and meet like-minded people of a similar age inspired her to apply.
The Wigan born actress has also jumped right into in local community activity and makes up 1 of 10 members of The Old Courts Sounding Board, all of which live within the borough and bring lived experience, knowledge, and history of the area to help push projects in the right direction and have their say on what they would like to see for the borough.
“The Old Courts have supported me on and off stage, for me it goes beyond acting, it’s the local network I have found which is truly amazing. I love walking into a room where people know who I am who all have similar passions to me, I feel like I’m part of something now”.
We’re excited to share that Maria will be involved in one of our upcoming projects in the Summer in a community producing role to assist The Old Courts in delivering a spectacular two-day, outdoor carnival event… watch this space!
If you are inspired by this story and want to find out more about upcoming opportunities visit the get involved section on our website. Any specific questions please email – firstname.lastname@example.org