A Thematic Approach to our work: Age & Ageing in 2022

25 January 2022
Jocelyn Cunningham

For a few years now, Lancaster Arts has adopted an annual theme that we apply across all our work from presentational work, such as concerts, theatre and exhibitions to our support for commissions and residencies.

Last year, our theme was ‘Water’ and we are still developing work that explores this. After all, one thing leads to another and if the theme resonates, then we make sure it flourishes. We began with a theme for each of our public seasons such as the amazing autumn of 2018 with ‘Women and Circus’. But we found that each theme was so rich and interesting that we would only start to get more deeply into the many perspectives of a theme and then the season was over, so now we want to give a theme the time to breathe and expand into all of our work over a year.

Ideas for themes arise from many conversations over a period of time with a range of different people and their varied interests, whether this is artistic work or academic research. We ask which themes feel relevant right now and which themes enable a broad range of perspectives, from the introspective to the playful and humorous. It might be a direct relationship with the theme such as Swimming Home, an audio online show we did last year for ‘Water’, which had us swimming in our bathtubs or it might use the theme as a metaphor, such as our mini season last autumn on the idea of sea-change. What is really important is that we never look at a single view of a theme.

It means we have to work hard to curate our programmes, looking for the right fit but also finding a range of approaches to the ideas that the theme brings up. Sometimes, we just really want to present artists’ work and it doesn’t fit at all and that’s fine. And sometimes, we are delighted and surprised by how it can cohere across all of the artforms we work with.

This year our theme is Age & Ageing

2022 presents very different outlooks for people of different ages, from the impacts of our global crises such as the ongoing pandemic and climate emergencies to the increased fragility of democracies. It can seem as if there are increasing gaps between generations and how each generation perceives the world. Whose voices are we hearing the least? How can different generations learn from each other and give each other joy? Where are the opportunities for a full and good life? What is the ageing process about in 2022 – whether this is through childhood or into the latter years of our lives? How do we create resilience and adaptability to change? And what about the amazing work that artists create with people at different stages of their lives – have a look at Fevered Sleep’s Men and Girls or Entelechy Arts’ 21st Century Tea Dances.

We’re also really interested in intergenerational practice in the arts and are exploring this through a new commission, called Hand in Hand with Manchester-based Z-Arts. There are fascinating perspectives on ageing from a non-human angle that could introduce aspects of climate change, or of generations in the natural world or changes in our urban or rural landscapes. 

Our year on Age &Ageing will offer a programme that brings people of different ages together, whether this is with audiences or with the artists involved. As we introduce this year’s seasons to come, we hope the theme will come to life through the amazing work artists will bring to you and sometimes this will directly ask for your input, such as your memories, your ideas and hopes on Age & Ageing. 

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