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The Lowry theatre is one of the newest in the Manchester area, built at the beginning of the redevelopment of Salford Quays along with the Lowry outlet mall and the Imperial War Museum North. Its now well and truly ''settled in'' and is a key part of the cultural life of the Greater Manchester area. The Lowry has two theatres, a very large one called the ''Lyric'' with a huge stage, huge stalls area and two circles. There is also the much smaller more intimate ''Quays'' theatre which is much smaller, with a main stalls area, a small upper tier and just a few rows of bar style seating around the edges. The bigger, nationally famous acts tend to be on in the Lyric. The variety is impressive, ranging from comedians, to plays, to ballet, to musicals and even an ice skating show recently! The stage is big enough that it can be adapted to almost anything, but not so big that one person seems ''lost'' in the middle of it like on an arena stage. The Lyric theatre seating is very comfortable and modern, a decent amount of leg room and you aren''t too bunched up next to your neighbour as in some older theatres that were presumably built when nobody was above about 5ft tall! The view is pretty good from anywhere, no columns or anything getting in the way, but of course the stage is starting to look pretty small by the time you''re in the back of the upper circle, and you get a good look at the tops of the performer''s heads from the very very back! The Quays theatre is not as comfortable, the seats feel smaller and a bit more cramped. They''re still good just not as good as the Lyric! Whatever you do though, avoid the bar stool type seating around the edges. Its really uncomfortable and I''ve found it can actually ruin your enjoyment of a performance as you just can''t settle in and relax. The bars and restaurants at the Lowry itself are pretty pricey, but there are cheap places to eat just outside on the plaza of the outlet mall. Now I have to mention the car park. There is always ample parking at the Mall and getting onto it is never a problem. You can also get a discount if you get your ticket stamped at the customer service desk and avoid the queues for the ticket machines. However, escaping at the end of the show is a bit of a nightmare, the traffic just doesn''t flow easily and people are bumper to bumper for ages. There is a tram stop if you prefer public transport. The staff and volunteers are always really helpful and friendly, and a bonus is that you book your tickets directly through their box office, no ticketmaster or other third party, and a real person on the other end of the phone!
The people of Manchester and Salford are very proud of their local artist L.S. Lowry. As a young child I visited several exhibitions showing his works and I remember him being on local TV often.
Born in Manchester in 1887, he spent the rest of his life in nearby Salford, earning his living as a rent collector. As a painter he developed his own distinctive style by the 1920's. He concentrated on the life around him, his works depicting northern life in the industrial towns. He also painted some remote landscapes and seascapes as well as several portraits.
L.S. Lowry died in 1976. In 1997 the lottery fund came up with money for the gallery and in April 2000 it opened it's doors. Last month I paid my first visit and was well impressed. The building itself is spectacular, made of glass and chrome, it is set in a magnificent waterside location on the redeveloped Salford Quays in the heart of the docklands.
INSIDE/THE CURRENT EXHIBITION
The building houses the biggest collection of Lowry paintings and drawings, some 350 in all. The current exhibition showing until the end of this month was a bit of an eye opener. Titled "Lowry's Travels" one realises that the fame of those industrial scenes led to the relative neglect of pictures he produced elsewhere. This exhibition is about those other places Lowry visited from Cornwall to the northern most parts of Scotland. The exhibition is divided into sections, each devoted to a different geographical area. Wales, the north east, the midlands and south west feature largely in the exhibition.
As well as the Lowry exhibition there is an excellent and humerous display of black and white photographs by Grace Robertson. Her theme is everyday life and her subjects everyday people taken over the last 70 years. The local W.I. taking a trip to the fair in the 50's, wedding receptions and pub outings all make for good viewing. Also showing is a Scottish Art Ex
hibition from 1750 to 2000; a collection of around 40 paintings.
As well as the galleries there are 2 theatres, The Lyric has a large, modern feel and the smaller, more intimate Quays is liked for it's atmosphere. There is an excellent season's programme including The Blue Room, Of Mice and Men and Henry V as well as many childrens' shows.
To compliment the art, The Lowry caters for all taste. There is a coffee shop which also serves sandwiches and pastries or you can dine at the Terrace Cafe Bar which has lovely waterside views. Dinner came be taken in The Lowry Restaurant.
ROUND AND ABOUT
When visiting The Lowry you are in a prime location for not only visiting the quayside but the new designer outlet across the way, The Imperial War Museum and for those that must Manchester United's Museum and Tour. All are within easy reach of Manchester city centre and all served by the more than efficient tram service.
Lowry would have been a very proud man had this place been built in his life time. "And now he sits and waits outside them factory gates to paint those matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs"
L.S. Lowry 1887-1976. God bless!
First impressions of the Lowry are, I'm afraid, not very good. It's not the building itself, which is a magnificent structure and truly a piece of inspired architecture, with sweeping lines of gun-metal grey. It is more to do with the building's immediate surroundings. The Lowry has been built in the redeveloped Quays area of Salford, and is approximately one and a half miles from Manchester city centre. Formerly a large dock works, the area laid derelict until redevelopment began in the late 1980's. Since then there has been a dramatic transformation, with new offices and upmarket flats being built, and the area has become prosperous once more, and with the building of a new Metrolink line through the area, transport links into Manchester city centre are now very good. The Lowry has been located at the end of one of the old docks, with water on two sides of a triangle, and I'm sure on a bright day the building will stand out, the problem is you won't be able to see it in it's true splendour. With water on two sides of a triangle, the only aspect available to view the building fully is from the front. Not a problem you would imagine, but someone, in their 'wisdom' has decided that a retail and leisure centre be built right outside the front entrance. Currently this is a building site, but the shell of this building is very imposing, and dwarfs the Lowry. There is also a very uninspired multi-storey car-park nearby. It seems to make a mockery of all the effort that must have gone into designing and building the Lowry. Why put in all that time and money when you are going to completely ruin the effect by surrounding it with grey monstrosities, spoiling the view of a wonderful building. Besides all this, the only place to park nearby is in that monstrous multi-storey, at a cost of at least £3.00! First impressions aren't improved upon entry to the Lowry. Inside the foyer is a booking offi
ce, where maps were handed out to visitors. Very helpful you may think, until you try and use this map. The building has many 5 different levels and a multitude of staircases, yet the map is a single drawing, with all these levels represented on this one picture. It is extremely difficult to follow, and using it to try and find you way around is a complete waste of time. The sign-posts dotted around on various stairwells and walls are similarly unhelpful, the best thing to do is wander around and hope for the best, luckily the building is not that big so you can always find your way back to the start with relative ease! The Lowry is dominated by two theatres running through the building, the 1730 sat Lyric Theatre and the 479 seat Quays Theatre. Again this is one of the problems of the building. Although these theatres are very impressive, they take up so much room in the building, if you are just visiting the galleries to view the paintings and exhibitions on display, it strikes you that not a lot of room is left. The galleries and exhibitions are sort of tagged on around the edges of these theatres, and everything seems rather squashed. The main display galleries are to the right of these theatres and house a collection of painting by, yes, you guessed it, the man L.S.Lowry himself. The collection has a vast array of his paintings, and if you are a fan of his work it is well worth a visit, though as mentioned before the display suffers from a distinct lack of space, and the way the paintings are displayed for viewing seems very uninspired. The paintings are all displayed in one gallery, which is rather crowded, and there seems to be no theme or reason to how the paintings have been shown. they just seems to have been hung in a rather haphazard fashion, like someone came along and just took them out of boxes and hung them in the order they appeared. Around the edges of this gallery is a display of paintings by another local S
alford artist Jim Medway. He uses cats to represent the local youth of the area, and these drawings seem much better displayed, as they have more space to be viewed individually, especially one drawing which dominates a whole wall, very impressive! There is currently a display in one gallery by the Italian artist Fortunato Drpero, titled 'Carnival of Colour', but as it cost £3.00 to enter this one, rather small gallery to see his work, I passed up the opportunity. The remainder of the building is taken up by a maze of stairways and landings, two shops, a restaurant and a cafe. The cafe was again fairly unimpressive, a collection of tables and chairs littering the foyer to the right of the main entrance, directly below the galleries. The area seemed very scruffy, with uncleared tables and chairs scattered everywhere. There must have been a staff shortage as the range of hot drinks was limited to just tea and plain coffee, despite menus suggesting otherwise. In fact that was a recurring them throughout the building, not a lack of drinks, but scruffiness. The carpets surrounding the theatre looked unkempt, were stained and generally in poor condition, which is particularly disappointing when you consider the building has only been open for less than a year. There was also chewing gum stuck onto several floor lights, not very attractive I think you'll agree. Finally, the shops. I don't have much to say except they were quite cramped and crowded, and although stocking a variety of products, had very few items actually linked to the Lowry itself, with only two books on display about the works of L.S.Lowry. They also had a very disappointing lack of sweets and confectionary products on sale, usually the staple of any self-respecting museum shop! On the plus sides are that despite the many floors in the building, disabled access is good, with lifts available to all areas, guide dogs are welcome and disable
d parking is provided nearby. With the Metrolink and surrounding motorway network, transport links are good. Despite my many criticisms, the building is free to visit, and the structure really is very impressive, ruined only by it's companions! The Lowry Pier 8 Salford Quays M5 2AZ 0161 876 2000 www.thelowry.com Open Mon-Sat 1000-2000 Sun 1000-1800
I visited The Lowry in the first week after it was completed, last summer. We already knew from the news reports that it was a bit of a rush job, towards the end, and it definitely showed in those first few days. The interior décor left much to be desired - many a carpet edge needed tacking down, there were lots of places where it looked like they'd run out of paint... And on that Sunday when I visited the cafes simply weren't prepared for the huge numbers of visitors - no sandwiches, no ice creams? just Snickers bars if your were peckish. Not very good if you were planning to have a pre-concert bite to eat there! Anyway, all of that seems to have changed now, they've got more organised, and all is forgiven. It's a very impressive building - especially from the outside. The interior feels very much like an ocean liner, as it's all steel railings and portholes. The colours are somewhat garish (bright orange, bright purple) but, hey this is a modern building, an art gallery? it's making a statement. Sitting in virtually any of the bars, you get excellent views of the waterside - verging on the industrial by day, but wonderful in the evening. It's a strange development, Salford Quays - lots of new upmarket flats, and across the river, some heavy industry, and now, in their wisdom, the developers are plonking a huge big retail park right next to the Lowry. So it will become surrounded by mediocre buildings, and any effect the wonderful architecture might have had will soon no doubt be lost. There are 2 theatres there. The large one (The Lyric) hosts touring productions (opera and ballet as well as the usual musicals), and I have seen acts such as Ruby Wax there. I've also been to several concerts in the smaller Quays Theatre, which is an excellent venue, everyone has a good view of the stage. It also feels fairly plush, and quite intimate, in an old-time Good Old Days kind of way. I've
yet to explore the Art galleries fully - although the Lowry (the artist, I mean) exhibition is very good. The rooms are suitably light and airy, and you are led naturally round the rooms, so that you don't miss anything on display. The restaurant is, by all accounts, a top notch affair (I know of people who visit the Lowry just for a meal there) called Steven Saunders at The Lowry. If you're likely to be a frequent visitor, it could be worth getting an UpFront discount card, because although it costs £15, you get 10% off theatre tickets, priority booking, and 10% off in the restaurant. You can get there by tram, the Metro station is very close. Parking is not a problem as there's a huge dedicated multi-storey car park right next door. Well worth a visit if you've not been to the Lowry, just for a look round, and, if you live in the area, a good venue to keep an eye open out for top class theatre productions and concert tours.
The coming together of the Milennium and substantial funding from the National Lottery witnessed an unprecedented renaissance of Britain's cultural milieu with the opening of world class centres for the performing arts,new art galleries and museums. One of the finest examples is provided for by the Lowry,one of the great landmark projects for the new milennium. It takes its name from the great painter L.S. Lowry who was a resident of Salford. The Lowry is situated in a highly attractive waterside location at the very heart of the redeveloped Salford Quays,The new centre or the performing arts is a shiny,glittering, piece of modern archiytecture, which is clad in stainless steel It is most decidely a very impressive addition to the cultural infrastructure in north west England. The Lowry, was constructed at a cost of 96 million pounds,with much of the funding coming from the National Lottery. It is one of the country's most significant projects for the new millennium.It is a spectacular building fit for the 21 st century .For starters it houses not one but two theatres:the Lyric- which has the biggest stage in UK outside of London-and themore intimate Quays theatre.It has already hosted the likes of the Paris Opera Ballet and The Royal Shakespeare Company. The art galleries house the world's largest collection of painter L.S.Lowry's remarkable works. Contemporary art exhibitions are held in the various galleries. There are shops, waterside restaurants and bars.And there is ArtWorks,an interactive creative attraction that really is a world apart.Another of its key features is a walkway-the Promenade- which skirts the perimeter of the building and gives access to the various galleries and other attractions. Entertainment lined-up includes a stage production of Clockwork Orange,three opera productions for Opera North, concerts marking the 100 th anniversary of the late,great
,Duke Ellington,performances by the Birmingham Royal Ballet,and the Lowry Exhibition. Set in the heart of Manchester's waterways at Salford Quays, The Lowry is open all day,every day.It iis also linked to Manchester's rapid transit system amnd only about a 20 minute journey from Manchester International Arport. GoGood information about upcoming events and exhibitions can be gleaned from its web site www.thelowry.org.uk. A number of UK's millennium projects have,in the past been criticised as being potential "white elephants" but The Lowry opened to critical acclaim. Not only is it an architecturally stunning building but it is a superb venue for the arts and one that the city of Manchester can take great pride in.