MARKING its inaugural year, ‘Week 53’ a festival devised by Salford’s Lowry Theatre began on Thursday, April 28 with the opening launch.

Week 53 symbolises to The Lowry a change and devolution from the status quo – it’s about rewarding the compulsively curious and challenging the conventions in society, through the use of creative outlets.

The Lowry chief executive Julia Fawcett began the day with a short introduction about what The Lowry means to Salford and how the theatre has evolved along with Salford in general – the festival was also somewhat of a ‘celebration’ of how far Salford has come since the days Media City was simply just the Manchester Ship Canal dock.

Over 200 artists will be taking part in the festival, which lasts April 28 to May 8. Over this time period, the artists at the festival will be highlighting their expressive work and how their work plays into what is current.

The theme for this year’s festival is identity. How is identity viewed in today’s society? Week 53 will focus on how people view their own identity – for some people it is everything to them, to others it is nothing.

The first exhibition project demonstrated was SYZYGY by Katie Patterson. Through a deep-space telescope, events millions of light years away and hundreds of thousands of years in the past could be observed – when a star dies in the solar system, Katie translates this into a letter of condolence and posts this to astronomers at the earliest possible moment.

This exhibition opens up the universe as the living organism it is, and all the stars which belong here – for every five seconds a star dies, there are millions more still undiscovered.

Alongside this, Katie had taken the local time of each planet in the solar system and made it into a wall of clocks. From the extremely short days of Mercury to the tirelessly long days of Venus, this part of the exhibition opened the minds of it’s viewer, by inciting a new way of looking at our fellow planets in the solar system.

I also got the chance to sit down with Lowry chief executive Julia Fawcett for an interview, who spoke in detail about what the festival stands for, and how The Lowry will benefit from Week 53.

“We were putting on thousands of shows every year, but there was still great ideas for shows, exhibitions and galleries which we just didn’t have time for.

“We (Lowry staff) came together as a team, and came up with the idea that for one week every year, the theatre would be opened to artists from all over to showcase their work, and use whatever they need to in the venue,” Julia said.

The name ‘Week 53’ also had high relevance with Julia. With there being only 52 weeks in a calendar year, Week 53 stood for an ‘illusory’ week, every year there would be no set dates, but as the 53rd week doesn’t exist – it opens up the festival to be put on at any time.

For the theme of identity, Julia saw this as current to our daily lives.

“One of the most current issues facing us as a world is identity. It’s about finding where our place is in the world – and it seems to be the conversations which we’re having with people on a daily basis,” she explained.

With Greater Manchester currently going through a huge change with the news that, this time next year we will have a Mayor, the idea of devolution and the evolving concept of our regional and national identity is of great importance, and this festival will symbolise that.

If you want to take a look at what you can expect from the festival, the video underneath will show you just a few examples of what is to come…

By Dan Willis

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