Live at LICA – A History

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Photo courtesy of LICA

Live at LICA, the combined organisation for the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster International Concert Series and the Peter Scott Gallery, have contributed to Lancaster’s position as a vibrant arts city and shown dedication to creating a lively cultural presence on campus.

There has been a wealth of exhibitions, concerts, opera, film, and theatrical productions from 1968 onwards. The programmes have been contemporary and experimental, as well as classical. The public arts at Lancaster began with the Embellishment Committee which was able to purchase works of art. There is a sizeable collection that the university owns; these are regularly displayed in exhibitions and many can be found across campus such as ‘Dual Form’ in Alexandra Square, ‘Untitled Metal Arc’ to the north of University House, the ‘Bull’s Head’ opposite the Chaplaincy Centre, and ‘Daphne’ in County South courtyard. In 1969 the Nuffield Theatre Studio opened, and that was followed by the first of the International Concerts series in the Great Hall, with renowned ensembles and orchestras coming to Lancaster, including resident quartets. The Peter Scott Gallery first opened on the top floor of the former Grizedale College with an exhibition entitled ‘Romans in the North’, and then moved to where it now stands. It took on the Irene Manton collection of paintings and the John Chambers collection of Lancashire Pottery which is on long loan to the university.

Member of the marketing team Jamie Woolridge has worked with Live at LICA since their establishment in 2009. When he joined they were made up of different systems; the gallery, concert hall and theatre had separate directors who worked independently, without front of house or marketing teams behind them. However, the formation of Live at LICA marked a coming together of these three venues. Since the combined organisation changed its name to Live at LICA in 2010; theatre performances, concerts and gallery openings are held together and Live at LICA have been looking into how art forms might merge in ways that enthuse and attract audiences.

Interestingly, a former Live at LICA exhibition titled ‘Was I There?’ presented original promotional posters from gigs that took place in the late 70s and early 80s documenting events that used the space close to where the gallery now stands, but before it existed. Famous names such as The Damned, AC/DC and John Cooper Clarke were included.

Live at LICA’s objectives since their formation have been to raise awareness of what’s on campus; many local people and students are unaware that famous artists are exhibiting on their own doorstep. Live at LICA have also endeavoured to break free from site venues to show what’s on offer through interactive, innovative events. These objectives have undoubtedly been met. The Peter Scott Gallery curate Lancaster University’s own art collection, all of which is exhibited with free entry. Live at LICA have further showcased the artistic innovation of the university through Curate the Campus, a series of creative happenings which culminated to transform campus into a collaborative cultural hub. It is vital that this ongoing rich history of arts creation and presentation at Lancaster University is recorded and documented through archiving systems, or else much of it will forgotten.

New director Jamie Eastman states that many people do not realise is that Live at LICA have always played a strong role in creation of art and the movement of new artists; this is a vital part of their identity they are going to continue, because being an arts organisation is much more than presenting and selling tickets. In terms of future direction, there will be an amplified interface between students and Live at LICA’s own cultural ‘shop window’; students will have access to a closer relationship with the programme. This will include more focused exhibitions of Fine Art students in the Peter Scott Gallery, and the generation of relationships and schemes with students studying other subjects. Already, Live at LICA’s Ambassador Scheme offers invaluable work experience and the Peter Scott Gallery offer extensive volunteer placements.

Live at LICA offer experience and intimacy unlike many other arts organisations, so make the most of what they offer during your time at Lancaster. The fact that they are moving outside set venues demonstrates passion for inspiring and involving students across subjects; proving that art can be much more than for show. After graduating and moving from Lancaster, ticket prices will shoot up; bigger city art venues and performances are notorious for weighty expenses. Lancaster University has showcased its arts dedication since its foundation; it is a privilege to study at such a culturally dynamic establishment and many of my memories of Lancaster will be of the fervent arts scene.