Swimming in mud

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
To Salford last week to see The Lowry. Yes, that is the full name - "centre" is considered de trop. No stick men, but plenty of hard hats and Wellingtons, because this is still a building site, another millennial project.

Part of the redevelopment of what used to be an important port, but has become a wasteland, the arts centre is funded by Pounds 64 million from the Lottery, with partnership funding by the Millennium Commission, The Arts Council of England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. (By the way, if you are visiting one of the many arts or millennium building sites and have small feet, take two pairs of socks; the wellies are usually size seven and up. Otherwise you squelch around in thick mud with your footwear reluctantly following your feet while striving to imagine bustling auditoria and galleries.) The Lowry will have excellent facilities - two theatres, three galleries and the Digital World Centre, a showcase of innovations in digital technology. A lifting footbridge spanning the Manchester Ship Canal will connect The Lowry with the newly-opened Imperial War Museum - North, while the Lowry Galleria, described as "a retail, leisure and residential development" will include a 12-screen cinema. One of the galleries will house the city's Lowry collection. Another, "Artworks", is potentially the most exciting space for children. Theatre, dance and other activities are planned to take place here, as well as art and craft projects.

The architect's vision seems yet to find a match among the administrators, however, and plans are vague. These are, admittedly, early days - education officers have not so far been appointed - but we must hope there will be opportunities for people of all ages to take part in cross-arts events. The Lowry is set to open in April 2000. For information, tel: 0161 955 2020 or e-mail: www.thelowry.org.uk Another Lottery-funded arts project to be finished on time - just - is the new Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. Hard hats mingled with the balletomanes' coiffures on the opening night last week, but the news that the Royal Opera House will pay compensation of more than Pounds 1 million for its cancelled season there set programme-makers' minds at rest. Meanwhile, the education department continues with business more-or-less as usual, providing weekend INSET courses and sending artists into schools.

Sheryl Aitcheson, head of community and education, is looking forward to moving into the new facilities - the studios, seminar rooms, small theatre and larger performance space - in the new year when there will be a teachers' open evening.

The Youth Dance Company, made up of 16to 24-year-olds, many of them taking GCSE and A-level dance courses, are working to-wards performance of a new commission from choreographer Yael Flexer. For details of Sadler's Wells' education events, tel: 0171 278 1615.

A young drama enthusiast, Anthony Andrews (no relation to the Brideshead actor) was greeting guests in wet suit, flippers and goggles this week. The occasion was the launch of the third BT National Connections in a boat on the Thames. Trevor Nunn, artistic director of the National Theatre, joined NT education personnel, representatives of BT and two writers, Sharman MacDonald and Christina Reid, on 'The Golden Salamander' at the Festival Hall pier. On board were other wet-suited young actors, part of a group of NT youth theatre members advising 10 specially commissioned writers whose work will be performed by youth theatre groups throughout the UK.

The scheme is a complicated one, each cycle taking two years to come to fruition, and being funded by BT to the tune of Pounds 450,000. Suzy Graham-Adriani, the NT's Connections organiser, has commissioned 10 plays suitable for young casts from writers as different as Alan Ayckbourn and Dario Fo. As before, the plays will be published by Faber.

Ten partnership theatres in areas from Inverness to Mold in North Wales, from Bath to Nottingham, Plymouth and Scarborough will stage mini-festivals of productions by 15 local youth and school drama groups. In preparation for this, all the directors of the 150 participating groups will take part in a "retreat", a weekend of workshops with the writer of their chosen play in November. The final stage will be a festival of representative productions from each of the partnership theatres at the National Theatre next year. For further information, fax: 0171 452 3314.

Members of the National Youth Music Theatre will not have to wait so long to take to the professional stage. Their popular production of The Ragged Child can be seen at Glyndebourne from October 29 to 31, with 12-year-old Ellie Kirk playing the lead role, Annie Cooper. The musical play tells the story of some of the 30,000 destitute Victorian children who inspired Lord Shaftesbury to set up the ragged schools. NYMT, the first touring company to play in the new opera house, will hold a workshop on The Ragged Child on October 31, fee Pounds 3. For more information, tel: 0171 734 7478.

S(w)inging Cats may provide another diversion during half-term, in two concerts at 11am and 2pm on October 28 at the Purcell Room on London's South Bank. Music on a feline theme, from rock to classical, is on offer, including a new musical version of the Cornish legend, The Mousehole Cat. Composer Ian Hughes stars amid puppets, stories and face-painting. For tickets, tel: 0171 960 4242.

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