Welcoming the next phase of Jacksons Lane’s architectural and artistic journey, Artistic Director Ade Berry and Executive Director Monique Deletant realise the venue’s vision of becoming ‘welcoming, inspiring, accessible, visible, inviting and reflective of its personality and ambition’ – a vision brought to life by architects Citizens Design Bureau. Currently under redevelopment, Ade and Monique tell us more about what to expect from the newly redeveloped venue.
Hi Adrian and Monique, you’re working with Citizens Design Bureau on the redevelopment project to transform your Grade II listed arts centre. How are you feeling about the project?
Ade: Incredibly excited. It now feels a reality, having decanted the building, sifted through archives, painted messages on walls which will no longer exist. I have sat and pondered in every room these last few months but feel ok saying goodbye for a year.
Monique: Seeing the ideas that Citizens Design Bureau have had and how committed they are to making the most of the features of the building has been really inspiring. I’m so pleased we are now onsite and about to see everything come to fruition.
The new arts centre will look to be environmentally sustainable. Was this a core part of your architectural brief?
Ade: Very much so. Jacksons Lane has always been very proactive when it comes to greening and sustainability so this was a natural yet vital next step for us when appointing CDB, who are totally on the same page.
Jacksons Lane’s vision is for the building to be ‘welcoming, inspiring, accessible, visible, inviting and reflective of its personality and ambition’. What will this look like?
Monique: Changing the entrance is a massive part of our approach to making us more welcoming, accessible, visible and inviting. We want people to be curious and come over the threshold so they can meet us and explore what we have to offer. I hope our community will come in and feel like it’s still the same Jacksons Lane in a building that is now worthy of all the work and people who use it. We’re making the most of our architectural features – the windows, brick walls and high ceilings! And we’re looking forward to having a lift so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of Studio 1 on the first floor.
Ade: Despite the developments of the building, I don’t want us to become too corporate, we have always had a slightly ‘hand-knitted’ approach, quite organic yet very much experts in our field at the same time. We want the approach to our audiences and visitors to still be hands on and warm, and for the bricks and mortar and interiors to reflect that feeling
What part do you play in making sure the project keeps on schedule, particularly with COVID as the context?
Ade: We have a large and dedicated team managing this part to be honest, but for me it’s being present at all the meetings and staying abreast of developments and challenges. I remember a great quote from an arts professional: “always be present at meetings where decisions are being made”.
Monique: I will often ask the simple but essential questions. We are really lucky with the team and our board, particularly our Chair David Porter who can point out potential pitfalls and make sure we are asking the right questions. Working with public funders also helps as we have strict deadlines by which to update them. COVID has helped and hindered… we’ve really benefited from people being at home so they get back to us quickly, but the evershifting environment has made it tricky to keep up to date sometimes.
How have you found collaborating with Citizens Design Bureau on the project?
Monique: It’s been great, they’ve really got under the skin of Jacksons Lane and have been with us through thick and thin. We’ve appreciated working both with Katy Marks and Cathy Hawley, we’ve always felt in good hands and its been lovely to see the team grow.
Ade: It’s been rewarding and enriching. They felt the right company for us from the start, and I have been a big fan of Katy Marks; her work on the Young Vic, Royal Court and especially the Everyman in Liverpool. They are buildings I aspire to. Katy spent a huge amount of time in our building just silently observing, which I really valued. The whole CDB team really ‘gets’ Jacksons Lane.
Have there been any challenges realising the vision, especially considering current restrictions on theatres?
Ade: Aside from financial initially, yes we have had to future-think as well as future-proof. We revised some of the plans when the pandemic occurred, and we also now are looking to how people’s behaviour might change in the future, allowing for more space and distance where needed, including our own team. But in some ways it has literally given us space to breathe, and our newer plans are actually even better than before.
Monique: Being in a grade II listed building has meant that at times we’ve had to adapt how we realise our vision, for example around installing solar panels and the location of the lift. And current restrictions have given us a chance to question our assumptions and think about a physical and digital world, how they interact and what that looks like for artists, audiences and users of the building. The main challenge was finding time for the project at the same time as a pandemic.
What are your hopes for the redevelopment?
Monique: That people walk into Jacksons Lane and feel instantly at ease and want to spend their time there.
Ade: That we open in a safer, happier world, that we re-establish ourselves as the UK’s leader in contemporary circus, and that people will flock back in. I’m personally missing audiences and artists more than anything. I want the redevelopment to be as best as it can be to work in, to play in and to experience everything we have to offer.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
To find out more about Jacksons Lane,visit here…
To find out more about the redevelopment project, visit here…