How my love of performing arts led me to connecting people

Louise Blackwell comes from a theatre-producing background and is a co-director of LookOut which aims to connect young people, artists and businesses through creativity in the performing arts sector.

Louise Blackwell, Lookout performing arts
Picture: James Pike

I studied performing arts at an excellent place called Dartington College of Arts in Devon and I’ve had a variety of different jobs working in theatre and dance including working in the box office, as an usher, a stage manager, tour booker and a press officer.

In 2001 I went to work as a producer at Battersea Arts Centre and after that, I set up my own producing company called Fuel.

Creating a lasting impact

In 2017 I left that company because I wanted the work that I do to have more of a lasting impact on people who don’t usually get to experience arts and culture in their lives, and in particular people from backgrounds which mean they may not have access to a wide range of arts and culture.

I believe more people from different backgrounds should be in positions of power in our society and that includes young women and girls.

Related article: What it’s like to work for a theatre

Setting up LOOKOUT

In 2018 I set up LOOKOUT with my two colleagues James Barton and Charlotte Vivian. The three of us have over 20 years experience working in the arts and education sectors and after a series of conversations over cups of tea, on bike rides, in a pub, we decided we wanted to set up a company that enables more young people from diverse backgrounds to work and become leaders in the creative industries. That’s when LOOKOUT was born.

Helping young people

At LOOKOUT we work with professional artists from all sorts of disciplines. This year we are working with visual artists, film and theatre makers, musicians, a computational artist and a milliner. We want to offer young people a wide range of experiences and contact with art forms and jobs they may have not realised existed.

We connect young people with creative industry specialists and local creative businesses. Through a series of creative encounters, we offer work experience, one to one mentoring and workshops with people who have successful careers in the creative industries.

Funding support

We’re a new company run by experienced people. Our challenges include developing a business model that doesn’t rely too heavily on public subsidy. We’ve been lucky to be supported by Arts Council England (via proceeds from the National Lottery), Brighton & Hove City Council and other trusts and foundations so far.

It’s important to us that we don’t charge the young people we work with for our activities because we don’t want to deny access to those that can’t afford it. So, we need to build relationships with organisations and businesses that share our vision to raise money so we can work together to offer opportunities to those who most need it.

New ideas

At the moment the three co-directors work part-time on LOOKOUT. We’re juggling other jobs and caring responsibilities, so that’s a big challenge.

We believe in what we are doing though and are adapting ideas and understanding our purpose more during the strange period in time that we are currently in.

We hope the global pandemic will enable new ideas to emerge and that the world will ultimately shift for the better albeit through a period of extremely challenging change.

To find out more about the project, visit: www.projectlookout.org

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