Case study - one artist's journey with The Empty Space

Laura Lindow had been working in Newcastle for ten years as a freelance writer, director, performer and facilitator before being approached by The Empty Space. During that time she had regularly worked with every producing theatre on Tyneside but had been pigeon holed as a youth theatre practitioner. When The Empty Space had the opportunity to commission three artists to make a show for Edinburgh, Laura was one of the first people to be approached, on the grounds that The Empty Space had seen youth theatre shows she’d directed and felt certain that she was a special talent and that given the right support she would create something extraordinary.

The company worked with Laura to help her decide what kind of show she wanted to make, encouraging her to question assumptions about what type of work she should make or might be expected of her and, as an idea emerged, The Empty Space used all its contacts to pull together a team that would be well suited to Laura’s needs. In particular, once it was established that Laura wanted to write the show herself the company advised that she work with a dramaturge and brokered a relationship with Beccy Smith.

Within nine months of starting to work with Laura Heartbreak Soup had been produced and presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As well as managing the run at the Fringe, The Empty Space was able to attract over 50 promoters to see the show which has, as a result, gone on to make two national tours and in June 2011 will have a two week run at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London, all managed by The Empty Space. 

“I first came across the work of The Empty Space at the Take Off Festival in 2009.   Heartbreak Soup was the show that everyone was talking about, a skillfully crafted work that was presented with such energy and imagination.  We're really pleased to be featuring it in the 2011 Salisbury International Arts Festival and I can't wait to see the show again.”                              Caroline Peacock, Festival Manager - Salisbury International Arts Festival

In addition to the success of Heartbreak Soup, working with The Empty Space has created many new opportunities for Laura; on the back of seeing Heartbreak Soup in Edinburgh Northern Stage commissioned her to write and direct a show for their main programme and The Empty Space regularly receives requests from companies outside the region and as far away as Germany, for Laura to make work with them. To cap it all, Heartbreak Soup was nominated for a Total Theatre award and Laura was shortlisted for the Journal Culture Club Writer of the Year Award 2009.

A year after the first national tour of Heartbreak Soup The Empty Space suggested to Laura that she work with Beccy Owen, a local singer songwriter whose work has a resonance with Laura’s lyrical style. Following an initial meeting the pair applied for a Live Theatre/Empty Space bursary and were commissioned to make a show combining new writing and live music. The resulting scratch performance of Sawdust and Stardust resulted in Live Theatre commissioning a longer version for a three week run in January 2011 and there are plans to take the show further in 2012.

Over a three year period Laura has established herself as a professional writer and director, promoted within the region from youth theatre facilitator to main programme contributor, and in demand nationally and internationally. This is a direct result of The Empty Space’s belief in, and nurturing of, her at a critical stage in her development.

The Empty Space is now working with Laura to ensure that she exploits the opportunities offered by the London run of Heartbreak Soup and to make some big decisions about where she wants to go next. She says of her experience of working with The Empty Space:

“To have been supported by The Empty Space has been the most incredible experience. Quite simply I have had the chance to realise professional ambitions that I never thought possible, to work with a team made up of heroes, and to extend my practice into new and exciting avenues. The Empty Space have been there for every step, from the germ of the idea to the closing of the chapter; for the ‘what’s next?’ and the ‘how do we do it?’ The Empty Space have facilitated and supported both the dreams and the practicalities, lending their expertise and skills to make it all happen.”