Interview: Owen Calvert-Lyons, Ovalhouse

Owen Calvert-Lyons was recently appointed as the new Head of Theatre and Artists’ Development at Ovalhouse Theatre in South London. The former artistic director of The Point and The Berry theatres in Hampshire joins the Ovalhouse team as they prepare to move to a new home in Brixton in 2019.

Owen Calvert-Lyons

So what does a Head of Theatre and Artists’ Development actually do? “My role is to ensure that art and artists are at the centre of everything that we do,” explains Owen. “I want to give a voice to a new generation of artists, particularly those from South East London. I will programme the mainhouse (Downstairs) and studio (Upstairs) theatres, commission artists to create new works and I’ll build an artist development programme which supports, nurtures and champions artists.

“My first season of programming will be Spring 2017, which will see a really exciting mix of new and familiar artists presenting bold and innovative productions. Before that, in July we have Seiriol Davies’ How to Win Against History, which is a hilarious, anarchic new musical.”

The new Head of Theatre is full of plans for audiences and artists alike: “I want to grow our audiences. I want people from across London to see Ovalhouse as a place that they can come to enjoy performances by the most exciting artists around.

“And I want us to be an artist’s first port of call when they have a great idea. A place where they can make their vision a reality. Ultimately, artists want to create great work and audiences want to see great work. We are creating an environment in which artists and audiences can come together to explore new ideas.

“Ovalhouse is a special venue, with a long history of radicalism. This has meant something different for every decade: feminist theatre, LGBT theatre, political theatre, performance as protest etc. This has meant that Ovalhouse has been a space for new ideas and new voices, which is always where the most exciting work comes from. We are in the process of defining what we think radicalism means for 21st century artists and audiences.”

Owen joins fellow new recruits Stella Kanu (Executive Producer) and Gary Johnson (General Manager) at a huge moment in the theatre’s history, as plans get underway for the move to Brixton: “Stella and Gary are great. They are bringing new ideas and new ways of working. This has engendered a feeling of energy and optimism amongst the whole team, so that we are all working together to ensure that Ovalhouse has a really exciting future.

“The whole team is bubbling with excitement about the move. The new venue will be right in the heart of Brixton. One of the things that makes it distinctive is that it will have seven rehearsal rooms, so it will be a creation centre full of artists making extraordinary things.

“Many of the spaces will be rigged for aerial work, so we will be able to support the development of contemporary circus as well as theatre and dance. The two new performance spaces will be bigger than the existing Ovalhouse studios and better equipped, so we can make even more exciting work for even bigger audiences.” 

Find out more about How To Win Against History, and see what else is coming up in the Ovalhouse Spring/Summer 2016 season at www.ovalhouse.com.

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