Peter Lannon is a Glasgow-based performer, director and facilitator. He works with people of all ages and abilities, and his practice ranges between theatre, live art, and dance. Pete is a Platform associate artist, and recently was a BBC Performing Arts Fund Theatre Fellow with Imaginate.
He makes performance for a range of audiences and contexts, including performances and participatory projects for (and with) young people, and work in community and criminal justice settings. He is also co-founder of KOR! Records, a new independent record label who create music projects for young people with additional support needs and release their output.
Much of Pete’s work is concerned with the investigation of contemporary masculinity and how it might be reimagined in performance. He believes strongly in the potential for art to empower people and for theatre in particular to provide a space in which social values and expectations become fluid and new possibilities can emerge.
Pete studied Contemporary Performance Practice at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He has worked with a variety of artists and companies including the Edinburgh International Festival, Janice Parker Projects, Peter McMaster, Sarah Hopfinger, Fish & Game, Lyra Theatre, Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, Macrobert, Firefly Arts and Imaginate.
Imaginate were able to offer Accelerator artist Pete Lannon the opportunity to undertake a short residency at the workroom in the beginning of November. The Imaginate @The Workroom residency included funding, space and support from Imaginate to develop a performance called FEELS . During his residency I visited the workroom to see Pete’s work in development and talk to him and his creative team about making work for young audiences.
‘It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.
Cry if I want to.
Cry, if I want to.’
It’s nearly the end of the show. Imagine the wreckage of a child’s birthday party – one that had all of the cliches, and went horribly, hilariously wrong. The floor is covered in cake and jelly and confetti. Torn bunting and banners hang from the ceiling. A small fire has broken out amongst the remnants of a hideous piñata. Lesley Gore is playing at half-speed on the stereo. There are five people strewn about the stage. One is sitting softly crying into a pile of party popper streamers. Two are furiously wrestling over a bright pink fairy wand and a plastic gun. One – a clown – is apparently unconscious, broken crockery scattered around them. The other is unable to stop frantically dancing as blue, red and green lights flash and a disco ball spins.
FEELS will be a new performance for ages 8+ about emotions and gender – the feelings we’re allowed to feel, the ones we’re told not to feel, the ugly ones, the funny ones, the sad ones. The feelings that we’re told don’t belong to us yet, or never will. The feelings that are ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’. It will use choreography and live art practices to investigate how we express emotion and how this relates to our performance of gender, and to the social constructions of childhood/adulthood.
Pete Lannon – Lead Artist/Director
Aby Watson – Performer/Deviser
Craig Manson – Performer/Deviser
Claricia Kruithof – Performer/Deviser,
Mark Bleakly – Performer/Deviser
Greg Sinclair – Sound Designer/Composer
Mamoru Iriguchi – Designer
The first thing that struck me about being in the room with Pete and his team was how different it felt to see work developing with so many artists representing different elements of the work in the room together at once. It made me think more about the many different elements that make a good piece of work – design, sound and lighting being things that particularly caught my imagination. I think as an artist I am perhaps guilty of overlooking these aspects until later in the making process, of adding lighting afterwards rather than letting my work develop with the inspiration and potential that a lighting designer could give, similarly creating my own sound or choosing from a limited pool of what is easily available. In reality I have never fully recognised the potential in collaborating from the beginning with many other artists that have so much specific knowledge in their field. This is an opportunity that is only possible in this context because of the funding that has been provided. I wonder about the financial feasibility of making work with large teams as an independent artist without this kind of financial support.
The attention paid to the visuals of this piece was immediately clear, it was interesting to sit in on conversations about costuming because it made me think of how young people engage with work in what is probably a more immediate, instinctive and complete way. As adults we are at odds with our knowledge, we have been taught etiquette, expectations. We over analyse and intellectualise things. To reach meaning we think and take time. Things need to make sense logically and fit our expectations and when they don’t we need to put in work to dig the meaning out from under these layers of socialisation. Young people don’t have this yet, they are ready and receptive to take hold of meaning with all their senses, the priority being to feel what it means before unpacking and understanding the work intellectually.
Pete is a really interesting artist and his passion for work for young people really shines through in conversation. In asking him why he felt it was important to make art for young people his answer really resonated with me.
Because art is important! I believe that humans fundamentally need art for all sorts of reasons, and that means all humans. Young people need work that is specifically tailored to their experience of the world – that doesn’t talk down to them, or treat them as adults-in-training, but allows them to use art as a lens through which to view the world around them and celebrate it, question it, and help make sense of it in the same way that people of any age do.
He also had some useful input to my ongoing enquiry around sharings and how to best make them useful. He said that sharings were often if not always really key moments in his artistic development and stressed the importance of sharing work for young audiences TO young audiences. “The immediate feedback from them can be bracing, but is often much more genuine a response than an adult audience will give in the moment, and the learning (about what works/doesn’t work/is resonant for that particular audience) is often huge, surprising, and instantaneous!”