Jacksons Lane has been providing first class arts events, community activities and projects in North London since 1976. Housed in a striking red-brick Gothic church conversion, the building is home to a 160 capacity theatre, a large scale dance and rehearsal studio, a cafe-bar and four other multi-purpose spaces. Lately it has forged a strong identity for producing and promoting contemporary circus work. We caught up with artistic director Adrian Berry to get more of an insight…
What do you think Jacksons Lane offers audiences that is different to other theatres across London?
We’ve really set our ‘stall’ out over the last two years so there is a very genuine Jacksons Lane aesthetic to everything we programme or produce. It’s not generic, and everything is in the building or on the stage for a tangible reason. That could be a piece of cutting edge live art, some ground-breaking circus or a very accessible piece of music hall cabaret with a twist. We connect directly with our artists and audiences, there’s a genuine relationship whereby we work closely as a team with artists, and communicate that relationship to the people we hope will come and see it. Artists write features for our blogs, we film and post up rehearsals and audiences get a real insight into the process of how work is created at Jacksons Lane and the faces behind the work. That’s just a small part of it. I think we offer choice, innovation and a bit of a thrill to London audiences!
How did Jacksons Lane become so heavily involved with contemporary circus and visual theatre productions?
I personally have worked within contemporary circus since the early 90s when I had the opportunity to see work at the very outset of the contemporary circus scene, people like John Paul Zaccarini, Archaos, Mamaloucos… a real subversion and development of a sector and entertainment industry that needed shaking up if it stood a chance of getting new audiences and surviving into a new century. So it moved out of the big tops into other theatres and spaces, and Jacksons Lane is a continuation of that journey. It’s the one developing art form that still gets me excited and has endless possibilities. I had a year when the roof fell in (2007) to think about where we could go when we re-opened. I looked at the venue’s rich history of physical theatre and dance, and realized how there were very few venues working within that smaller scale emerging circus area, and how suitable our spaces were for this art-form. Someone said to me that JL had stopped engaging with artists at some point in the last 10 years or so, and when I joined (and then the roof collapsed!) it was true that not many artists shouted out for us. If it happened again (which it won’t!) there’ll be artists queuing around the block to ensure we continue what we do.
Jacksons Lane is celebrating its 35th birthday this year, what have been your favourite moments so far and where would you like to see the theatre heading in the next 35 years?
Favourite moments? The 10-feet tall ‘Tall Hilda’ from Wanderlust pulling audiences in for a sell-out show, and accompanying her up the Archway Road to the amazement of morning commuters as she literally stopped traffic! The brilliant circus mixed bill ‘Resonate’ with countless brilliant musicians, aerialists, jugglers, Chinese pole artists, thrilling our audiences in 2009. Directing a magician and two acrobats in an updated version of Cinderella was great fun and an education for me. And after 4 years finally getting the best team an arts venue could have – tireless, dedicated, committed to all we do, a genuine family with a common goal.
It’s always a battle – I hate the word ‘struggle’ because it’s more about thriving in adversity. We are in the midst of the greatest challenge to the arts since I joined the profession. Whilst it’s hard to argue to many people that we are as important as some sectors (health, education) as soon as culture disappears from your doorstep it has massive effects on society, economy, businesses, the entire community. 3000 people a week come through our doors for entertainment, meetings, socializing, participation, education, well being – how do you replace that?
Which upcoming shows would you recommend to check out?
Another way of supporting us is to join our brand new membership scheme – we’re creating a big members’ community that will help ensure we have a future whilst rewarding those who are so loyal to us. It’s being launched later this year so keep an eye out.
More info: Jacksons Lane