FEATURE: PUG Spotlight – Amy Lord | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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There will be few bolder or more intriguing projects this year than the one artist Amy Lord is set to showcase at 13 Grey Street on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th May, presented as part of The Late Shows. Site-specific work Experiments In Happiness is set to explore a plethora of ideas that influence mood and happiness itself, making full use of every nook and cranny the long-term-empty, three-storey building has to offer.

Amy uses science, philosophy and psychology to explore those ideas, and has really put the work in to immerse herself in the subjects she’s going to tackle. “I guess I first became interested in this topic when I noticed about a year and a half ago, a lot of my friends were kind of saying that they weren’t okay. And it was the first time that people were saying that they weren’t okay,” and this thought then lead her to finding a topic she felt she needed to take on. “It’s a research project essentially. A collection of installations and live art experiences that have come from my research in happiness and mood.”

From talking to Amy, it’s intrinsically obvious that each installation and experience fills an important role, as she explained further, “I just want to know how to make people feel better and help get myself out of times of anxiety.”

It’s a bold aim, but a tremendously worthy one, especially set against the backdrop of the society we all form a part of, and with increases in the spread of mental health issues affecting so many of us. (‘About 25% of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder in Britain.’ Mental Health Foundation 2016). We are sure to be left with something that could really hit home for so many people, which is something that Amy is acutely aware of.

“It’s something that links us all as human beings, you want to be happy, you want others to be happy, it’s quite universal. I’m interested in stuff that connects us all. That’s why I started researching it. The project just developed from research.”

it’s like making a big cake. I’ve got the building, I’ve got the idea, I’ve met some amazing performers and now it’s just a case of putting it all together

Her diligence in her research is just one part, and has certainly lead her down an interesting path. There is so much more that makes up this fascinating venture though, with a wonderfully curated selection of collaborators, (local artists Rosa Postlethwaite, Lizzie J Klotz and Zoe Murtagh) there’s much to get excited about. Amy clarifies it all perfectly, in describing it further; “it’s like making a big cake. I’ve got the building, I’ve got the idea, I’ve met some amazing performers and now it’s just a case of putting it all together.” It’s much more than just a big cake though, as Amy has put together intricate layers and tiers, all complimenting one another, in a real show stopper of a creation.

In performance maker and spoken word artist Zoe Murtagh, live art performance talent Rosa Postlethwaite (and co-creator of PUG, which recently hosted a Silent Bingo performance from Amy) and dance and theatre artist Lizzie J Klotz, Amy has selected three key ingredients to celebrating a lot of the absolute best of what the North East cultural scene offers up

Having been away from Newcastle and the North East for a decade, and honing her artistic skills in London, it could have easily been a bit daunting to pull all of this together, while simultaneously trying to learn all about what the region’s arts scene has to offer now. Luckily The Empty Space were on hand to help out, putting together a chance to meet other artists, and show their practices; “it was like a sort of dating day, only everyone knew each other except for me.” As far as a first date experience could go, those meetings with new creative souls couldn’t have gone much better, “Rosa, Zoe and Lizzy, they really made me laugh first of all, and I could see their performing and devising skills straight off the bat so I knew that I wanted to work with them.”

Her time away and her fresh, vibrant attitude is sure to be a welcome breath of fresh air to our cultural scene too. The boldness to find empty spaces and approach the landlords of said spaces to see if she could take them on, are actions filled with the right kind of fiery attitude that gets things done. “I came to Newcastle and hit the pavements. I was really ballsy,” Amy told me, ever self-aware of the actions she portrays, but ultimately very humble about a huge achievement in even getting the space in the first place.

It really is the perfect home for this collection of original artworks too. Fifteen different spaces within the venue are utilised, and in walking around it while it was all still in progress of coming together, I felt like I was lost in Escher’s Relativity piece; as one stair well lead to another, and going up and down steps into all these exciting little spaces allowed my mind to get lost in the vivid descriptions Amy offered up.

This may be a short term home for arts projects, but there’s real care for the legacy left behind, “I really want to give it a future life. And make it into some sort of creative hub, for artists and for the city.”

Experiments In Happiness has its home for now though, and the plethora of experiences on offer behind the doors of 13 Grey Street are sure to have a profound effect on all who venture inside on those two days in May. It’s going to be intriguing to see where Amy Lord is going to find her place within the North East creative scene and the effect she’ll have on it in return, and there really couldn’t be a more exciting jumping off point.

Amy Lord’s Experiments In Happiness is at 13 Grey Street, Newcastle on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th May.

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