Artistic Director, The Bike Shed Exeter, David Lockwood: “I would like audiences to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them through the performances they see. And I would like those who take part to feel empowered to change the world.”

David Lockwood

David Lockwood. © Ben Borley

David Lockwood is the artistic director of the independent Bike Shed theatre in Exeter. The 60-seat is often described as Exeter’s ‘hidden gem’.
The Bike Shed Theatre want to convert the former Exeter Maritime Museum into an open space with a 250-seat theatre, an arts market, and a large creative space open to the wider public, amongst other things.
This summer, for sixteen weeks, the old maritime museum will be filled with theatre, visual art, live music, comedy, cocktails, ice-cream and, er, mini golf course. Lockwood is urging the people of Exeter to get behind their Crowdfunder for ‘The Boat Shed’.
A Crowdfunder we can all get behind, ladies and gentlmen.
Anyway I had a chat with David to see what he’s got to say for himself.

Hello David! How would you sum up 2017 so far, in five words?
An exercise in spinning plates.

What are you most excited about in 2017? 
My son speaking. And swimming with him in the outdoor pool in Exeter.
Work-wise, I’m excited about people coming into the new building and having the same open-jawed expression I had when I first walked round.

The Boat Shed Crowdfunder launch went quite well, didn’t it?
Seemed to. People really want it to happen, which is good, because it’d be a waste of time if they didn’t.


What are the biggest misconceptions of Exeter as a city?
Possibly that it’s posher than it is. I think that’s to do with the University (which is quite posh). But there are huge areas of deprivation, a massive homelessness and street-attached community and lack of opportunity. We’re strongly divided here – remain and leave, town and gown, rural and urban. And, of course, those who engage with subsidised culture and those who don’t.

Recently the North Devon Theatres’ Trust was placed into administration, meaning both the Queens in Barnstaple and the Landmark in Ilfracombe closed with. What are the knock on implications of local authority cuts for the cultural ecology of Devon?
Wow, how long have you got? Worth separating Exeter from Devon here. The former is one of the largest spenders per capita on culture (though it is only a district authority). The latter has supported the library service to become a mutual, but has cut its fairly small arts budget. The knock on implications for the ecology, in the long term, will be to make organisations more entrepreneurial. It’s a great shame that funders are often so slow to respond to innovation (both at a local and national level), that it takes cutting funds to enable new things to grow.
I’ve upset people by saying this before but, in my opinion, the worst that can happen is that the cuts preserve existing organisations but with a reduced grant. Then you have organisations limping on, with no originality, unable to generate new revenue and serving a dwindling community. As a sector, I think we need to respond by being a bit braver, otherwise decisions will be made for us, either by organisations going bust (as in North Devon) or people in Whitehall making decisions for us. This would be a shameful abandonment of responsibility.
I could go on.

What are your aspirations and ambitions for the artistic work at The Boat Shed?
I’ve been talking a lot about trade. Exeter has been an international trading city since before the Romans arrived. When wool was sexy, it was the third wealthiest city in the UK. Two hundred years ago, due to the Napoleonic Wars and the lack of coal in Devon, industry moved northwards and Exeter began to look in on itself rather than outwards (with notable exceptions, like the University).
I would like the Boat Shed to be a catalyst for the city to look out again. I believe globalisation is a wonderful thing but only if we nurture the skill and craft of local people.
So, our theatre will have half its work from within a 30-mile radius. The other half will be from anywhere else in the world.
I would like audiences to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them through the performances they see. And I would like those who take part to feel empowered to change the world.

How do you balance risk taking with sure-fire crowd pleasing work? 
I never programme sure-fire crowd pleasing work. We’ve James Acaster in our theatre next week, but then he performed in the Bike Shed five years ago when he hadn’t been on telly. I do consider whether we’ll sell tickets, but I’m guided by my own tastes. That’s the luxury of having few seats, perhaps.

There is often a lot of talk about rebalancing funding regionally and moving away from a London-centric set up. How much longer can we continue to ignore such an imbalance? 
Massively loaded question…. A long time. It’s just not high enough a priority for enough people to get cross about.
If you believe that the arts are a human right, as most in the arts sector do, it is morally unacceptable to have such an imbalance. Imagine if you could always get better healthcare or a better education if you lived in London.
I’d have hoped Brexit may have made a difference – it strikes me there were clear parallels between those areas that voted to leave and the amount of funding they received from Arts Council England – but no one seems to have taken responsibility for the failure to share the brilliance of what we make outside our silos.

The Boat Shed.

The Boat Shed. Image credit Patrick Cullum

Crowdfunding is an excellent way of galvanising interest and investment isn’t it? I love your Donate £500.00 and have “Unlimited ice-cream – all the ice-cream you can eat, all Summer” reward. Amazing.
Still up for grabs if you want it.

[ Click on the image on the right to donate and get your unlimited ice-cream all Summer]

Which theatre companies would you rate at the moment? 

I’m very excited about what In Bed With My Brother will make. They’re an Exeter company with originality, inquisitiveness and a great work ethic – they have a very bright future.
The Wardrobe Ensemble excite me hugely. They’re so enjoyable to watch and have so much creativity.
Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari are two of my favourite people in the world. They’ve been making a piece inspired by workshops with children in Exeter and North Devon which I can’t wait to see.
Chris Harrison (once of Rhum and Clay) is making solo work which I think could be quite interesting. He’s very watchable on stage and has a dark imagination.
And I saw a great piece by Bella Heesom in Edinburgh last Summer – My World Has Exploded A Little Bit. We’re bringing that to Exeter and supporting her next piece on female sexuality.

Anything that you’d like to add, David? 
Come to Exeter. It has so much potential and it needs creative people to unlock this.