Owen Lowery launches his new poetry collection Rego Retold.

Having been awarded an Unlimited grant in 2014 in order to support a reading tour of my first poetry collection, Otherwise Unchanged, I have been fortunate enough to benefit from a working relationship with the Unlimited team, and have developed considerably as a performer and as a poet as a result.

My intention when applying for the award was to test myself as a poet and to develop new skills as a performer of my own work. With this ambition in mind, I sought opportunities to present my poetry to audiences within a live context and to do so in a way that considerably extended the boundaries of traditional poetry events, in which a poet would simply read from their work unaccompanied. I wanted my book tour to challenge that expectation, and was delighted to find that Unlimited embraced my ambition, firstly with the award, and secondly with one-to-one support, through which I was introduced to a producer, literary festival organisers, other artists, and other poets with similar ambitions. By working with a producer, I was able to develop a clear idea of the type of performance that would allow my poems to reach and affect my audience to the fullest extent possible. The approach that we decided to adopt was to create an immersive experience involving music, film, artistic representation, and vocal performance. Having decided on a set list of poems, we contacted a musician and a filmmaker, and discussed how best to interpret and explore the major themes of the poems with which we would be working. The musician and the visual artist then provided their own reactions to my work in the form of a series of films and a musical score, which we added to my readings during numerous rehearsals. We also created a series of videos of  Otherwise Unchanged and Unmarked War Dead at Fromelles which we have been able to reach a far wider audience than would otherwise been the case.

The collaborative nature of this process has given me confidence in my ability to perform my poems and allowed me to see my work from completely new perspectives. It also ensured that when my tour began with a performance at the prestigious Southbank Centre, I was completely familiar with the material and could relax and enjoy the experience, a development that has increased throughout the tour as I have taken my work to venues around London, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, and Bolton, and honed my vocal technique and presentation along the way. Because of the support I have received from Unlimited, I now feel able to take my poetry to new levels and to take on even more ambitious projects, including a performance tour of my new book, Rego Retold, which has already attracted interest from The Times, The Observer, the BBC, and from readers in Canada, USA, Uganda, Australia, France, Portugal, and Spain. Much of this interest has arisen as a direct result of the work that Unlimited have been supporting. Thanks to Unlimited, I am now regarded as a high profile performer by the Arts Council England and others, and am being asked to contribute to a wide range of exciting new projects. I would therefore urge disabled artists to take the plunge and grab the fantastic opportunity that Unlimited represents to raise the profile of your work, challenge yourself, and increase public awareness of the fact that, with the right support, disabled artists, writers, and performers are more than capable of creating work that is at least the equal of their non-disabled counterparts.

 

Owen Lowery

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