So I am Pete Lawson.
I’m a writer, started mainly as a theatre writer, and then children’s theatre, and moved into radio, and then into television. And now I am almost exclusively a television writer.
I was a student in Sheffield and I saw a touring piece about women’s magazines [Head Over Heels]. And it was… it just captured me as it was feminist and it was funny and it had lesbians and it was full of song and it was just really exciting, and I thought I want to work with them one day.
I think there was a collection of companies at the time who very much said that theatre should entertain but it should also be political which is partly about reaching audiences, and it’s partly about giving a voice, to voices that haven’t traditionally necessarily been given a hearing in mainstream theatre. Spare Tyre, I think were one of the first to take that step further and go actually it’s our audiences who need to be on stage. And so our role is to work with them, to create that work.
And in part of what attract-, what drew me to Spare Tyre was wanting to tell stories that don’t always get told. And wanting to shape and create characters that you are not used to seeing.
A lot of that is the links between participants and emerging artists with professional artists from a whole range of disciplines. So I think that’s quite unique. And it says actually let’s get the best to the best and put them together, and so if I am a person getting involved it gives me chance to do that, to say that actually the art of what I create should be interesting and seeing alongside work that other artists are creating, and not just seeing alongside other community projects. So I think there’s something about the standards that Spare Tyre commit to that is really important.
If you completely step back and just go “you get on and do it”, then groups don’t necessarily achieve their dreams, or the quality that they want, or the quality that so called community arts should have. And if you step in too much, then it becomes your piece then not their piece, and finding that middle ground, a lot of that learning and a lot of that exploration I’ve done over the years at Spare Tyre. If I’m writing EastEnders, which is mainly what I do at the moment, I’m very aware of the stories therefore that I want to tell through that or the kind of characters that I want to see on screen. And at it times has a direct influence because you’ll meet, you,’ll work with someone who’ll just go… “you are so… you know, that bit of story is really interesting” or “you’re just such an interesting character, how can I, you know, use that, draw on that to try and shape something else.”
What’s vital about companies like Spare Tyre is that they give you chance to reach out beyond walls of my own community. Whether that is age based or a religious based or an ethnic based or whatever we… And it’s important. I’m not saying that all of those individual communities aren’t important. We need, fundamentally as humans, we need those safe spaces to be with others who we feel are like ourselves, and to share our own heritage and experiences. All of that is important, but we need forums to reach out beyond that. And go “actually, you know what my neighbour but I don’t get a chance to talk to you. I don’t get a chance to understand you. I don’t get a chance to actually hear what you’re about.” We need structure, and we need experiences, and there’s something about doing something together and creating something together. Uhh, which means we’d learn a lot more about each other than just sitting and talking which is often quite harder.
Spare Tyre, in my experiences, has always treated its artists very well. And looks for experiences to enable those artists to work together or to see each other’s work. So I think there’s commitment to developing a community of artists. It’s a lot of fun. It’s important work for artists, to… for us to have different canvasses to paint on, to explore different opportunities. It’s never felt like “oh, Spare Tyre is great cause it give me a chance to do good.” It’s actually… it’s important because it enables me to have a chance to explore who I am and how I fit into the world and what’s important and to have opportunities to explore that, and that is… So I think that always been really important to me about Spare Tyre as a company and why I’m keep coming back.
And it feels like a family. There’s not there’s other companies who I’ve worked with a little bit now and then and you go “that was a great project.” Whereas it’s uh it’s a family and it’s a big increasingly sprawling family in some ways. And sometimes I’ve felt right to the heart of that, and sometimes you feel like “oh I’m a bit of a distant relative” but that’s fine and cause it still feels like… yeah it’s my family.
Pete is a writer working primarily in TV and radio, with a background in theatre. He first discovered our work as a university student in Sheffield, and went on to work with us on several productions, most recently SAFE in 2017.
Pete talked to us about how storytelling is an important tool in understanding one another.