Newtons Ladder

ISAN Member in the Spotlight

Newtons Ladder

Mona McCarthy & Colm Scott-Baird are the founders, performers and directors of Newtons Ladder Aerial Dance.

(First published: April 2017)

Who are you?

Newtons Ladder Aerial Dance creates beautiful and breath-taking aerial performances. From flying human butterflies in Alnwick Gardens to site specific aerial at the The Sage Gateshead. Their recent work in Low flying aerial dance has produced intimate and emotive dance theatre. They are specifically interested in producing work that transcends the spectacle of aerial into relatable and moving theatre whilst maintaining the excitement of Big top aerial through breath-taking flying movement inches from the floor, allowing their audience to get up close and personal.

NLAD have been developing a specific aerial language that is unique and highly skilled, incorporating their doubles rope, dance, martial arts and rigging skills, not to mention their unique relationship that has spanned 23 years. This husband and wife duo offer something very special to their audiences.

They have created shows for The Sage Gateshead, Alnwick Gardens and SEAT as well as commissioned work for Dance City. The NLAD team have provided rigging solutions for TV, working on shows for ITV, as well as theatre, adverts, large scale mobile sculptures and counter weight performance rigger for Naughty Boy at the MOBO awards.

How did you first get involved in Outdoor Arts?

Newtons Ladder is new to the Outdoor Arts sector. We have performed outdoors only a few times as one-off performances. We first decided to get involved in Outdoor Arts when looking for a direction to take our latest work directed by Liv Lorent. When we saw that ISAN were having the Outdoors Arts Ideas Summit in Bradford, hosted by Brick Box, we decided to check out the feasibility of making this work for the outdoors. Having pitched at the event and hearing lots of great pitches from other companies we were hooked on the idea of creating this new work for outdoor festivals.

We are currently making this work and loving the challenge that making for the outdoors presents to us as creators and performers, from sight lines to transient audiences, it has completely shaped how we create and present the work. Working with Liv Lorent and making for the outdoors has brought our work to new and exciting places. We believe that this collaboration will offer something very different to outdoor festivals. We are looking forward to performing the work at festivals this summer.

What is one of your earliest memories of Outdoor Arts?

Colm: We came from a small town but remember as a kid going to Cork city and seeing buskers on every street corner, it was inspiring, seeing them transform the space, bringing the place to life, buskers were revered in Cork, it was something I aspired to. I remember my first busking gig when I was 15, I was so nervous, seeing friend’s parents walking by, teachers and friends. I continued to busk into my 20s. I also remember the street artists – drawing huge murals on the pavement, mostly religious imagery – it was Ireland in the 80’s after all.

What performance or Outdoor Arts experience has made a big impression on you?

Mona: I remember taking a group of older ladies I’d been working with to Enchanted Parks in Gateshead, a winter outdoor event in the wonderful Saltwell Park. They had been involved in a film which was part of one of the exhibitions. It was cold, in fact there was snow on the ground, but they were completely overjoyed at seeing a park they knew so well being completely transformed and accessed late at night, when it’s normally closed; for me seeing their delight, joy and excitement in the transformation of the ordinary to the extraordinary. We had giggles and laughter and the ladies were like kids again. That’s what Outdoor Arts are about for me – temporarily transforming our everyday spaces, with lasting effect.

What’s the best artistic advice you’ve been given?

Make work that resonates with you, make with integrity and stay true to yourself. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Where do your ideas come from?

Our ideas vary from large scale imaginings to small intimate work. A site, structure or place may inspire or sometimes boundaries and restriction coupled with physical exploration. From this we see what narratives emerge, we like to let the human story flourish and make work that is relatable to the watcher. Our collaborators inspire us greatly and generally work with those who open our work to new creative possibilities. We want to engage our audience emotionally and offer unexpected surprises.

What’s your top tip to someone wanting to work outdoors for the first time?

Get in touch with ISAN, sign up as a member. These guys have been most helpful and supportive to us in our short time in this sector.


What’s your funniest or most bizarre Outdoor Arts experience?

Doing a spectacular high low as I jump from the stage onto rather slippery muddy grass and having to continue the rest of the piece (which was not a comic piece) with a very wet and muddy bum through sensitive moments with serious subject matter. My co-performers struggled to contain their laughter at my unfortunate incident.

Describe a current project or future piece of work that you’re really excited about.

We are currently working on our latest piece, Anniversary, directed by Liv Lorent, a piece of aerial dance theatre; a story of long-term relationships, the highs, the lows, the efforts and fails. Love songs, love dances and other gifts… with presents that show love, and some awkward misfires….

Liv’s ability to unpick our aerial vocabulary takes this art form to the most unexpected places always placing the narrative at the centre of the creative process.

She spins in the air, and he suspends his weight on her, she is flying with him as his engine, his propeller and pilot. She falls, he catches, every time. Liv Lorent, Director.

Available for booking summer 2017. We are very excited about creating this piece for an Outdoor festival audience and we know is going to be a highly visual and entertaining performance.

What do you think are the opportunities available now for the sector?

The wonderful thing about Outdoors Arts is it’s accessibility to such a broad audience, it allows everyone to engage with the arts despite their economic situation (if you happen to be in the place where it is occurring). The fact that it is usually free to watch and not behind closed doors in buildings that a lot of people feel excluded from or can’t afford to go to, breaks down the ever increasing gap and walls that are currently emerging in this country and worldwide. It has the opportunity to go against the current tide of exclusion and fear of difference. Its open and accessible, varied and interactive and its real, its bonkers, its beautiful and its happening right in front of people in their everyday lives. It’s going to be more important than ever.

Where do you think the sector will be in 4 or 5 years?

Thriving, I hope.


What do you see as the biggest challenges and how do you plan to meet them?

Brexit is potentially a major issue for us personally, being Irish, and for the sector in general, not only in terms of funding but in the exchange of ideas between British and European companies. This cultural exchange is vital for a rich and diverse sector and society. Until we know how this will pan out its hard to know how to meet this challenge. I suppose we continue to remain open, diverse and collaborative.

Who inspires you in your work?

We are very fortunate to be currently working with Liv Lorent whose work and approach to creating work has inspired us. No Fit State. The late, great Trisha Brown and Pina Bausch.

Having our son Bruce has been the biggest influence in our lives and work. It inspires us to be the artists we wish to be, to create the work we want to create and inspire him to follow his dreams. And I guess we will leave him with no illusions that following your dreams is easy. Lol.

On a bit of a different line, The Full Monty (yes, that movie!) for its heart and DIY approach to making something happen: don’t wait for someone to come and save the day, get on and do it yourself.

How do you follow what’s happening in the Outdoor Arts and cultural sectors – what blogs, tweeters, websites, organisations do you recommend?

We find twitter a good place to spot opportunities in the sector. Although we must admit that we are far better at training, swinging on ropes, creating work and performing than we are at social media. We are trying to get better though, really, we are!

What’s a favorite book/film/concert/other cultural experience that you’ve encountered in the past 2 years?

Seeing NoFit State Circus’s Bianco – a brilliant and inspiring example of modern circus that’s a step away from the now almost normalised Cirque du Soleil.

Although it’s more than 2 years ago, seeing Cantina at the South Bank – an unusual Vaudeville style circus by a predominately older cast (which gives us hope as we are in the older performer category now, eek).

Going to SIRF last year and watching the audience’s reaction to the amazing shows happening in their town. Can’t wait to perform there this year.

These days our cultural experiences comes in the form of children’s theatre so on that note Six Legs by Cap-a-Pie theatre is a wonderful show.

Also our trip to Bradford to ISAN’s Outdoors Ideas summit and meeting so many lovely people and hearing about so many great project. Brick Box ladies sure know how to host an event and after party in a most fun and creative way.


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