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Artist in retreat: Polly Graham of Longborough Festival Opera

Longborough Festival Opera is forging ahead with its plans for the summer season – this includes the building of a big top at its base near Moreton-in-Marsh to better allow for social distancing, and an ambitious programme which includes Die Walküre to kick off the company’s Wagner Ring cycle. Here LFO’s artistic director Polly Graham speaks about waiting for live arts to resume.

Tell us about what you do and how you got started.

I am a stage director for opera but sometimes theatre too. I actually got started through acting in loads of plays at university and in a Shakespeare Festival in California. Watching directors build productions and create whole worlds inspired me to want to try it.

Where have you spent lockdown, and who are you with?

In Wales, with my husband and kids.

Polly Graham, artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera (44079469)
Polly Graham, artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera (44079469)

How have you stayed connected with the outside world?

By reading and listening to the radio and far too much time on Zoom.

Tell us about any work you’ve managed to do.

I’ve directed a couple of short films for Longborough Festival Opera, programmed a weekend of concerts and produced a Christmas show – Pagliacci, which was on at our theatre on 19th-20th December.

What have been the upsides and downsides to being in lockdown/isolation?

Time to garden and be with my children are huge upsides, but the damage done to a society already suffering with so much loneliness and isolation is really worrying.

Do you have any cultural recommendations for keeping entertained during the crisis?

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann,

Nightboat to Tangier by Kevin Barry and all of the LFO podcasts and films!

Any tips for not going stir crazy?

Yoga and running.

What have you missed most?

Going to the theatre.

Have you found out anything about yourself during these strange times?

That I need other people for inspiration and energy.

What was the first thing you did when lockdown eased? Or will do when this one does?

Go to visit friends in Europe and family in India, and see as much live performance as possible.

What lesson would you hope mankind could learn from the crisis?

I think we’ve seen the virus highlight inequality in our society. It’s held a big light over the way we live and treat each other and how we treat nature, and it’s not pretty. I really hope we can learn from this and create a more balanced society.

Longborough Festival Opera takes place from 1st June to 3rd August. Book tickets here

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