About Us
Matilda

About London Arts Tube

 

Est. 2014

 

 

This is the story of the creation of London Arts Tube, which was founded by myself Tony Lawton in 2014. At the time I was 34 years old and living in Leeds Yorkshire, about to embark on a life changing journey moving to the big smoke in London to start a new chapter and experience a new beginning. I hope you will continue on the journey with me until at least the end of this page, which will probably take a minute or two, but if you leave I won't be offended, use your time wisely. To start with I think I should describe my Yorkshire childhood and experiences growing up, because everything I experienced in life, from being born in 1979, through to the creation of London Arts Tube in 2014, is a unique experience I have had. I was born in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1979 to two hard working and honest parents, called Jeff Lawton and Diane Lawton. Three years previously to 1979, in 1976 my elder and only sister Sarah Lawton was born. Looking back now on my life, I think I had, (and was lucky to have), a relatively normal UK childhood. I was born in the days before social media and my childhood was spent going to state education schools in Leeds where I attended mixed schools in the primary, middle and high categories before going to college, university then experiencing the world of work and trying, (like every other honest human being who was brought up by good parents and taught morals and principals), to create a happy and fulfilled existence in life. In my earlier school years, outside school I used to take part in lots of non electronic media related activities, such as playing football in the street and being in the outdoors with friends. I did go through a phase of being quite interested in computer games in my earlier teenage years, (when computers used to be huge machines that took what seemed like a lifetime to load. In the pre-fame of Lord Alan Sugar), my sister and I were proud to own an Amstrad CPC 464. My later computer or games consoles as they are more commonly referred to, would be the Super Nintendo, Sega Megadrive and a Commodore Amiga. I spent many happy days in-between playing football and other sports being outside with children, enjoying a computer game of Super Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter or PGA Tour Golf. Even though I was born in the pre social media age, from a very young age I have always had a keen interest and capability with electronics and computers. There is a memory I sometimes look back in admiration of when I was very young, about 7 or 8 years young to be precise and in Primary school. I had a school project where I had to create a castle out of cardboard from scratch. I designed and built my own castle with it's own drawbridges that worked electronically, with flashing lights and lots of electronic circuitry. I was determined to finish before the parents evening so I could show the fully functioning castle to my my Mum and Dad. This was the first real creative connection I can remember being really caught up in and aspiring to make my own creation. I was not only interested in the circuitry of this cardboard castle, but I was interested in the castle as an entity, as a dwelling and piece of art in an architectural form. From then on I always had a keen interest in art, architecture and buildings. As I grew older, style and creativity would for a major part of who I was as a character and as an individual in life. I was a very observant individual from a young age. As I grew in to teenage years, I noticed a lot about people but I would not always say much. From a young age I noticed and was aware of the interest and beauty in light and colour, being very interested in art, in particular Renaissance art and modern art, with history, culture with both mens and womens clothing. I would enjoy spending money I had saved for items in fashion and buy brands such as Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. I found pleasure in buying a nice garment of clothing that I thought had a nice design or style and would look good in terms of colour co-ordination and look with other items of clothing. I think it is important to make the effort and try to dress well and think our choice of attire and costumes does make a personal statement about who we are as individuals in society. It is important to mention as I was growing up, when I was about 14 years old I became really interested in dance music and for the next 10 years or so, I would follow my dreams of trying to make it as a DJ and music producer. Music, much like fashion, style, history, architecture and culture, is a crucial ingredient and a very important part of my identity. This is an attribute that has formed and shaped who I am. I was introduced to the beauty of live music from a young age and I was lucky in that my hard working parents were able to give me what I consider a luxury, having private tuition in musical instruments such as guitar, drums and saxophone, in addition to free music lessons in state schools at the time. I was in primary school education in the UK. I enjoyed playing musical instruments and being in bands for some time in my youth, but then I felt like I was quickly outgrowing the music I was then playing. I was playing music from bands such as The Shadows, which were great songs to play, but as a 1990s teenager, this wasn't the soundtrack to my youth or time, therefore the music that formed the soundtrack of my life began to turn in an opposite direction. I would always be surrounded by music. My Mum would always like to play her records and as a youngster, she would always be listening to the radio. My sister too would give me an education in music I am grateful for, hearing her play music in her youth from artists such as reggae and pop icons in artists such as UB40, Bob Marley, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and many more of the mainstream and current bands who were and are legends of the time and times past. I began to gain my own taste in music and listen to bands and artists such as Michael Jackson, Guns N Roses and the sounds of the music I heard from my sister, (which with Madonna, is very important connection to this artist as I would later in life and at the time of writing this Abous Us page in 2017), I would be aspiring to work with Madonna with a musical I had written. My taste in music would vary in to many different forms including what was termed as a genre that might be laughable now, Gangsta Rap, enjoying bands such as N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Coolio, Tim Dog, Ice T and Vanilla Ice. Those were the soundtracks to my youth, but by the age of about 14 I was introduced to nightclubs and the clubbing and haunts of mid 1990s Leeds. I used to love to dance in nightclubs because music formed a medium of expression for me and I loved to shake a few moves on the dance floor to feel better about life and looking back I was interested in connecting to music as a spiritual connection to life and other human beings. I liked dancing on a dance floor and being united and defined as an individual and a dancing crowd. From early on I was getting an experience of what it was like to experience great entertainment and my musical tastes changed direction again when I was introduced to the dancefloor of the legendary Dave Beer's Back to Basics in the mid 1990's, then at the infamous Pleasure Rooms in Leeds. I can remember walking into Back to Basics for the first time and being fascinated by the experience of the haze of smoke on the dance floor, the flashing lights, the pulsating sounds, rhythm and soul in the music and this connection to the beat and connection to the pulse of the dance floor everyone in the nightclub was connected to. I spent many weekends enjoying the dancefloors of Back to Basics because it was always about good music for me. I saw some great nights of entertainment and in addition to seeing most of the legendary top American DJ's, I saw some great live bands, such as Michael Jackson, Genesis and Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt from Everything But The Girl. After a number of years enjoying the dance floors and institution of Dave Beer's Back to Basics, I began to pursue dreams of being a DJ myself, buying record decks and starting to build up my own record collection and eventually to set up my own music producing studio with drum machines, keyboards and 8 track recorder. I would experiment with sounds and play instruments along to records. The journey in music would show me many pleasures and would include me making my own music and getting it mastered by a legendary mastering engineer at Abbey Road Studios in London who I paid to work on my tracks, arranging full moon dance events in India when I took a year out to travel and trying to arrange a dance music festival in a night spot that in 1991 once hosted a live performance from Kurt Cobain to then realising that I would not be able to make it as a DJ and music producer. My experience being introduced to music started in the latter days of my school years until I left school to life my life and try to make something happen in the real world. After leaving school I went on to study computers way before the tech boom was as big as it is now, I enjoyed graphic design and creativity with computing and although from a young age I had a good natural ability with computer hardware and software, when I began to learn programming with computers I found the language and processes did not give me the stimulation I needed, so I left education to venture into the world of being an employee. I found a position with an advertising newspaper and would begin a journey, that would see me working in advertising, journalism, finance, marketing and photography. I used to earn my wages and enjoy music in my spare time or pursuing the creative outlets of trying to enter a DJ competition or make a new record, trying to find a big break with DJing or making music. Always being my own person and never one to follow the crowd. After a number of years earning money in the workplace and corporate society, I started to feel like I had no place in this corporate world and had a year to travel and see the world. Apart from being lucky enough to enjoy some early family holidays abroad from my hard working parents who really did have no vices, (they didn't drink or smoke, they were hard working and they raised a family), we were luck to go on holidays in the UK to Bournemouth and Torquay and abroad to islands in Europe such as Greece and Portugal. Being exposed to travel made me see how travel broadens and expands the mind and I would enjoy a number of holidays with friends to European islands such as Greece, Spain and Portugal before travelling further afield and taking a month out of work to travel around Africa visiting islands of stunning beauty in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. After this experience I would find myself going on a career break funded by money I had saved working in corporate and creative positions to India, Thailand and The Maldives. At this time in my life in my mid twenties, I had met a lot of people, travelled the world, always been a creative person and always been open minded and interested in meeting new people and being connected to the emotional, spiritual and psychological part of my being. I have been lucky enough to have a good relationship with my parents and although somewhat fraught in teenage years, I am pleased to say I enjoy a good relationship with my sister and her children today. Being always close to my Mum and encouraged to talk and be in touch with my feelings, I feel like I have been lucky to be able to live and experience life the way I feel is right for me. My parents never tried to force me to do anything, think or be a certain way, (other than being a good citizen and someone of good morals and principals), so I was able to live life, see how other people lived life and see how I wanted to live my life and question my feelings if there was ever something I was not happy with in terms of how I wanted to live my life. After a decade or so in the workplace and after I eventually came to realise that I thought I would never make it as a DJ, I began to stop listening to music, stop seeing my friends and became somewhat of a reclusive character. I didn't fit into the culture in the workplace and society of the time of drinking and after I stopped listening to music, I also gave up drinking, not that it was ever an excessive habit for me, but I just found that I had a mind that was more free for creativity if I was not hung over and I did not want to feel like I was losing any time, but not going out to nightclubs and not drinking meant I felt completely isolated in life. I spent my time reading books about history, philosophy and culture. I had a few girlfriends, I had a job but I still felt unfulfilled in life. In August 2009, when I was 32 years old, I was renting a nice apartment near the historic village of Saltaire near Shipley. I was working in a day job in finance and I had just split up with a girlfriend. I began to think of activities I could get involved in that would not be focused on or would involve drinking alcohol and would enable me to be around other creative people. After some soul searching and having a heart to heart with my Mum, I embarked on a journey to visit some local amateur dramatic societies to see what it might be like joining a theatre group. Prior to this, I had visited the theatre in school, we visited West Yorkshire Playhouse but what we saw I cannot remember and it was never told or explained to us the benefits and magic of theatre. I had visited the theatre on a number of occasions over the years with family and girlfriends to enjoy the show, but it was just an occasional pastime I enjoyed. The thought process behind joining a theatre group was supposed to be just something that might give me a new activity and something to do, but it would end up being something that would completely change my life and over the next 5-6 years see me going on an amazing journey, growing as a person and moving to the big smoke in a way that would completely change my life. I never imagined that when I did a Google search for local theatre companies that I would be starting on a journey that would really enable me to find myself and define who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go in life. I ended up making a number of appointments to visit local theatre companies and found myself on one of the visits, amidst rehearsals for a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. I knew something interesting was going on in the room and it was something I wanted to be a part of. I joined in at the deep end and was kindly asked by the director to join some of the men in a scene that was being rehearsed with a scene from the latter part of South Pacfic, where the navy officers and nurses are preparing to leave the island. I became part of the production, playing in the chorus and also having a role as a friend of Emile Dubeck in a scene where Emile has a number of friends over for dinner to entertain Nellie Forbush. I really connected with the story of South Pacific and it really spoke to me, like all good drama does, universally. It was my story and the story of so many other people in the characters, with stories of love, people looking for love, people finding love and people on a journey as we are all on a journey. It spoke about people being far away from home, people looking to find themselves, race, religion and so many timeless themes and characteristics of life poetically spoken by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The music in South Pacific I absolutely loved and it remains to this date my favourite musical because of themes in the story, the beautiful music, how it was the entry into theatre for me that was the start of an amazing journey where I would find my purpose in life. I loved the fact of how you could work with people in rehearsals towards and individual and collaborative creative goal that also gives you great experience of communication skills, people skills, problem solving and confidence plus much more. I went on from South Pacific to playing a lead role as Frank in All My Sons with another local amateur dramatic company. This was again an amazing journey and experience. It was great to play a lead role and there was something about being on a stage that I really connected with and in a short space of time, theatre was to become my purpose in life. I began to be interested in the history and story behind what made great musicals and theatre. I read lots of books about theatre, watched lots of videos and found that I had a particular liking for musicals from what could be described as the golden age of Broadway theatre, with shows from the 1930's and 1940's in pre and post war years. In particular Rodgers and Hammerstein and other writers from that era such as Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin plus more. I also loved the style and sophistication from artists in dance such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly. Something in the style and sophistication of these artists really spoke to me and inspired me in the quality of the work I was seeing. With the experience I had acting in local amateur theatre shows, I found out about an opportunity to become an extra in a professional theatre production of Stephen Daldry's An Inspector Calls and also get some exposure to professional filming, playing an extra in a BBC remake of The Great Train Robbery starring Jim Broadbent. I began to notice I had an awareness when I was watching shows about something I thought may be done differently to increase the quality of a performance, in the staging, acting or storytelling, so I decided I might be a good director. I spent the next 5 years immersing myself in learning about the craft of theatre. In addition to reading lots of books on theatre, I watched hundreds of seminars on theatre and was particularly inspired by Isobel Stephenson from The American Theatre Wing. I attended lots of behind the scenes workshops with top professional actors and directors in the UK and became a theatre critic. I traveled across the UK, visiting areas such as Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Bolton, Manchester and London making video reviews about theatre performances, as I felt passionate about preserving the craft of theatre and using a modern medium with video to help send a message to future generations of theatre goers and give young children a chance to be creative and work with people whilst feeling stimulated, entertained and fulfilled. I was interested and inspired by the work of directors and choreographers such as Harold Prince, George Abbott, Joshua Logan, Michael Bennett, Elia Kazan, Jonathan Miller, Peter Hall, Trevor Nunn and Cicely Berry. I was inspired by shows I had seen from producers such as Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I had seen over 500 shows over a space of about 2 years, which included seeing shows in the theatre and watching videos of theatre performances. I wrote numerous letters in industry recognised publications such as The Stage in the UK about how it was important to work with video and with this, help provide an outlet for theatre to future generations. I was so passionate about how theatre changed my life for the better and I wanted to let others know about it to help make the lives of young people and future generations better. I regularly did lots of things in the community to bring people together to enjoy the art of theatre and help encourage creative activities such as play reading events in my local libraries, that brought so many people together from all different ages and walks of life to discuss and be entertained by the subject of theatre, reading and open discussions about plays. I began to put on productions of plays, directing and producing small performances of Eugene Oneil plays, with the format of a play followed by a post show talk and discussion with the audience. A lot happened in the space of about 5 years and II had been working a 9-5 job, but with the amount of time I was spending being interested and stimulated in theatre, I was becoming more and more disillusioned with my day job as I felt I had to follow what I believed in and try to make something happen with theatre. I had saved up some money that would enable me to have a bit of a financial cushion and with all the ideas I had from plays I was seeing, I had the idea I wanted to write a play for the stage. Initially I took 6 months off writing a play that was created around a theme of being on holiday. By chance I started to study songs from Madonna's back catalogue when I was listening to Madonna Holiday on the radio and I realised Madonna songs fit perfectly with the plot and story I was writing, so my was formed into a musical with Madonna songs, which I called Madonna Holiday. After six months I decided I would try to contact Madonna to try and make this musical happen. I did try very hard to contact Madonna and am still trying to do so. I managed to speak to agents of Madonna and high up people in the theatre industry in the UK and on Broadway, but I still not have been able to contact Madonna to arrange a meeting about this musical. I hope one day with persistence and the use of electronic technology and websites I can make this happen. Because theatre was taking up such a big part of my life, in 2014 I found out a theatre director I had admired for a long time, Jonathan Miller was directing a production of King Lear in London with a theatre company from Yorkshire. It would be rehearsed in London and then tour the UK. I saw this as an opportunity that I wanted to be a part of, so wrote a well thought out and drafted letter to the theatre company asking if I could observe Jonathan Miller directing this production. I was lucky in that my letter was received by the right person at the right time and I was so happy to be accommodated. At this time I was also working on an idea for a website, where I wanted to create YouTube or Google for the arts, that would be a website with information and video about theatre to help encourage and nurture future generations of theatre goers and I would call it London Arts Tube. I purchased the domain and decided this was the start of a journey for me and I would move to London with the savings I had to try and find work in theatre and pursue theatre directing opportunities, after I had finished observing Jonathan Miller directing and at the same time work on the vision I had for a website and a google for The Arts. It would be an amazing experience watching Jonathan Miller directing. I spent one month in the rehearsal room full time watching a beautiful play being formed. I could really see what made it work and what made it bind together in addition to the great skill and experience of the actors, was the vision of the director Jonathan Miller, because he had the right style, class, style and understanding of what makes great entertainment along with a fantastic ability to work with, inspire and encourage others to work individually and collectively to create a great piece of art. I knew I had these abilities as well, with my people skills and experience of life. When I look back, I can see how right from an early age and from my earliest creative memory, with building the castle I reminisced about at the start of this page. From being interested in music and entertainment, being interested in history, art and culture, being interested in mens and womens fashions and seeing great lighting in performances of dance music, everything in life I have been experiencing all leads to the theatre. I finished watching Jonathan Miller directing in February 2015, at which time I was determined to try and make things happen with theatre directing. I was still working on my website for the arts and spent a lot of time networking and trying to find theatre directing opportunities. I also had a, (now good friend), who I met when I was making a video review of a theatre show who is blind called Stephen Portlock. We shared a common interest in theatre and the same sense of style, we could talk at length about theatre productions and shared a mutual understanding for the style and craft of theatre and the quality of performance values. We decided to try and start up a new blind theatre company, putting on classic Russian, American and English plays with the possibility of entertaining new writing as well. We spent a lot of time networking and trying to make this vision happen, but as yet we have not been unable to make that happen. After 2 years spent living in London and networking with very well established people in the profession, it has still been very hard to find opportunities to make something happen. I spent a lot of time trying to contact schools to start play reading workshops for children and encourage people to find my website for the arts in London Arts Tube. I found it was very hard to get people to listen to this vision and came to the conclusion that too many people were trying to do the same thing and although not everyone had the right sense of style, the people everyone is contacting are also busy in their day jobs and therefore very difficult to get a message across with the sheer volume of requests. I had looked at applying for funding from The Arts Council and tried to apply for funding to start up a theatre company, but my application was not successful. In February 2017, I found a job in theatre as a Ticket Centre Assistant with ATG Tickets, selling theatre tickets in a contact centre for the ATG venues in London and regionally. It was great to finally find a job in theatre, I felt like I had finally found an opening to what I consider to be a magical and precious kingdom I had been trying to find an opening in for such a long time, the house of theatre. I am lucky to work with a great team of people, but I need to be fulfilled creatively and make art happen myself. As I developed London Arts Tube, it began to take the shape of a quickfire listings and ticketing website that I hope to be able to build awareness for and grow a reputation for a site people can go to for information on things to do in London and find a good place to get discount theatre tickets. The theatre ticket business is a busy operation and if I can get enough people to buy theatre tickets from my websites I can fund theatre performances and this will go a long way to helping to create the theatre company I want to build, develop new talent and give people opportunities who, like me have the talent but have found it hard to find an opportunity in theatre. There are a number of organisations offering theatre tickets, but most of them are large, commercial and corporate organisations. If you are someone who values live theatre and, like me thinks it is important to preserve and nurture the craft of theatre for future generations, you can help to fund future new theatre by buying theatre tickets with our website. I hope you will think of us when booking theatre tickets for your next London show or attraction and tell your friends about us too. London Arts Tube is aimed at locals and tourists who want authority information on things to do in London and find a home where they can enjoy great deals on London theatre.

 

 

 

 

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