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Halifax-based international theatre company IOU celebrates 40th birthday

International Theatre Company IOU celebrates its 40th anniversary by deepening its roots in its home town of Halifax, expanding the organisation within Dean Clough Mills and opening its first ever permanent public space – a new ‘creation centre’ for the Yorkshire region.

IOU has excited and delighted diverse audiences across Europe for 40 years, with original, unusual work that defies categorisation and includes sculpture, music, theatre, interactive digital works and virtual worlds.

A new studio, gallery and workshop in Dean Clough will enable the company to make large scale work for touring in the UK and abroad, as well as to present its unpredictable, immersive installations, exhibitions and performances to regional audiences for the first time.

David Wheeler, IOU’s artistic director and a founder member, said: ”We are over the moon that after 40 years of making, showing and exporting work all over the UK and internationally, we will be able to show our work in the place where it was born.

“The work we do is hard to pigeon-hole, often combining mechanical, analogue 3D forms with the latest technology, but it never fails to draw a reaction. Local audiences will be able to be experience the work as it is made and we are looking forward to hearing their response.

“The world is entering a new phase in technological developments and with the opportunity we have here at Dean Clough, we are at a new beginning for IOU too.”

It is hoped that the facilities will help the company to inspire a new generation of audiences and artists who will be able to experience first-hand the skill and artistry for which IOU have won industry acclaim.

He added: “We want IOU’s creation centre to be an environment where artists and audiences are encouraged to find digital ways of doing things as well as welding, carving wood, making music – or whatever combination of art forms is the motivation.

” IOU will continue to produce live performance and installation work and make the creation centre an exciting and intriguing place for people to come, see, learn and participate in what we do.”

As part of Yorkshire Festival 2016 and the company’s own anniversary celebrations, IOU is set to showcase a retrospective of three popular multimedia installations, under the title Future/Past. ‘Speaking Tubes’, ‘Vessel 1 & 2’ and ‘Long Division’ will feature along the Calder Valley at Dean Clough in Halifax; Hebden Bridge Arts Festival and at the Unitarian Church in Todmorden.

First to show in IOU’s new studio, gallery and workshop at Dean Clough will be a sculptural sound installation, ‘Speaking Tubes’, which includes the premiere of ‘Vortex’ by composer Yannis Kyriakides. Inspired by the extraordinary sound of vortex rings travelling through the atmosphere at supersonic speed, ‘Speaking Tubes’ is a gleaming steel circle of large air-ducting tubes and giant cones which spill out a chorus of sound into special, interactive listening zones.

‘Vortex’ is a contemporary music piece to be performed in collaboration with composer Yannis Kyriakides, physicist Jem Stansfield and the University of Huddersfield School of Computing and Engineering. Musicians and audience members alike will move around and interact with the sound installation, themselves becoming the live performance.

Also at Dean Clough, will be a display of original photography by Hebden Bridge-based photographic artist Charlie Meecham – stunning, large-scale documentary photographs, of IOU work from the past 40 years, many of them previously unseen.

In contrast, a preview of IOU’s ambitious forthcoming new show ‘Rear View’ will be displayed, including an extraordinary bus being made in new IOU’s workshop.

‘Vessel 1 & 2will be presented as part of Hebden Bridge Arts Festival. In 2007, IOU’s Artistic Director David Wheeler spent three months in Antarctica as part of the Arts Council England and British Antarctic Survey’s Artists’ and Writers’ Programme.

The result was ‘Half Moon’, a sculpture, video and photographic installation made in response to David’s time in Antarctica and inspired by the extraordinary environment. Using rusting steel aquariums, old gas tanks and compressed air, ‘Vessel 1 & 2’ is a large mechanical sculpture that is made as part of the Half Moon installation.

‘Long Division’ will be presented in the beautiful Unitarian Church in Todmorden. This hauntingly atmospheric sound installation features words by Hebden Bridge-based writer Louise Oliver and a soundscape by Todmorden-based composer Dan Morrison.

A soundscape resonant of patterns in nature and cycles of growth and decay, the rhythmic sequence lasts one hour and repeats three times as day merges into night. Long Division was originally commissioned by Oxford Contemporary Music and Oxford Botanic Garden.


David Wheeler, Artistic Director of IOU Theatre in the company's new workshop space. (c) Simon Dewhurst
David Wheeler, artistic director of IOU Theatre in the company’s new workshop space


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