Artist Interview: Ruth Cockburn

We caught up with Ruth Cockburn a local but far reaching comedian and theatre maker to find out what she has been doing in Lockdown and her plans for unlocking.

Tell us about you, Ruth.

I grew up in Blackpool in a B&B and have been a professional artist for over 15 years. I moved away from Blackpool for a while but came back a few years ago and fell back in love with the place. 

I am a touring performance artist, comedian and writer. I make theatre shows that are inspired by a sense of place. My last show ‘Love Letters from Blackpool’ began its life at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester and subsequently ended its year long tour at The Grand Theatre Blackpool last year. I am currently working on a show for Spot On Lancashire and Super Slow Way inspired by the Lancashire town Great Harwood. It will celebrate the grit of female voices in Lancashire.

I am also part of a two piece comedy act called black liver. I am from Blackpool and my comedy partner is from Liverpool hence the name. Nothing to do with our alcohol consumption. 

Alongside all of this I am the comedy partner for Show Town, Blackpool’s new museum, delivering comedy masterclasses to young people in the town. 

Blackpool has a lot going for it and I am very glad to be here.

How do you work? Can you tell us a bit about your processes?

I tend to panic for about two days then once I’ve gotten over the panic of starting I love exploring lyrics for songs and characters, story lines and show structures. 

I tend to use a lot of post-it notes and make lots of lists. 

Whether I’m writing a song, a joke, a theatre show or a poem the process is the same. Once I have the story sorted then the rest follows. 

Another good tip is if you wait for inspiration to strike you’ll be waiting ages but if you start then it tends to follow. 

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio/practice?

Post-it notes and my tea pot. 

What does your work aim to say? Does it comment on current social or political issues?

My main aim is to entertain, with a tendency to lean toward social cohesion. Live performance has a way of bringing people together in a very important way.

If people enjoy something together they connect in a way that just shopping in the same shops can’t do.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Doing a comedy show in Edinburgh I’ve had people crying during the show. I’m sure you’re aware that comedy is meant to be laughed at. It was at that point I realised I’d best move into theatre as well as comedy!

However, I think for me it would have been just after Ken Dodd passed away, his wife came to watch my show at The Grand Theatre Blackpool and she sought me out to tell me that Ken would have loved this show and that she was happy to see the next generation of performers keeping the standard up!

Who are your biggest influences?
So many it would be impossible to name them all. But firstly I’d have to say Victoria Woods, Billy Connelly, Al Reed, John Hegley, John Suttleworth, Ethel Carnie, Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, Lee Hall, Alan Bennett, Eddie Izzard, Oscar Wilde and Hilda Baker.

And somewhere in there is Tony Robinson doing Fat Tulip. I’m sure there are more but that’s who I can think off the top of my head.

What is your dream project?

This might sound contrite but everything I’m doing at the moment is exactly what I enjoy. I can’t wait to get back to performing live but aside from that I’m doing just what I want to.

Do you think that Blackpool provides a decent creative environment for performers?

Hell yeah!

Since coming back I have connected with so many creatives with similar passions. I constantly feel challenged and supported.

Blackpool and Wyre is large enough to have a mix of different artists but small enough to connect with enough for them personally.

Should music and performance be publically funded?

I think so.

It is a challenge to do great work when all you can think of is making money and putting food on the table.

On the flip side of this I believe that we need to make art that people are willing to pay for or at least invest in.

There must be a happy medium but I don’t think many countries have found it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Stop moaning and get on with it.

What jobs have you had other than being an artist?
I worked for Co-op insurance for 6 months before I was ‘asked to leave’. I have also been a teacher. I didn’t excel in either of these jobs but it certainly made me the performer I am today so I wouldn’t change a thing.
How has lockdown affected you and your work?

Lockdown has provided me with space to realise that I was doing too much before.

As an artist you tend to say yes to everything for fear of not having work in the future, hence I had three live touring shows, alongside writing new material, Edinburgh Fringe rehearsals, as well as workshop sessions.

It is impossible to do that many things well.

I am very lucky to be in the position to choose my work now. So I have done just that.

Choose one or two things and do them well, spreading yourself too thinly equals burn out and sub standard work.

Take your time, do it well and make time for something other than work.

  1. Cake or Pie?
  2. Book or Film?
  3. Facebook or Twitter?
  4. Be the funniest person in the room or the most intelligent?
    Be the funniest person in the room
  5. Fulfil your biggest wish or solve your biggest regret?
    Fulfil your biggest wish
  6. Favourite or most inspirational spot in Blackpool?
    North Pier
  7. Song that sums up how you’re feeling now?
    Hot Chip Over and Over
  8. Things that you miss most during lockdown?
    Hugging my Mum

Keep up to date with Ms Cockburn’s happenings here



Twitter http://@ruthecockburn




Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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