“The world has lost a great talent”: Tributes Paid To Artist Becs Andrews

Becs Andrews: TRANSMISSION is a design-led interactive installation and contemporary dance piece that explores infectious networks (disease, memes) and how changes at a molecular level can have global consequences.

Stage designer and visual artist Becs Andrews tragically passed away earlier this month, aged just 37. Here, friends, colleagues and collaborators, from the Royal Opera House to The Royal Standard, remember a great talent…

Gold Dust, what a beautiful title for a piece of work, a manifesto for a way of looking at the world, a magical image to dream about where Becs might be now… With her recent work, fuelled by discussions with her husband and evolutionary scientist Pr. Michael Brockhurst, Becs had great visions and instinctive feelings about what it is to be alive and feel the invisible energies that makes us who we are for such a short space of time.

Transmission, an emotional piece of dance and interactive installation, is yet another metaphor for how contagious her curiosity and hunger for life was. Her research will undoubtedly carry on through the many people she has touched and worked with. I am saddened that the world has lost such an amazing person but thankful she has been a part of my life. – Laurence Payot, artist, The Royal Standard Studios, Liverpool

“She was somehow able to combine unstinting perfectionism with warmth”

I represented Becs as Co-ordinator at her agency/co-op The Designers Formation. From very early on, we were friends as well: I was honoured to negotiate for someone whose work I greatly admired, but we also had long conversations about art, creativity, and fairness, in work and in life. She often found things hard — we talked about that, too — but she was somehow able to combine unstinting perfectionism with warmth, and humour with the magnetic creativity which inspired so many. That ability is rare. Now, it’s even rarer. Becs and her work will continue to inspire me for a long time to come. Andrews’ agent, Laura Sampson at Designers Formation

Becs Andrews

Becs was one of those people that I feel I have known for ever even though the times we spent together were actually fleeting. My most vivid and happy memory is attending the Prague Quadrennial in 2007. Myself, Becs and Steve Denton bumped into one another there and somehow for a few days became a mischievous little gang. It felt like we were her naughty designer aunt and uncle. We ate pizza, drank beer, giggled a lot and in amongst all the amazing, inspiring photos of exhibits that I took that lived on my studio walls for ages afterwards is one of Becs grinning in her summer dress shooting me with a banana!

The last time I saw Becs was around this time last year, with Laura and most of the designers from the agency the day after the get-out for Make/Believe. Quietly and eruditely, Becs shared her thoughts on some of the things she felt we could do to develop the way the agency operates. Way back at the start of that process a year or more earlier, we identified that within the agency we needed lighthouse keepers — people who could see what might be possible in the future and what we needed to look out for. Becs was and will remain the keeper of that beacon. — Fiona Watt, Director, The Designers Formation

“She always had insight and a deep perception of what was actually good art”

I’m lost for words by this tragedy. Becs was such a lovely person, so willing to help and explore new ideas. Her creativity was of the highest standards, and I really enjoyed talking to her in the department: she always had insight and a deep perception of what was actually good art.  What a horrible loss, and my thoughts go out to her husband and family at this time. – Ambrose Field, Professor & Head of Department of Music, University of York

We had a rare thing — a close friendship that also worked really well as a professional artistic collaborative partnership. We worked together on a number of projects over the past 4 years, me as composer, and her in range of roles — costume designer on Terrarium, stage designer, producer, project leader and general all round creative force on Transmission, designer, producer and project leader on Phase Revival and Gold Dust. She could do so much and had such a lot of talent and intelligence. She was an inspiring, exciting and talented person to work with. She helped me such a lot, believed in what I was doing and encouraged me, giving me lots of opportunities that were transformational for me, and have made a massive difference to my life.

Becs Andrews. Phase Revival: An Optical Harmonica

It’s very sad that she’s gone, as Becs and I had years of fun, collaboration and friendship ahead of us. It’s a real loss for me, to no longer be able to witness the unfolding of her story, of her art, life and work, how it was going to develop and move forward over the coming decades. Her death has changed me as a person, for the better — I’ll never take a real friendship like we had for granted again. I’m very proud to have been a friend of hers. – Dr. Jon Hughes, composer and sound artist, Post Doctoral Research Assistant, University of York 

I met Becs in 2004 when she designed Twelfth Night for English Touring Theatre. She had just won the Linbury Biennial Prize and I was the assistant director on it. I couldn’t believe someone so young was designing such a big production. She did a beautiful job on it — it was very simple in that it evoked the sea on a large white screen and yet allowed a space for the story on this bare wooden stage. She didn’t feel the need to show how good she was. She just created the right playing spaces. I then went on to run ATC where she had just designed Jeff Koons (2004). I didn’t see the play but I couldn’t get the images of the production out of my head and I still see that giant Kinder Egg and twister like floor now and again in my mind’s eye.

“I don’t know where she got her ideas from — they were often very science based and yet there was an anarchy and a wildness to them”

We eventually got to work together on Romeo and Juliet at the National Theatre (2014) – a production for 8-12 year olds – and I had such fun working with her. We immersed ourselves in Brick Lane having several curries together and just soaking up the atmosphere of the place as part of our design process. We travelled to Ireland and opened the play there, and that included a memorable day trip with her and the cast to giant’s causeway. The costumes she created for R n J were brilliant — punk wigs and saris and suits — her imagination was just amazing. And her taste too. She once told me to go down to the Margaret Howell sample sale and sort myself out. I didn’t know what she was talking about and I certainly didn’t have money for fancy clothes. But I got a jacket, trousers and a jumper all for around £100 and they were totally my taste. They’re still the best clothes I own.

We did an opera together too at the Royal Opera House, and she brought wonderful elegant ideas to the project. These simple black screens with small holes which when they crossed one another would do these magical ripples. It was perfect for a dark opera about a fake MI5 agent. I don’t know where she got her ideas from — they were often very science based and yet there was an anarchy and a wildness to them, and they were always appropriate and unearthing something from deep within the play. I am so sad and shocked to think she is no longer with us. — Bijan Sheibani, theatre director

Becs Andrews: Jeff Koons

I was asked to be a personal mentor when Becs was appointed as a DARE Cultural Fellow in Scenography — a shared position between the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds and Opera North (2011-14). Becs seized this opportunity with relish developing some highly innovative interdisciplinary work and working on a series of events with Opera North. Phase Revival: An Optical Harmonica — a kinetic installation using swinging lenses and light in collaboration with Ben Whitaker, Mike Nix, and Dave Lynch — was a particular highlight. When it was exhibited at Leeds Light Night in 2013 it drew such large crowds that audiences needed to queue for access despite the large space.

Gold Dust, a video installation inspired by the search for the Higgs Boson or ‘god particle’, was selected for the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition this year. Becs touched the lives of so many people across many areas of work. She was an inspiring mentor to our students, friend and colleague. I will remember her honest, critical approach and intellectual inquisitiveness, her sense of humour and forceful energy in pursuing and realising her creative goals.  There is widespread shock and deep sadness at the loss of such a formidable talent. — Dr Scott Palmer, Lecturer in Scenography, School of Performance & Cultural Industries, University of Leeds

“A real visionary… Becs worked happily with scientists and singers, with school children and philosophers”

Becs was a warm and sensitive person, kind, talented and curious about everything. As the DARE Fellow in opera-related arts, Becs made an incredible range of projects, from art installation to theatre design and interactive digital media. Her kinetic installation pieces Gold Dust and Phase Revival were fantastic meldings of science and art, and in this area Becs was a real visionary. An amazing collaborator, Becs worked happily with scientists and singers, with school children and philosophers, and always brought new and illuminating ways of seeing and thinking. She will be much missed, and our thoughts are with her family and friends. – Dominic Gray, Projects Director, Opera North

I first met Becs on a project with balletLORENT and again by chance sometime later when I happened to be looking for a designer for my new dance work Terrarium. It was a fortuitous and unexpected second meeting that led to Becs becoming a valued collaborator and a very dear friend. I was amazed by the skill with which Becs not only developed her ideas but also realized them. The costumes she produced brought a visual richness to Terrarium and everyone who saw the work commented on the innovative and beautiful designs.

Becs Andrews: Terrarium was a duet danced in an inflatable bubble in rural outdoor locations on North York Moors and the Cornish coast.

Terrarium heralded the emergence of new group of collaborators and Transmission, led by Becs and her husband Mike [Brockhurst], further established and developed this art movement. With unbelievable sadness, our group now misses an important driving force. Our meeting was unexpected and so was her leaving…we had so many plans for future projects, so many plans.  The one consolation is that Becs will live on in all my future work; she will continue to be an inspiration. — Simon Birch, choreographer and Course Coordinator: BA(Hons) Dance & Choreography at Falmouth University

I’ve never ever met anybody like Becs, a force of nature, a wild personality, a cracking laugh and one of the most passionate and imaginative designers of our times. In the early days of The Royal Standard here in Liverpool, both at the old pub in Toxteth and as we relocated to our current Vauxhall Road home, she was an inspiration to many of us(some still in Liverpool, others now moved on) at such impressionable times early in our careers. Her ambition and determination, two of her strongest character traits, will always live on via all of the people she met, befriended, worked with and encouraged in Liverpool and along the way elsewhere, Becs Andrews my birthday twin, I’m so happy that we knew each other, Happy Birthday forever my friend. – Kevin Hunt, artist, The Royal Standard

“I was amazed by her attention to detail which she enforced with compassion, awareness and a mischievous grin”

I came to know Becs while working on her ambitious interdisciplinary project Transmission. She had brought together a diverse group of collaborators and invited us to share her vision for an uncompromising artwork that was inspired by cutting edge science. I liked her immediately and was amazed by her attention to detail which she enforced with compassion, awareness and a mischievous grin. It never occurred to me that I might not enjoy the warmth and openness of her company again. It never occurred to me that a new friendship could be cut short so tragically. In Becs’ art she leaves us with wonderful gifts of inspiration, reminding us of the talented, joyful and courageous person she was. I feel privileged to have spent that time with her and those few weeks are all the more special now that she has gone. – Dr. Tom Mitchell, Senior Lecturer in Computer Music, UWE


My memories of Becs are from when she lived in Liverpool and we became friends through The Royal Standard. She was always so much fun to be around, she oozed charisma and warmth but was full of passion and had a feisty energy who would often demand discussion and debate. Becs was a unique and unforgettable character, she had such a distinctive and memorable voice and I’m so grateful to have known her. I last saw Becs a couple of months ago, I only wish I had hugged her more and told her how amazing I’ve always thought she was. She will be forever missed and remembered here in Liverpool. – Katherine Lloyd, artist, Exhibitions Officer, National Museums Liverpool

I was both shocked and saddened to hear the news about the passing of Becs Andrews. I worked closely with Becs to produce a website that could showcase her exceptional, creative and inspiring work. I look back at the time we spent together with great fondness. Becs was a perfectionist, who pushed me to be the best I could be. She wouldn’t settle for anything but the best, or for something she didn’t believe in, and I admired her for that. I was privileged to listen to her many stories of travelling, and she told her tales with the same creativeness she designed with. The world has lost a great talent in Becs, she will be missed. - John Wai, web designer and developer, Liverpool

“Brilliant, funny, straight talking”

I can’t believe that I’m writing this. Brilliant, funny, straight talking, talented Becs Andrews is no longer with us. I’m very sad. And sorry. And nostalgic for 2008, when Becs joined a group of us to make theatre for Liverpool’s Capital of Culture. It was hard, exciting and magical. We camped out in a glorious, old, disused cinema to make work about George Groves. The Quiet Little Englishman explored how one person’s creativity can change the world. George and Becs had a lot in common. True artists often do. RIP beautiful Becs. Liverpool will miss you. – Esther Wilson, writer, The Quiet Little Englishman for Liverpool 2008 European Capital of Culture

I first met Becs Andrews whilst working on The Quiet Little Englishman, one of the best experiences I have had creatively.  I loved the work she created on that production, it was beautiful, thoughtful, passionate and inspiring with her attention to detail meticulous, she wanted the best for everyone and was always very kind to me. It was a privilege to have had a chance to work with her. So very sad to hear the passing of someone so young, talented and loved, my deepest sympathy to her husband and family. – Laura Campbell, actor, The Quiet Little Englishman

Becs Andrews: The Quiet Little Englishman

Becs was a lovely person and I enjoyed her company whether working in the studio or socially out for a drink, dinner or at a party. She was always engaging inquisitive and very funny! As a member of The Royal Standard, she was unique in her pursuit of her career in theatre set design and she relished being surrounded by artists of all disciplines and her talent added greatly to mix at the studios. She was alway very driven and focused in her work, and it’s no wonder she was so successful as a set designer within the city but also on a national level. There’s not much else I can add. I miss her laughter, her madness and her beauty as a person. – James Buso, artist, The Royal Standard

The news of Becs Andrews death is devastating. The loss of a special artist and a beautiful person. We had a wonderful time dreaming up the design for our production of The Tempest (2015) together. This was our first collaboration and my brain is not quite able to comprehend that this artistic story has come to such an abrupt end.

“She was calm and considered in her explorations of ideas and courageous in how far she pushed the impulses we followed”

She was excited for the show and was inspiring about the how the elements of the set could really include and connect to the performers. She was also really supportive of my process of casting the show. I’m remembering her studio walls covered in extraordinary pictures of flotsam and leviathans of plastic sea debris. She was calm and considered in her explorations of ideas and courageous in how far she pushed the impulses we followed. Becs told me she had restarted drawing whilst we were working together and she had loved it. Something she had not done for a while had been rekindled. This produced some beautiful, fantastical costumes.

There was something intuitive going on as although the ideas and images came first they retrospectively looked like they had grown organically from the text. We decided that mountains of clothes would become our island. I told her not to hold back in how far she pushed the idea and she didn’t. The whole set was alive and transformative. The storm was an ocean of blue clothes. Hundreds of washed up plastic bottles provided the Shaman like Goddess costumes. A backdrop of clothes rose up beautifully transforming the space like the ghosts of lost souls.

Becs Andrews: The Tempest

Her design caught something magical, with much dreaming space for all the other ideas that are present in the Tempest. Her set did a thing which great design can sometimes do: Help you hear things in the text you’d never heard before. A haunting world and a marvellous playground for the performers.

Becs had modelled up some clothes mountains and a glorious backdrop made from shirts. They looked like washing lines and I joked that they would look good with a washing machine in the middle of the stage. The next meeting, there was the perfect miniature washing machine. It looked great. We talked about how the whole show could come out of the washing machine: Of course… there was our storm. I joked about putting a tea towel in as the ship and using washing powder. Showing my age I said: “It could be “Tide” its the sea!” and Becssaid: “Aerial surely!” we had walked our minds back to an enjoyably stupid joke and the start of our show! Shakespeare’s text about how the Lord’s clothes seem cleaner than before the storm leaped out during the show!

“She will certainly live on in the images and dreams that are still with me of her beautiful work”

Our working relationship was very brief and I feel the loss of Becs terribly. I cannot imagine what this must be like for those who knew her more deeply and closely. I feel grateful that I got this opportunity to work with her and she will certainly live on in the images and dreams that are still with me of her beautiful work. – Phelim McDermott, director, Improbable/The Tempest

Becs was a talented artist, an inspirational designer, a wonderful colleague and a friend. Words cannot express how deeply saddened I am by her passing. She will be sorely missed by us all at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries. As an organisation and as a community of performance scholars, we have very much benefitted from Becs’ passion, enthusiasm and commitment to design practice over the years and we would have hoped that trajectory would have continued for many years to come. On a personal level, we have lost a gentle soul and a shining star. Travel well, my friend. – Dr Alice O’Grady, Head of Performance and Cultural Industries, Associate Professor in Applied Performance, University of Leeds

Becs was certainly the most unique practitioner I’ve been fortunate to share a studio with and I’ll never forget her. I’ve been reflecting back a lot on these early days at The Royal Standard, days which were so happy. Becs was such an integral part of the studio and my life at this time, she was really influential. So passionate, imaginative, incredibly ambitious and a real perfectionist. I feel so sad but so very honoured to have known her. – Jemma Egan, artist, The Royal Standard

As told to Laura Robertson

See more of Becs Andrews’ amazing work here: becsandrews.com

Read our obituary: Remembering Becs Andrews (1978-2016)

Posted on 18/01/2016 by thedoublenegative