Originally published on Weds 29 June 2011 at theculturevulture.co.uk
Seven years in the running, I Love West Leeds Arts Festival (1-24 July) is a staple in the arts calendar of the city. Hosted in dozens of quirky places across Leeds’ western edge, this year’s events span a wide range of activities for all the family, taking in airstream caravans, converted garden sheds and even a swimming pool!
I asked director Jane Earnshaw about some the things we can expect to find at what promises to be the biggest and most exciting festival yet.
“A big part of our programme is the Festival Day, which moves around the area every year. For 2011 it’s going to be at Bramley Falls Park, on 3 July. We’ve got a load of sheds – regular, garden sheds – but we’ve crammed them full of artists instead. They’re going to be filled with all sorts of things – there’s a pedal-powered shed full of music and gadgets, some potting sheds, and there’s a festival tattoo parlour! Don’t worry, it’s temporary – but you can’t leave without one!
“We’ve got Chol Theatre coming over from Huddersfield, who’ll be bringing a bright orange dome, complete with a series of plastic arms poking out the top, to stage a quirky theatre show. There’s also a 1950s Airstream caravan! It’s going to have an old-fashioned sweet shop inside, and all the sweets will be free. But – there’s a catch. In order to get free sweets, you have to exchange knowledge. I won’t say anything else – you’ll have to find out more on the day! Plus, some fantastic singers from Bramley Elderly Action will be transformed into The Viking Grandmas – all kitted out in Viking gear, horned helmets and all! Plus, much, much more, with tipis, tents and arts and crafts for all the family.
“There’s so many new things in the festival this year, but one of my favourites – and it makes me laugh every time I think about it – is Dog Art, an exhibition we’re doing for dogs. Not of dogs, but for dogs! Rather than things all being in one place, we try and do things out in the community, and there’s often lots of dog walkers, and lots of lampposts! So we’ve been collecting photos of things we think dogs might like to see – bones, toys, dog food – and of course, other dogs’ bottoms! We’ve been sticking these on lampposts around Bramley Falls Park and on Rodley Town Street. It just makes me laugh every time I think about it.
“Also new this year is a roving cinema. We’ve done film screenings before, with drive-ins and bike-ins, but this year we’ve got a huge inflatable screen that’s going to be popping up all over West Leeds. It’s about 20 feet tall! There’ll be four films screening over four nights, all of which will be free. But we’re not content with just having the screen, so a team of us handmade about 25 beautiful camping chairs to go with it. We’re a bit nuts, really.
“The Wild West Music Trail is two fantastic musicians called Harry and Sam. They’ve been travelling around West Leeds performing music in outdoor spaces – woods, fields, tunnels and so on – then recording it to see how the spaces makes the music sound different. After that they put their music on the web, and devised a little trail around West Leeds consisting of QR codes on lampposts and walls. These are things that look like funny little squares, but you can scan them with your smartphone – just point your phone at it, and experience lots of lovely music. It’ll keep you fit too – the trail’s about 10 miles long!
“Four cafes in Armley will be taken over by four artists for a whole week as they make some takeaway art for customers. It’s called The Full Artist’s Breakfast, and they’ll be drawing art on windows, tablecloths, and there’ll be a set of badges to collect from each cafe that’ll make up a Full English breakfast – get your sausages from one place, your eggs from another, and so on. I’m so excited by that, I’ll be eating my own body weight in breakfasts around Armley!
“Finally – but this isn’t all – we like Bramley Baths. It’s a fantastic old Edwardian swimming pool, which has quaint little changing cubicles around the sides, and a beautiful balcony curving round the wall above it. We’ve teamed up with the West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra,a fantastic group of people who love taking classical music to the public. But we’ve gone one further – we’ve decided to build a stage, slap bang in the middle of the swimming pool, in the water! The orchestra will be on the stage, performing Handel’s Water Music, and the audience will be in there with them. For those who don’t fancy donning the speedos, there’ll be seats up on the balcony, and some cake too. It’s been quite a mammoth task to set up – we have a wonderful team of people working with us. We’re really honoured that all the staff at Bramley Baths, the orchestra and the crew have offered to do this for the love of Bramley Baths alone – I’m truly grateful to all of them”.
The festival begins this Friday 1 July at Armley Mills, with Active Crossover, a sound installation at Armley Mills Industrial Museum. Discover much, much more about I Love West Leeds Arts Festival, and download the complete programme, at ilovewestleeds.co.uk.