Category Archives: Interviews

Celebrating 20 years of The Leaf Label

This year, Leeds-based independent record company The Leaf Label commemorates its 20th anniversary. To celebrate, it has announced a special 14-record box set and a series of gigs at Headrow House.  I chatted with The Leaf Label founder Tony Morley about how he brought the influential label to Leeds, and what we can expect for the future.

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Culture Vulture: I Love West Leeds Arts Festival

Originally published on Weds 29 June 2011 at

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

Interview with David Wickenden of 4 Poofs and a Piano

Originally published on Thurs 14 April 2011 at

How did you meet?
We’ve been together getting on for 11 years now. Three of us met singing in a choir. About a year later David Roper joined us on piano. I used to work at the Groucho Club in Soho and our first gig was there. There was a producer in the audience, looking for ideas for the Jonathan Ross show, which was still in concept form at the time. They saw us, contacted us and asked us to go and try out, and we were pretty much involved with the show from day one!

What are the main musical influences on the band?
It’s a comedy influence more than anything else – visual, larger-than-life influences. Having said that, I’d say that Stephen’s main influence is Agnetha from ABBA; Ian’s is probably Dusty Springfield; David’s is Helen Shaprio; and mine would be Les Dawson!

You’re one of the singers in the band – do you play anything?
I do play – but not very well! I play the piano a little bit, I do one comedy number in the show – it’s quite simple.

Tell us about your new show.
Smoke and Mirrorballs is a show in two parts. The first half is a compilation of the best of our previous shows from over the years. The second half is essentially our Edinburgh show from 2009. It’s really high energy, really full-on good fun. We’ve been getting great responses from audiences – we were in Andover several nights ago and we had a really good night, people were really up for it. We love to interact with the audience and get them involved in the show: there’s lots of singing, lots of comedy songs, dancing and chatting with the audience. It’s all really good fun!

Have you played in Barnsley before?
No we haven’t, but we were in Sheffield a couple of weeks ago at The Crucible and we had a great night there. One of the guys in the band, Ian, is a Yorkshireman – he’s from Sheffield so we always get a really lovely welcome by all his family when we play there.

Where’s the best place you’ve visited in Yorkshire?
The North Yorkshire Moors are beautiful, and we love visiting Leeds – we always have a great night out when we’re there, we love the big gay scene in the city.

Do you have any rock and roll stories from your time on the road?
Apart from Stephen the Australian farting in the van, that’s about as rock and roll as it gets, we’re all tired with the long late night drives!