Leeds International Festival – Writers’ Choices

Four astute members of Leeds Living’s writing team have eyes and ears on some of the contrasting events on offer at Leeds International Festival.

Esther Marshall on Salomé

As part of Leeds International Festival, Opera North has commissioned an original soundtrack to the 1923 silent movie, Salomé. One of the first ‘art’ films to be made in the US, Salomé is loosely based on the Oscar Wilde play of the same name. Wilde’s play is based on the biblical story of Herod’s stepdaughter, and her startling request for the head of John the Baptist. The seductive and strange movie was shunned by all major studios, in part due to the rumoured debauchery at the house of its starring actress and producer, Alla Nazimova, and also to the camp and risqué nature of the film.

Despite the movie’s poor reception in its time, Salomé has now gained a place as a cult classic and drawn respect for its celebration of Art Nouveau and the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Rumoured to have been performed by a predominantly queer cast as Nazimova’s tribute to Wilde, the film also has an ever-increasing cultural significance as a cornerstone of camp.

Opera North’s revival of the black and white movie showcases an original soundtrack performed live by Hayley Fohr and her band, Circuit des Yeux. Fohr’s otherworldly voice, which has been compared to Nina Simone and Nico, will be complemented by the live band’s avant-garde electronics and finger-picked guitar. The band’s original soundtrack is sure to enhance the ethereal artistry of Salomé, making this the perfect opportunity to celebrate the film.

For your chance to see this underappreciated classic, Leeds International Festival will be screening the performance with live accompaniment on Saturday 12th May at 19:45 in the Howard Assembly Room.

Kate Ryrie on Sex Robots with Dr Kate Devlin

As technology shoots ahead – taking human behaviour, emotion and everyday life with it – Hyde Park Picture house hosts an unexpected evening of artificial intelligence (AI) and romance. Dr Kate Devlin, expert computer scientist and one of the UK’s leading voices on human sexuality and tech, is set to examine the past, present and future of love, sex, robotics, AI and technology – and how it all fits together today.

In a world where robotics is advancing fast and computer simulations are increasingly able to mimic human behaviour, the line between sentient being and automaton is no longer clear-cut. Dr Devlin will consider the social and ethical implications of the blurred lines around human-computer interaction, questioning the role of empathy and emotion.

And as for so-called ‘sex robots’ in this evolving age of technology? Ideas and concepts only get more contentious. The lecture will help us understand the contrasting perspectives on sex robots, questioning whether they help those who struggle with intimacy, or serve only to make people more isolated, and further commodify the sexualised body.

The session will offer an insight into a complex and sensitive area of developing technology. It promises a thought-provoking journey through the ethical and philosophical questions around our ability to create virtual humans to fit personal specifications, and a glimpse of a future where technology and emotion are inextricably bound.

Dr Devlin’s talk will culminate in a screening of the Oscarnominated film, Lars and The Real Girl, a critically acclaimed comedy featuring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer and Bianca’ – who is, in fact, a robot. As Gosling’s character forms a romantic relationship with Bianca, the film charts the reactions of his friends and family, offering an in-depth perspective on the implications of the connection between sentient man and mechanical doll.

Hyde Park Picture House on 1 May.

Kate Ryrie on A Conversation With Viv Albertine

Pioneer of punk, singer, songwriter and critically acclaimed author, Viv Albertine, has many a word of wisdom to offer. In an exclusive, interactive Q&A session at The Wardrobe, Viv will appear in conversation with psychotherapist, Chris Madden, to offer up a selection of personal insights and stories from a life spent on the music scene.

Viv is best known as the guitarist in 70s English punk band, the Slits. Formed in 1976, the band played a pivotal role in the punk movement, breaking the mould with an all-female lineup (pretty much unheard of at the time), and pushing boundaries with a whirlwind of sound and stereotypes. Their landmark 1979 album, Cut, is widely regarded as one of punk’s era-defining releases, with a defiant attitude, an experimental Jamaican pop influence and enough heavy, scratchy punk to blast every eardrum.

In 2014, Viv published her memoir, Clothes Clothes Clothes. Music Music Music. Boys Boys Boys, which offers an eye-opening insight into the journey of the Slits and her own life. The book was critically acclaimed, named Sunday Times’ Music Book of the Year, Rough Trade’s Book of the Year and MOJO Book of the Year following its release.

Promising humour, frankness and fascination, this event anticipates the release of Viv’s follow-up book, To Throw Away Unopened, which comes out at the beginning of April. Hailed as a turbulent exposure of self-discovery and vulnerability, the much-anticipated memoir explores family, power, identity, fear, loneliness and anger, drawing on personal experience to tell an intelligently unapologetic story of the self and the world.

The evening will take us on a journey into the world of one of punk’s most influential figures, providing a unique perspective on everything from motherhood and feminism to subversion and pop music. Not to be missed at The Wardrobe on 7 May.

Stan Graham on Leeds United Stories, Vol I

How would you fancy putting on your tux or donning a posh frock to walk the red carpet for the world premier of a film? There is no need to fly to L.A. or even get the train to the West End of London because on Wednesday, 2nd May there is the first ever screening of Leeds United Stories, Volume 1 at the Everyman Cinema in the Trinity Centre, as part of the Leeds International Festival 2018.

The event comprises five short films telling iconic stories in Leeds United’s history including the 1993 FA Youth Cup Final against Manchester United and the 1992 match against Stuttgart at the Camp Nou Stadium. There are also features on Lucas Radebe and his influence on the Leeds music scene, Howard Wilkinson and the legacy of Thorpe Arch with a special feature on Tony Yeboah. The film is made by The City Talking, the makers of ‘Do You Want To Win?’ in conjunction with Leeds United.

For those non-soccer fans amongst you, the game against Stuttgart was played on a neutral ground as a result of the German side fielding an ineligible player in the second leg of the normal games, which saw them progress to the next round. The games against Manchester United included some of the most famous players in their history, such as Paul Scholes, the Neville Brothers, Nicky Butt and David Beckham whilst still in the youth team.

Tickets for the red carpet world premier cost £30.00 and include a Q&A session with stars of the film, a drink and canapés on arrival at Everyman Cinemas, Trinity Leeds, and of course the screening of the film itself. There is also a Gift Pack Premier Ticket for £33.00. The screening kicks off  at 6.30pm. Air kissing and referring to everyone as ‘luvvie’ or ‘dahling’ is entirely optional.

Emma Streets on Disconnect

The irony of hosting a talk about our addiction to life online being held in tech company AQL’s Salem Church HQ only adds to the intrigue of Disconnect, which takes place on Saturday 29 April as part of Leeds International Festival.

Led by best-selling author and neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis and Dr Nicola Millard, BT’s Head of Insight and Futures, Disconnect promises to be an eye-opening journey through the human brain to consider the impact that today’s technology is having on our thoughts and behaviours. We’re regularly bombarded with stats about how bad our smartphones, use of social media and working environments are for us, so the thought of taking part in a ‘digital detox’ may sound appealing, if slightly terrifying.

Questions up for discussion include whether our attention spans are being changed forever as a result of how we consume social media, how virtual reality could really shape our homes and why we’re all still commuting to offices when we find them too distracting to actually work in. And is the answer to all of the above to disconnect? But how would that work and still enable us to interact in today’s society? (Ok, now these are just my questions.)

Disconnect takes place on Saturday 28 April at AQL Salem Church, 13:00. https://leedsinternationalfestival.com/event/disconnect/

Written by Esther Marshall, Kate Ryrie, Stan Graham and Emma Streets.


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