Compass Festival 19 – 28 March and beyond

Since 2011, Compass has been animating the City of Leeds by inviting the public to join in the interactive, live projects – in silent thought, playful curiosity, and even feats of madness – all within the spaces where we normally live or work.  Compass Festival is based on the view that we can all enjoy live art, no matter what the setting.  

The interactive Compass Festival’s fifth edition returns with six thought provoking, moving and playful projects staged from 19 March and continuing for the rest of 2021. 

Three projects and a podcast series are added to the programme, which was announced last week.  They are:  Amy Sharrocks’ The Ballad of Crown Point Bridge, Closed Forum’s Anxiety Arcade and Lucy Heyhoe’s One In, One Out.

Since the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, Compass has been supporting the artists to adapt and stage their work during these exceptional times.  In addition, the activities are being extended throughout 2021 so as to allow as many people as possible to have the experience. 

Settings for each project will be safe – whether on the streets of the City, in an indoor market, a canal bridge or a shopping centre.  The mainly outdoor venues and locations can be explored alone, from home or in small groups.  Festival co-director Annie Lloyd:   “Now more than ever we are indebted to the imagination of artists as they bring joy and remind us of our common humanity. This programme features work from a range of artists working in various mediums from the digital sphere to interacting with the natural environment. Through these works, the artists celebrate the power of community, our resilience and adaptability. We are delighted to offer
this invitation to experience each of these projects which we hope will allow audiences to be playful and creative in everyday public spaces once more.

Adaptability has become important, not just for Compass as a festival, but for the world at large. In light of the changing circumstances, the Festival will look a little different in 2021. In March, we’ll welcome you to the festival opener Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) as well as an engaging series of podcasts to enjoy at home.  As we go forward into 2021, we’ll announce further details of the works taking place then, meaning you won’t have to cram your Compass fix into the usual 10 days. Works will take place across Leeds City Centre, many of which can be explored alone or in your bubble. Join us from March onwards as we, as a community, begin to safely gather together again after such a long time apart.”

The Compass Podcast series opens the Festival alongside ZU-UK’s Pick Me Up (& hold me tight).  It’s released weekly from 26th March onwards, covering topics such as changes in the fabric of our communities, the relationship between mental health and modern life and the shrinking of public space and contact between fellow humans.

Demi Nandhra discusses protest, mental health and collective sadness in Sick and Tired with panellists Amahra Spence, Suriya Aisha and Toni-Dee Paul.

Lucy Heyhoe and guests Ray Larman, Amelia Cavallo and Cassie Leon discuss the disappearance, evolution and digitalisation of queer entertainment, performance and social spaces in Drag, Dance and disco: What is the future of Queer Space?

Popeye Collective’s recipe for Mushy Pea Chaat (make it at home as you listen) will guide their podcast conversation; charting personal histories, unpicking colonial pasts and how all of this can impact on our vision of culture, community, and ultimately, art.

The Ballad of Crown Point Bridge is a sonic artwork by artist Amy Sharrocks and sound designer Tom Hackley exploring the people and water of Leeds. Crown Point Bridge is where the water of the River Aire and its wild life meet the canalised City water and where on the dark underside of the bridge, the reactions to the assault of city life are graphically vocalised in spray paint.  The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is the longest line of concrete enclosure of UK water. Depending on your view, the shoreline of this canal could be seen as a perilous carving out, an incredible engineering feat or a vast act of partition and control, enabling the extraction of natural resources.  Working with groups from the Leeds community including charities, swimmers, young people and graffiti artists and remembering those who made the underside of the bridge their home, Amy Sharrocks will gather personal stories and recollections of the bridge and of water. These words will be channelled back to us as we walk through the underside of the bridge. Between their words and the water, perhaps we can negotiate a different social contract amongst the people, the City and the water.

Ballad of Crown Point Bridge

Anxiety Arcade is a full-sized arcade machine which will be located in Leeds City Centre. The project, by Closed Forum, is a love letter to 80s pop culture and classic video games. Looking at anxiety through the lens of those that experience it, Anxiety Arcade uses an innovative and fun concept to get people talking about mental health, rather than trying to solve it. Anxiety Arcade is a digital space that allows you to reset and take a break from everything in your world. Explore a virtual world where each room is a song in an album and every puzzle unlocks more mystery.

Created by artist Lucy Hayhoe, One in, One out: Leeds’ Smallest Gay Bar, is a playful interactive installation exploring the role of the gay bar in contemporary queer culture. The project asks what we want to preserve and what we want to change as we reflect on a year that has presented huge threats to the existence of queer spaces which occupy a unique position in our cities. As the needs of the queer community change, and we grow more aware of intersecting identities – is the gay bar part of the future of queer space? One in, One Out explores nostalgia for lost LGBTQIA+ scenes, the consumption of queer space as novelty and what it means to be queer and alone.

As a further response to the changing restrictions, Compass Festival are introducing a new strand which will allow those not ready to venture into public spaces to continue to enjoy aspects of the Festival. A series of four podcasts aligning with the themes and concerns of the Festival projects, delivered by festival artists and local practitioners/experts. Subjects of focus include How to become better listeners, the future of queer spaces, mental health, rest and artistic endeavour and the taste of Leeds – creating a condiment with and for the City.

Web and social media links: | @CompassFestLDS | Insta: compassfestlds |

Want to know more?

For further information on the artists and Compass partners go to:

Amy Sharrocks: @amysharrocks | Insta: @amysharrocks |
Closed Forum: | @closedforum
Demi Nandhra: | @deminandhra | Insta: @demi_nandhra
Etheridge & Persighetti (Small Acts): | @katieetheridge_
Joshua Sofaer: | Insta: @joshuasofaer
Lucy Hayhoe:
Popeye Collective (Freddie Yauner): | Insta and Twitter:
Sable radio (podcast partner): | Insta: @Sable.Radio | FB: @SableRadio
ZU-UK: | @iamzuuk | FB: iamzuuk | Insta: iamzuuk

Feature photograph: Anxiety Arcade.

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