Compass Festival 2021

Biennial interactive Compass Festival returns to Leeds from 19 to 28 March 2021. Imagine every Leeds ‘phone box ringing simultaneously. What about a portable museum? And a pop-up pub? These are among the first projects to be announced by the Festival directors.

Museums in People’s Homes looks at how collectors engage with the world. Artist Joshua Sofaer has worked with collectors and their strange collections, re-fashioning and creating artefacts which he will house within a portable museum complete with a tiny gift shop and cafe, designed and created with craftsman/designer Matt Kelly from Plaey. There will be an opportunity to have the museum visit your home later in 2021, too.

All of Leeds’ public ‘phones will ring at 1100 on each day of the Festival, as part of the Zu-UK Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) project. When you pick up a phone you will be able to participate in a gentle, thought-provoking audio experience that explores contemporary loneliness, and exposes the edges of our humanness. This warm, generous work is inspired by ZU-UK’s research into occurrences of suicide. While not a suicide prevention project, it is an invitation to us all to think about how we listen. For those who can’t be at a public pay phone, Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) can also be experienced online via an audio-visual map that will track – in real time – which phones have been picked up and which ones are still trying to make a connection.

Kirkgate Market will welcome The Yorkshire Square, a 12 ft by 12 ft pop up pub with an opportunity to recreate a lost Leeds pub. Since 2017 Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti (Small Acts) have been working with Leeds brewers, publicans, campaigners and individuals to explore the future of social landscapes by investigating the enduring role of pubs as places of community, intergenerational exchange, entertainment, (hi)story-telling and activism. The project provides a platform for engagement and discussion, needed the more so now that the increasing vulnerability of pubs has been revealed so dramatically by the events of 2020. If the pub isn’t your community space, what is? Visitors will pick from a menu of tap talks and heritage tours from guest presenters, self-guided trails, podcasts and family activities.

More projects, to be announced in January, will examine anxiety, the future of queer spaces, and the politics of blackness and black hair.

This time, the Festival offers its largest commissioned body of work to date with a total of eight thought provoking, moving and playful projects, all projects taking place in a range of covid safe settings such as on bridges, in shopping centres and purpose-built spaces, and on the City’s streets.  All of the projects will allow visitors to rediscover culture, heritage and community in the City, at a time when there is anxiety about the global pandemic, climate change and the general wider upheaval.

The Festival had to be postponed from November until March, and work has been ongoing to support artists as they adapt their commission to comply with local rules and restrictions. This will ensure that the Festival reaches more people whilst at the same time keeping them safe.

Annie Lloyd, Festival Co-director: “Among the many qualities we’ve seen in this dreadful year are the power of community, our resilience and adaptability, and our care for each other. Themes that run through 2021’s edition of Compass Festival. For the last two years we have supported the most amazing artists firstly to develop their projects and then to adapt them in response to the changing conditions. We are proud of the work they have achieved and can’t wait to share it with the people of Leeds. Amidst all the uncertainty we feel we have a responsibility to carefully encourage people to be creative and playful again in public spaces when the time is right, for the sake of our cultural life, for the sake of art and artists, and for everyone’s mental wellbeing.

Whether you are out and about or staying home, we have created many entry points from which to enjoy the festival so you can be inspired and remain safe at the same time. Now more than ever we are indebted to the imagination of artists as they bring joy and remind us of our common humanity.”

Compass, the driving force behind the Festival, commission and present interactive live art projects in Leeds. They operate an artist residency programme, present standalone projects and exhibitions and artist development initiatives.

Local people and visitors to the City alike will no doubt have been captivated by Compass’ animation of Leeds with interactive live projects since 2011. Many members of the public have participated in playful curiosity, silent reflection, madcap events and general communality, not only within traditional theatrical and art gallery environs, but also out there where we work, relax and live.

Web and social media links: | @CompassFestLDS | Insta: compassfestlds | #CompassFestival2021 

Photographs provided by SM Publicity.

Bridget Markham

Bridget helps us out from time to time, exercising her wide-ranging interests by writing previews and researching when we need more information.

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