The 2020 edition of Leeds Lit Fest is in full swing. The festival, which runs from March 4th to March 8th, promises to be unlike any other literature festival in the UK.
It offers unusual and unexpected events, exciting and enlightening exhibitions and wonderful writing workshops across the City. The 100 plus events on offer in 35 different venues over the 5-day festival are as diverse as they are inspiring. This Festival is not to be missed.
Today, I had the pleasure of attending the Leeds Lit Adventure Walk, hosted by the award-winning Scary Little Girls Productions group, originally from Cornwall. The group, who have hosted walks all over the country, are known for their ability to bring the streets alive with performance, poetry and song. Today’s walk around Leeds was no different, with 6 separate performances across some of Leeds’ most loved locations, including the Corn Exchange, Trinity Mall and Leeds Central Library.
I arrived at the Carriageworks Theatre just before 1. and was given a teabag to attach to my jacket (I thought it was strange too – but I was told it would be an easy way for performers to see me coming). I was then greeted by Rebecca Mordan, one of the Scary Little Girls team. Rebecca took me and the other walk members up to one of the theatre’s meeting rooms and explained what the ‘walk’ would involve. She encouraged us to look around us and to be prepared for the unexpected.
After a lovely rendition of Tainted Love on the guitar by Rebecca, which we were told had been made famous by Leeds’ very own Soft Cell and Marc Almond, we set off on a specially prepared route around the City. We were encouraged to stick together and follow the carefully constructed printed guides which were illustrated by Jacky Flemming. We left the theatre just after 1:20pm and were excited but anxious about what we would encounter over the next 60 or so minutes.
En route around the City, we learnt all about Leeds, and who had shaped its architectural and literary past. Every 10 minutes or so we came across performers, who seemed to appear out of nowhere. They all began their acts as we got close, which was a little strange to begin with and often took us off guard, especially when we initially thought the performers were members of the public asking for help – but I loved it. The excitement of not knowing what was coming next, and the way in which the actors shaped the words, was a fabulous way of bringing some of Yorkshire’s most famous works to life.
The excerpt from Wuthering Heights, performed by Leeds Playhouse Youth Theatre in the centre of the Corn Exchange, was very well presented and enjoyable. The short performance was a great way to bring the words of Emily Bronte to life in an accessible way. The young actors and actresses worked the stage brilliantly, helping to recreate the complex scene in a way most couples understand. However, it was hard to hear all the words as the building is large, and the young performers were fighting against the sounds of shoppers.
One of the performances that particularly stuck with me was the sound installation that was held in Mill Hill Chapel in City Square. The installation had been designed by Halifax based arts company IOU and involved a male and a female voice whispering rhyming couplets in time with the chime of a clock. The unusual installation was inspired by twilight and the way in which light and dark touch each other briefly and gently every evening. I found it relaxing and deeply thought-provoking. I would encourage others to visit the Chapel and take in the sounds of the show before the Festival is over.
I also enjoyed the storybook monologues which were performed by women in some of Leeds’ most iconic venues, including Kirkgate Market and Leeds Library.
The Leeds Lit Adventure Walk was a great way to spend an afternoon in Leeds. The walk, although about an hour long, was easy and all downhill. The performances were all family-friendly and exciting. This event would be ideal for anyone who is keen to learn more about Leeds, its incredible literary past and the lesser-known areas of the fabulous City. There are walks being held right across the Festival weekend, so you still have time to enjoy the show!