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Amy Letman On ...Transform: My Leeds My City

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After two successful years, the Transform festival is back at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. This year, the theme is My Leeds, My City and the festival offers an extensive programme of new work, live music and exciting free events designed to give audiences a unique perspective on the city. Producer Amy Letman took time out from preparations to discuss putting the festival together and the challenges of taking Transform out on to the streets of Leeds…

What’s it like being back at the Playhouse preparing for a new Transform festival?

It’s really exciting. I think the festival really knows itself now. We’ve also taken it up a few notches this year, so it’s much more ambitious than previous years. Now we’ve done it a couple of times we’re ready to take a leap and go out into the city and try even more new things.

How did My Leeds, My City come about?

We thought it would be great this year to explore the idea. It felt like a really apt time. There’s so much happening creatively in Leeds at the moment and we’re really inspired by that. Also, having our new artistic director, James Brining, coming back to work in Leeds it felt like a really ripe time to be reviewing our relationship with the city and getting out and making work in different locations.

Are there any particular challenges in creating work outdoors?

I would say that making a show outside there are ten times as many things you have to think about! It’s much harder, but even more satisfying. Ultimately, it’s about taking the theatre out into the city and engaging with people.

To help audiences find their way to the outdoor pieces, I understand you’ve got Navigators?

That was a really playful way of guiding audiences from the theatre to the locations. They’re tailored to the different locations and involve different clues and orientation. They’re like little experiences in themselves. I’ve tried them out myself and they’re loads of fun!

How far did previous Transform festivals inform what you’re doing this year?

We had core productions last year, in which we worked really closely with the artists. Those proved to be really successful and meant that we could work with the companies in a really meaningful way. It was really satisfying creating work at the Playhouse which looks and feels really different and is taking audiences in a really different direction, but it’s been made right here in Leeds. Also, various events we’ve done previously have been hugely successful; like Feast, which is a sit-down dinner with music and speakers. People are still talking about the event now, so we knew we had to bring that back. Similarly with The Cabaret Club and with the free events front of house, we knew we couldn’t lose them. But there are other things we didn’t have last year. For example, we’ve got a £25 Golden Ticket this year, which offers discounted admission to all the keystone shows plus gives additional discounts on other things that are happening.

So, the free events are returning?

There are free events on every night of the festival. We’ve got loads of live music; Ellen of the band Ellen and the Escapades is curating a night of local Leeds bands. We’re also working with Leeds young authors and we’ve got Mik Artistik coming. We’ve also got an exquisite park area at the Playhouse so people can just swing by, chill out on a deck chair and have a drink. It should be loads of fun every night!

Are there any shows you’re particularly excited about?

Definitely The Johnny Eck and Dave Toole Show. We’re really excited to be working with Slung Low, which is an extraordinary Leeds-based company. Also to be working with Dave Toole, a really renowned performer who recently performed at the Paralympic opening ceremony and has toured extensively with companies like DV8. It’s a celebration of him and his life. It takes place in the Tiltyard, which is the outdoor arena of the Royal Armouries Museum. It’s a really spectacular location and there are certainly some surprises in the show, so it’s definitely a key pick of the festival.

Who will this year’s Transform festival appeal to?

The festival serves a wide variety of people, and if you’re interested in ambitious, adventurous work there’s definitely something for everybody. Similarly, if you’re just interested in the stories of the city and different locations in the city; whether it’s Leeds Kirkgate Market or the Royal Armouries and canal area, there’s really something for everyone.

Finally, if someone could only come to Transform for one day…

On 27 April, the final night, you can see Burmantofts Stories, which is a gorgeous community-based theatre piece involving local people telling their stories; followed by the Johnny Eck Show; you can also go to The Cabaret Club and see some of the most exceptional Leeds-based, British and international cabaret talent; you can also take part in Navigators and catch the closing night party. So it’s literally bursting full of stuff! It’s a great day to come along; even if you’re too exhausted to see everything!

Transform: My Leeds, My City continues at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and locations across the city until 27 April 2013. For tickets and more information contact the box office on 0113 213 7700, or visit www.wyp.org.uk.


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