Our next Pit Party is curated by Leeds-based Festival Transform. It features bite-sized performances, interactive theatre, intimate storytelling and musical ritual.
We chatted to Amy Letman, the Creative Director of the festival and some of the artists about what the Spirit of Change meant to them.
‘Based in Leeds, Transform is focused on reimagining what theatre can look like and what it can do. Celebrating the independent and adventurous spirit of Leeds, we want to reflect the socially conscious and radical North, whilst connecting to the world. Gently prodding at the status quo, we present powerful works that playfully and provocatively redefine what performance can look like today, unfolding in some of the city’s major theatres and arts venues.
Seeing the city as a site for theatricality and adventure, our work also unfolds in car parks, clubs, community centres and other unusual sites. Since the origination of the festival we have always worked closely with communities, co-creating projects that reflect the realities and stories of the city where we live. At the heart of our mission is artists – their stories, their identities, their world views. Spirit of Change, part of the Barbican’s The Art of Change season, brings a compilation of change-making artists from the North of England and beyond. Here are a few of them, giving a snapshot of how their practice embodies a Spirit of Change.’
– Amy Letman, Creative Director of Transform
‘I embody the spirit of change through being an artist’
‘Lady Vendredi is the future. She digs away at colonial rewritings of Afro diaspora truths and through her mythology, presents new rituals to dismantle the simulacrum. Extending Afrofuturism into new and highly-charged myth-zones, the work is inspired jointly by current Neuroscience research and research into Afro diaspora ritual practice. Through these twin pillars of truth, Lady Vendredi carves a path to the future.’
‘My life has been formed by change from an early age’
‘I embody the spirit of change through being an artist. I plan on making a change with the work that I make as it focuses on topics that affect society as a whole. I plan on taking up as much space as possible. I hope with me taking up space, this will encourage others, like myself (Black people, People of Colour, Queer people) to also take up space. The more that there’s people like me taking up space, the more changes can be made. My work focuses on identity and lived experiences. Not just my lived experiences but the lived experiences of others. An example being that I discuss racial inequality within my work. I believe that the more this is discussed, the more we’ll see some different results. I plan on continuing to highlight racial inequality alongside other social issues. I think that’s the easiest way for me as an artist to make a change.’
‘Without consciously being aware of it my life has been formed by change from an early age. In my case, the severe break from what I knew as my ‘homeland’. From this point on, consciously and subconsciously I have been almost obsessed by this question of home and homeland and how often it changes. These changes have formed me and the type of work I create. It has made me ask challenging questions about what questions I ask myself, what questions I ask those around me, especially my family, and what questions I ask in my work, and as a connecting line what questions I ask of my heritage. In this most recent piece, Cold Season, the question I ask is how within the so-called Western context, how we can broaden, if not change the way we see feminism. In addition, I want to explore how my grandmother’s and mother’s generation were changed and formed by two important artists, Googoosh and Forough Farrokhzhad.’
‘Change can’t happen without taking the steps to change myself first’
‘I believe I have a duty as an artist to reflect the times. I see myself as an artistic revolutionist. My work creates a small shift in thinking to encourage dialogue. However, change can’t happen without taking the steps to change myself first. I’m curious as to why we in the UK still maintain skin-colour difference as a tool of division. This curiosity is what leads me to make the work I make. As author Audre Lorde says, “It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths’. And ultimately, that is what I’m seeking to do’
‘Our work has always been political and inspired by the here and now’
‘Common Wealth have always worked from a do it yourself, don’t wait for permission approach, we’ve always gone out and found buildings, connected with people, made plays inspired by the politics of our time. Our work has always been political and inspired by the here and now, by people we meet. We see our plays as campaigns that make change feel possible, it’s important for us that the work feels like a movement, galvanises people and makes them feel powerful. We’ve done it with a sense of urgency and a belief that theatre can create ripples of change beyond itself.’
Spirit of Change: The Transform Pit Party takes place 8–9 Jun in The Pit.