From Chinese pop-opera to Brazilian dance activism, Transform19 is the experimental powerhouse about to explode onto Leeds’ cultural scene.
The biennial festival of international performance hits Leeds again this spring with a trailblazing line-up of perspective-changing performances across some of the city’s best venues – and some unexpected ones too.
The festival runs from April 26 to May 4, with each day promising a packed timetable of events. Every evening wraps up with an after party at the Festival Centre at Prime Studios, and other innovative happenings will take place at the Riley Theatre, Yorkshire Dance, the Leonardo Building, Leeds Playhouse, and several ‘Secret Location’ venues.
Here are some of the experiences we won’t be missing out on:
Rewire Leeds – machine eX
Citywide, 1-4 May, £15/£10
Join fellow players in an immersive game experience across Leeds, as you become special agents on a mission to protect the city. This event combines computer game, performance and interactive installation, with puzzles to be solved, points to be scored, and a thrilling rediscovery of the city to be made via your mobile phone.
#PUNK – nora chipaumire
Prime Studios, 28 April, £13/£8
Promising an energetic journey through decades, forms and musical styles, #PUNK is a status quo-defying dance performance combining African dance, rock and reggae. Heralded by the New Yorker as ‘a rock star of dance’, nora chipaumire has given captivating experiences all over the world.
What We’re Made Of – Future Radicals
Various locations, 2-4 May
A dynamic show in three parts from Transform’s very own people’s collective, What We’re Made Of comprises a series of social experiments taking place across the city. This group of young creatives includes musicians, poets, comedians, dancers, designers, singers and more, and they invite us all to hear what they have to say about the world.
Part 1, ‘Meet Us’, is on May 2 at 6pm at Prime Studios – free, but ticketed. Part 2, ‘Explore with Us’ is on May 3, 4pm – 8pm at locations across the city, free again, just check the website for more details. The final installation, ‘Celebrate with Us’, takes place on May 4 at 7pm at Prime Studios, and costs £8 (£5 for concessions).
An Atypical Brain Damage – Tianzhuo Chen
Secret Location, 3-4 May, £16/£11
Ever been to a pop opera? Now’s your chance to see one of the most out-there – and be prepared for an 18+, controversial exploration of pop, folk, corporate identity, social media, culture, performance and immersive club.
The location is yet to be revealed, so keep checking the website for details.
When it Breaks it Burns – coletivA ocupação
Leonardo Building, 2-4 May, £15/£10
Join Brazilian students on a high-octane journey of music and dance, bringing to life the brutal reality of living inside a political movement. Expect real-life stories as activism meets art, performance meets education, and a powerful call to arms takes over the stage.
Oh Europa – Action Hero
Various Locations, 26 April-4 May, Free
Performance duo Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse moved into a motorhome in 2018, embarking on a six-month, 32,000km journey across 33 European countries, and asking the people they met to sing them a love song.
There are four different drop-in performances, ranging from a sound installation of love songs to a guided tour of the motorhome. Heart-warming, thought-provoking and oh so topical.
Other events at Transform19 range from Live Art Bistro’s ‘Performing Britain’, a 24-hour live-art marathon exploring post-Brexit British identity, and several participative events to get your voice heard.
Head to ‘Open Space – Unlocking the City’ on 27 April to take part in a democratic discussion about creativity in Leeds, or join festival artists and special guests at a ‘Power Brunch’ (every day from 28 April – 4 May) for conversations on power and performance.
To see the full line-up and buy tickets, head to transformfestival.org.