From Outside the Frame: Introduction


Rachel Feldberg, Festival Director

Lots of people assume that working in the arts means you have time to explore ideas- spend your days having great thoughts or wafting about in a creative haze. The reality is, whatever your art form, we’re almost always heads down, working on practical tasks to tight deadlines. So, our latest project, From Outside the Frame, part of Creative Case NORTH’s ‘Explorations’, is a joy. There’s no end product- we don’t have to come up with an event, a performance, an exhibition or an epic poem. The focus is on sharing ideas, conversations and thoughts, experimenting as we go along – and being creative. The only constraint is that we document and share the process.

The Creative Case NORTH Explorations are a series of residencies and partnerships which provide organisations and artists with time and space for experimentation and exploration on the theme of the Creative Case for Diversity – a re-imagining of the Arts Council’s approach to diversity and equality.

For From Outside the Frame, myself, Nigel Walsh (curator at Leeds Art Gallery) and poet and playwright Rommi Smith will be taking Leeds Art Gallery’s upcoming exhibition One Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People as a starting point for a series of conversations, experiments and reflections.

Our first meeting was just the three of us and some pieces of paper in a tiny meeting room at Leeds Art Gallery. Feeling I ought to at least be looking organised, I’d printed out a rough agenda- how did we want to approach the project; what practicalities did we need to consider, dates we could get together, just as I would for any other meeting. But pretty much immediately the list went out of the window.

Instead Rommi started talking about real and imagined archives – and we meandered happily around what isn’t seen- what is absent and how we construct or imagine it. We touched on Jacques Derrida’s idea of meaning between the cracks. We talked about missing archival material – the letter that was never written or has disappeared, the conversation we assume someone had, that we can only imagine. What happens Rommi said, if we create a living archive which includes our imaginings of that material?

That reminded me of Julie Myerson’s book Home: The Story of Everyone Who Ever Lived in Our House – in which she traced everyone who had lived in her house in London. From the fragments she could piece together she re-constructed their lives in those rooms and in many cases, conversations that might have taken place.

We talked about how personal experience colours our vision or understanding. I remembered a recent television feature which included chilling contemporary cine footage of the family of the Auschwitz commandant playing in a paddling pool in their garden with the camp clearly visible behind. I hardly registered the foreground and only saw the camp beyond the fence (my family includes Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors).

Then, slowly, we turned our attention to the upcoming exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery One Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People, our starting point for the project. Looking at a tiny image of ‘Northern Ritual’ by Ryan Mosley which will be in the exhibition, Rommi and I saw three or four black women, perhaps from the sixties, with Angela Davies style afros, getting ready for a night out. When Nigel showed us a much larger photograph of the same work, we realised at once we were mistaken – the picture shows white women with stylised, almost botanic, heads, engaged in some kind of ritual while other women look on. As the project continues we’ll be spending more time at the gallery both before and after the exhibition is hung, thinking, discussing and exploring.
After the meeting I went out into the bright February sunshine re-energised; with the feeling there were so many intriguing layers to explore and excited by the prospect of having time do so.

As part of From Outside the Frame we will be recording some of our experiences and discussions via this blog and social media.

Rachel Feldberg, Festival Director

Leeds art galleryOne Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People opens at Leeds Art Gallery on 6 March and runs until 24 May.

From Outside the Frame is a Creative Case NORTH ExplorationCreative Case NORTH is a programme of sector led activity exploring the Creative Case for Diversity, developed by a consortium of arts and cultural organisations convened by Arts Council England from across the North      area, including:



Creative Case NORTH Partners: Alchemy, ARC Stockton, Artlink, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Contact Theatre, Contemporary Visual Arts Network, Freedom Festival, GemArts, STAY, ZENDEH.

Creative Case NORTH Critical Friends: Open Clasp, Prism Arts, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

Getting Out There as a Writer – Zodwa Nyoni

As her first play opens at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2013 Festival Apprentice Poet in Residence Zodwa Nyoni tells us how writers groups, residencies and competitions helped to shape her as a writer.

IMG_1002There comes a moment when you decide that you want to start sharing your work. As I have developed over the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to work with or be a part of different groups and projects.

Leeds Young Authors (LYA) was the first group that I joined in 2005. They run a weekly session at Leeds Media Centre every Tuesday 6-8pm. With the group, I had the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally performing my own poetry. This is where I also learnt about teaching. I started teaching LYA workshops and would later accompany Khadijah Ibrahiim (Director) into schools.

In 2009 I came across Young Inscribe. It is a programme housed by Peepal Tree Press offering creative and professional development support to young Black & Asian writers and poets. At various times they would provide workshops, one-to-one sessions, quarterly masterclasses and creative writing residentials. I attended two Arvon residentials in 2009 and 2010, both at Lumb Bank, the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, in Hebden Bridge. Arvon Centres are great because you unplug from the world for the time that you are there and your focus is solely your writing.

Zodwa1When it came to performing my poetry, it didn’t come naturally. I remember my first performance was with LYA. It was their annual Individual Poetry Slam. They also run an annual schools and youth groups poetry slam. Last year it was held at West Yorkshire Playhouse. My first performance, in my memory, lasted for 2 seconds. I was nervous and I blazed through my poem. But I kept at it and eventually found my performance style and voice. I got a lot more confident with performing through practice. I signed up to a lot of open mics and was also invited to take part in others.

In Leeds, there’s Sunday Practice on the first Sunday of every month at Sela Bar. It’s a relaxed night with a live band, hosted by Rheima Ibrahiim. It’s open to poets and singers, worth checking out if you are new to performing and just want to try out some new material. Fictions of Every Kind is a DIY spoken word night and writers’ social night. Even if you don’t end up performing, it’s always good to go and meet the writers who are around you. Conversations may lead to new opportunities.

Depending on where you are in your journey you might also consider taking part in residencies. As a poet I had a one year residency at BBC Radio Leeds in 2006 and Apprentice Poet-in-Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival in 2013.

Zodwa2Residencies offer different things. What was great for me, in particular with the residency at Ilkley was being immersed within the world of literature for two weeks. I met writers I’d been reading for years like Alexander McCall Smith, and opened for others I’d studied in school like Simon Armitage. I shadowed the Poet-in-Residence in schools and community workshops. I wrote new poems. I held and performed at various events, and also discovered that I am a pretty decent host. On the last day of the festival I hosted the poetry slam when the host as unable to attend. Since then I’ve hosted two more events for the Festival.

Residencies give you time to discover. I’ve also found that since being Channel 4 Writer-in-Residence at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I had the time and support to work on my plays. The Playhouse offers other opportunities for actors, poets, playwrights, devisers and collaborators.

I’d say to new writers that there are platforms out there. Find the right ones for you. When you are ready, go for it. And even when you’re scared, still go for it because it’s about learning and growing along the way.

Other resources:
First Floor
Script Yorkshire
Street Voices
West Yorkshire Theatre Network
Word Life

Zodwa Nyoni is a Zimbabwe-born playwright, poet and performer based in Leeds. She was Apprentice Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival in 2013 and Channel 4’s Writer in Residence at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Boi Boi is Dead is her first full length play and tells the story of Miriam, left alone to rebuild her life after the death of Afro-jazz legend Boi Boi.

Boi Boi is Dead is now on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until  7 March. Click here to book tickets.



John Simpson backs Ilkley Literature Festival

john-simpson-1000788We have received heavyweight support from legendary journalist John Simpson in our campaign against funding cuts from Bradford MDC.

The BBC World Affairs Editor opened the prestigious event in 2010 and signed copies of his critically acclaimed book, Unreliable Sources: How the Twentieth Century Was Reported, his fourteenth publication in a list of works which includes two novels.

While on a private visit to the town last week Mr Simpson met with local MP Kris Hopkins, who took the opportunity to brief the journalist on the Council’s plans to withdraw support for the Ilkley Literature Festival.

Mr Simpson – who famously entered Afghanistan in 2001 by disguising himself in a burqa – has since written to the Keighley and Ilkley MP to say how “sad” he was to hear of the funding threat now hanging over the event.

He continued: “I have very pleasant memories of it, and I remember a couple I met there telling me how important the Festival was for the entire region, and how it kept them in touch with the arts and cultural life of the UK and the wider world.  Festivals like this play a big part in the life of a community, and I very much hope the decision to cut the funding will be reversed.”

Kris Hopkins commented:

“Since its creation in 1973, the Ilkley Literature Festival has grown into the oldest and largest event of its type in the North of England.

“This is down in no small part to the unrivalled quality of literary figures and headlines names in attendance down the years, including John Simpson himself who has made two appearances.

“The support funding provided by the Council returns financial and cultural rewards multiplied many times over to the district, through increased numbers of visitors and extra tourism spend. These benefits are in addition to the significantly increased profile the town enjoys throughout the duration of the event, and beyond.

“I would urge local residents and, indeed, everyone who cares about the future of the Ilkley Literature Festival to make their views known by contributing to the Council’s budget consultation exercise which closes later this month.  This can be done by logging onto the Bradford Council website.

“The Festival must be protected and it is crucial that all of us who care about the event’s future play our part.”

Festival Director, Rachel Feldberg said:

“We are incredibly grateful for all the support we have received in response to our campaign against the cuts. Hundreds people have expressed their support for the Festival, which is invaluable in helping to change the Council’s mind.

“Having the backing of a celebrated name like John Simpson shows how important the Festival is, not just at a regional but also national level.”

If you have not yet contacted Bradford Council about the proposed budget cuts, please do so by clicking here.

The numbers speak for themselves:
290 live literature events
26,000 people
33 weekly workshops for teenage writers
60 weekly creative writing and reading workshops for 8-11 year olds
An economic value of over £1million for the Bradford district


Ilkley Literature Festival: A Great Record on Sponsorship and Philanthropy

What a shame that Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid isn’t aware of Ilkley Literature Festival’s great record on sponsorship and philanthropy over the last decade. Earned (ticket sales) and contributed income (donations, sponsorship from a raft of supportive local, regional and national companies and our fantastic Friends organisation) makes up 62% of our total income and has done for years.

Amazing to think that over the last 5 years alone sponsorship from local, regional and national companies has contributed £189,575 to the Festival. Raising this kind of money in the North of England, and particularly this side of the Pennines, is not easy – even industry experts acknowledge how hard it is so it’s no surprise we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved.

These days we have a portfolio of over 50 highly valued business partners from small one person bands to big national companies – 23 different companies joined in sponsoring last year’s Festival. And our partners don’t just sponsor events – they do all sorts of imaginative things, from giving Festival tickets to carers at local hospices to encouraging secondary schools to bring groups of pupils to an event about economics or arranging transport for local primary schools to see a well known children’s author.

Alongside that we have lots of initiatives around individual giving, reminding people that, like most literature festivals, we’re a charity and encouraging people to make a donation whenever they can. We even used crowd funding to help support our commission from Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

How the Culture Secretary missed that big donate button on our website we’ll never know!

Rachel Feldberg, Festival Director