Not for the faint hearted, Transform exploded on to streets, theatres, car parks, shopping centres and arts venues across Leeds exploring everything from activism, community collaboration, the digital age, gender politics, and the future of Europe.
This breathless riot of a festival upped its game in 2017 becoming the city’s first ever International Theatre Festival and inviting artists from Spain, Germany and France to contemplate a world beyond Brexit. Artists El Conde de Torrefiel, machina eX and Florentina Holzinger & Vincent Riebeek brought dance, drama, music and intrigue to a young and socially engaged audience in Leeds.
The stage was shared by Rash Dash Theatre’s latest site specific piece Darkest Corners, as it premiered a tale of violence and oppression towards women across the world. The production took its roots and inspiration from Leeds’ radical feminist movement which founded the Reclaim the Night movement in the 1970s which became a global force for fighting violence and abuse against women.
Transform was originally established by West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2011, as a venue based festival with the ambition to reimagine what theatre can look like and what it can do. Over the years the festival grew in creative ambition and in 2015 was established as an independent company. Inspired by the consultation process for Leeds 2023 which started in 2014, the mission was to make room for an ambitious, citywide and international festival of theatre for Leeds.
Amy Letman, Creative Director at Transform said: “Leeds is a city that’s bursting with possibility. The open and democratic consultation process the city has taken towards 2023 has already inspired people and projects to develop their ambition and international thinking. Earning the title of European Capital of Culture would represent Leeds’s moment to finally realise its extraordinary potential.”
Transform 17 was an ambitious, local and international festival. Including extraordinary projects created democratically with local people, large-scale outdoor events and bursting with boldness and vitality, Transform 17 was a major step in Transform’s development. It was the first in a series of ambitious biennial festivals that will put Leeds on the global map for engineering and presenting the theatre of the future.
This fearless festival has not gone under the radar with Steven Brett, Programme Manager at British Council is paying close attention: “Having attended much of the 2017 Transform festival as a ‘first timer’ I have become an instant devotee. The UK is in need of a festival of experimental performance work, based in the North, that emerges from the eyes of a young director, work that is visceral and truly challenging as well as vibrant and diverse.”