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How LEEDS 2023 and Bradford Producing Hub are paving the way for early career producers in and around the city

House of Flava Ball. Photo credit: Martha Adebambo

At the end of 2021, we partnered up with Bradford Producing Hub to offer LVL/Up: INTENSIVE, a 4-week online training programme that supports the development of budding producing across Leeds and Bradford.  

The training kicked off at the start of this year and was led by Francesca Moody, producer of the stage production of Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Aysha Powell, Head of Operations at Trigger, who between them have years of experience creating award winning theatre work. 

As 2023 is fast approaching, we are committed to the development of skills of artists and creatives in and around the city. The online course allowed the producers to meet and collaborate with others on the same path across the city and Bradford. It provided a way for the producers to recognise their ability and build on it by giving them the resources and boost needed to continue their careers in producing.  

The recipients of the training are both based in Leeds and Bradford. They are Balenji Mwiche, Ben Lee, Carla Addyman, Cat Scott, Gemma Hobbs, Holly Close, James Underwood, Joseph Clowser, Katie Mahon, Katie Turner-Halliday, Keziah Berelson, Laura Brooks, Madiha Ansari, Martha Adebambo and Richard Dunbar. We spoke to a few of them about their experiences of the training course. 

‘The Rising Sun’ at The Constitutional. Photo credit: Martin Hendry

James Underwood is an actor, writer and producer based in North Leeds. He co-founded the performing arts organisation ‘Arts at the Arms’ which aims to showcase original work and developing talent from our region in relaxed settings. Their events cover short-form theatre, comedy, music, and more. “I remember in the first session thinking ‘Wow, there are some really impressive people here’ and feeling overwhelmed, but everyone was so friendly and welcoming. People continued to help each other and give advice. Through things like this, you meet a whole new world of talented people who are doing different things that you’ve never encountered before”, he says reflecting on his experience of the training.   

The training has been beneficial to those who received it with James talking about the confidence it’s given him: “It’s showed me through skills I’ve learnt from LVL/Up and the skills I already have that I can produce more in the future and put on more events. It’s also given me the recognition of the skills I already have, and I think what’s great about it is that it makes you feel you’re not limited in your ambition.”  

James says that he’s written a play and has ambitions for ‘Arts at the Arms’ to grow beyond Leeds. They are also currently planning for their next show in Spring. He mentions that the training has given him the “confidence to take things further and not feel limited, not to question your right to do something”. 

Leeds West Indian Carnival. Photo credit: Martha Adebambo

Martha Adebambo is a young creative based in Leeds. Her interests lie in photography, videography, music and anything related to visual arts. She has also worked closely with Sable Radio and has worked on community-based projects during her time in Leeds. Talking on why she wanted to apply for the LVL/Up training, Martha says, “I’ve always done planning for events and workshops or producing on a smaller scale so I thought this was a good opportunity to learn how to produce bigger events or even move into a different industry where I could still work on cultural community projects.”  

It’s helped build my confidence and I’ve got a bucket of resources –ways to manage budgets, build relationships, work collaboratively but also how to manage myself and communicate and so, now it’s about doing some more groundwork and reaching out to people. I’m looking for opportunities that allow me to create the work I want to create, but also looking at ways I can do all this with other like-minded people”, she explains looking back on the training programme.   

Martha’s still unsure of what the next steps are for her but wants to make meaningful, accessible, and community-based projects. “I want to work on projects that educate, celebrate and uplift the voices of people of the global majority, young people and the LGBTQ+ community – work that has these people at the centre of it and can also have a wider impact.” 

Carla Addyman. Photo credit: Ben Loebell

Carla Addyman is a creative practitioner focusing on community and educational arts. Her interest lies in contemporary performance in relation to art, people, politics, and the places in which people live. She wants to create performances that reflect upon the lives of ordinary people and give people a chance to share their stories in a powerful and moving way. Carla says on her experience of the LVL/Up training: “At first, it was quite daunting because I felt that everyone was more experienced, but it became more apparent that everyone was there for the same reason. At no point did I feel that there was any sort of hierarchy and I felt comfortable in asking any question. It was really positive and, if anything, it gave me the confidence to think ‘Yeah, I can do anything with this’, and this is something I’m taking with me going forward”. 

The training programme came at a good time for Carla as it was at the start of the year and so, felt motivating and inspiring. “It was such a good start of the year and forced you to connect with your own practice even if you weren’t putting things into practice at the time. I feel like there were loads of things floating around my head and it forced me to think logistically about things. It made me realise that there is a space for all these ideas and forced me to dig deeper with my ideas.” 

Carla has a few plans now that the training has come to an end but mainly has gained the self-motivation and confidence to put her work into practice. She tells us: “At the moment, I’m focusing on self-producing my own work. Me and my mate, who’s a film maker, have got a few projects in the making which focus on people’s connections to the places they’re from or living. So, the next step is finding the place where those stories can take place. Nothing too formal, getting out there and making some work is the main step”. 

It was a pleasure speaking to a few of the producers and gaining some insight into their work, their reflections and their plans for the future. It’s a great way to see how creatives in Leeds can develop their skills, but more importantly, it’s been amazing to see the confidence boost the training course has given our producers to follow their passion in the creative and cultural fields.  

A full list of the producers and their biographies can be found here.