This is a transcript of an interview with Alan Lane, co-director of The Gifting and Artistic Director of Slung Low, that appeared on Sanchez Payne's show on BBC Radio Leeds on 5 October.
Sanchez Payne: LEEDS 2023 has been an absolute phenomenon, something that I've had the pleasure of being part of for a long time...
It has been amazing celebrating, and the talent that has been on show has been just nothing short of incredible. But good things have to come to an end. It's a real shame it's soon going to be over.
But of course, we are looking to create a legacy that's going to last years and years beyond. Now, we're gearing up for some of the final big events taking place this year, including a new show, by Kully Thiarai and Alan Lane at the city's Versa Studios. This is going to run over the Christmas period and it's called The Gifting. It's going to take the audience through a unique and magical journey through 12 individual and intertwined tales. We're going to find out a little bit more from co-director Alan Lane who joins me now. Alan, good evening! How you doing?
Alan Lane: I'm alright mate! How you doing?
SP: I'm very excited. As I mentioned, LEEDS 2023 has been a vision. It was a goal. It was a passion of ours. It was something that so many people came together to try and achieve. And now it's here. It's been here. How's it been for you, first of all, since The Awakening that, of course, you were massively involved in?
AL: That was like a million years ago... I think that The Awakening got it off to the best start, right? We sort of had that massive celebration of everything Leeds has been... and then it was a kind of sense at the end of that show it was like, well, if this is what happens on day one, what about the rest of the year? The team at LEEDS 2023 have just done an extraordinary job. There's been so many things; there's been an event in every ward in the city during the summer. Just tens of thousands of people taking part, which is extraordinary. Then all of a sudden, you know, the boss rings and says, "Are we going to come up with an idea to close it?" And we're like, yeah, no pressure then! So yeah, we've come up with The Gifting and I'm very excited.
SP: Tell us about The Gifting?
AL: Well it's in Versa Studios, which is the big TV production unit down near the station in Holbeck, which is great. Most people haven't been in there, right? So already, you open the big shutters there and nobody knows what's inside. We wanted to do something at the end of the year that brought together an old school theatre company style, and celebrate all the amazing stories that Leeds has had this year and all of the magic... So, we've got Rash Dash who are an amazing company that's been in the city for ages that make amazing cabaret songs. Designer, Keith Khan, and we're casting the actors now. The audience will wear headphones and walk around this big warehouse, so all the voices will be whispered. And all the stories will be of the glories of of what's happened this year in Leeds and the possibilities of what might happen next. Lots of awe and wonder, and lots of magic.
SP: It sounds like it's going to encompass everything that LEEDS 2023 was set up to do from the beginning. And this is using 12 stories that are going to be intertwined, isn't it?
AL: Yeah, so the year was in three themes. The last one is about 'dreaming' - it is about lifting your eyes to the horizon and going: "We've worked out what we've been, so what does that mean for the rest of the year? What does that mean for the other years to come?" If we can put a massive giant face in the sky, if we're a city that can put that forest down in the middle of the city centre, and all the other shows we've done, then we can't go back to how we were! We're going to do something so that the next Alan Lanes and Kully Thiarais and Sanchez's come along, and go "hang on a minute, I want my city to be full of this amazing thing. I want this to be important." And it feels like that's what that final show is doing. Everything has to come to an end but you need to end it properly. You need to get everyone together and go: "This is what we've done. This is what we might do. This is what's next."
SP: The Gifting is the last big event. Going out with a bang. Finally, tell people what they can experience and why they should come along?
AL: The Gifting is a brand new magic ceremony that celebrates storytelling that you will go to and that you've never seen before. You will hear stories that you recognise because they're of your city, but they make you feel full of pride for your city and the people of it. And we will sing really good songs until you're happy right in that Christmas week.
I promise you, if you go to a lot of theatre, you would have never seen anything like this and if you've never been to a piece of theatre before in your life, I promise you that this is the one you want to go to see, because you're not gonna see this anywhere else.
The Gifting takes place from 22-31 Dec at Versa Studios, Holbeck.