Compass Festival Returns to Leeds in 2021

Compass Festival 2021

A portable museum, pop-up pub and dynamic audio experience in which every Leeds telephone box rings in unison are the first projects announced as the biennial interactive Compass festival is returning to Leeds.

The festival runs between Friday 19 – Sunday 28 March 2021. And items from Leeds collectors including cats’ whiskers, drum-kits and models of hands have been re-fashioned into a set of artworks for Museums in People’s Homes. And audiences can register for a museum tour to take place in their home later in 2021.

Part of a national project to make the 34,000 payphones across the UK ring at once, audio experience Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) explores how we listen to each other and will see all of Leeds’ public phone boxes ring at 11am each day during the festival.
Four-sided, fully operational 12ft x 12ft pop-up pub The Yorkshire Square will come to Leeds’ iconic Kirkgate market. Looking at the enduring importance of the pub in our lives, the project holds an unexpected urgency as we navigate lockdown closures and includes the opportunity to vote to recreate a lost Leeds pub.

Compass Festival 2021

“Thought-provoking, moving and playful”

The interactive festival’s fifth edition offers its largest commissioned body of work to date with eight thought-provoking, moving and playful projects.

The participatory projects will allow audiences to further explore their localities and rediscover culture, heritage and community within their city. In a time of political upheaval, climate crisis and global pandemic, the carefully curated programme includes projects with culturally relevant themes that resonate collectively and personally. Rooted in the here and now, they feel increasingly relevant and necessary as we contemplate the future.

Over 13,000 people participated in the 2018 festival – since then, the landscape of culture has changed. Compass, like many of its contemporaries, was presented with the challenge of how commissions would reach audiences in a post lockdown environment. In August, Compass announced the postponement of the festival from its original November 2020 date, to March 2021. Since lockdown, the festival has been working closely with artists. Fully supporting them as they progress and adapt to meet the challenges of work being staged around local restrictions.

Compass Festival 2021

“The power of community”

Compass Festival co-director Annie Lloyd said: “Among the many qualities we’ve seen in this dreadful year are the power of community, our resilience and adaptability, and our care for each other. Themes that run through 2021’s edition of Compass Festival. For the last two years, we have supported the most amazing artists firstly to develop their projects and then to adapt them in response to the changing conditions. We are proud of the work they have achieved and can’t wait to share it with the people of Leeds.”

“Whether you are out and about or staying home, we have created many entry points from which to enjoy the festival. So you can be inspired and remain safe at the same time. Now more than ever we are indebted to the imagination of artists as they bring joy and remind us of our common humanity.”

Joshua Sofaer has been working in Leeds for the last year with 14 collectors of strange things. These include North Korean medals and cats’ whiskers. For Museums in People’s Homes, Joshua has re-fashioned and created artifacts, using a variety of materials, including precious metals. He will house them within a portable museum complete with a tiny gift shop and cafe. And the project can be booked to visit your own home later in 2021. Visitors will take a personal tour of the museum; and also hear some of the amazing stories of the collectors of Leeds.

Compass Festival 2021

“A platform for engagement and discussion”

The people and stories include a Leeds based NHS paramedic who collects models of hands. Joshua has cast her life-saving hand and created a copper glove. Copper is known for its antioxidant life-saving properties. Or the collector whose uncle was gifted a ‘garish’ oriental tea set. Now in her care, it’s been re-cast as an urn in commemoration of the gifts we inherit; that we’re not sure we want to keep.

ZU-UK’s Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) is a national project intended to make all the 34,000 public phone boxes in the UK ring at the same time. When you pick up the phone you will be able to participate in a gentle, thought-provoking audio experience. It’ll explore contemporary loneliness, and exposes the edges of our humanness. This warm, generous work is inspired by ZU-UK’s research into occurrences of suicide. While not a suicide prevention project, it is an invitation to us all to think about how we listen.

Since 2017 Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti (Small Acts) have been working with Leeds brewers and publicans.  They’ve been doing so to explore the future of social landscapes by investigating the enduring role of pubs. Either as places of community, intergenerational exchange, entertainment, (hi)story-telling, and activism. The project provides a platform for engagement and discussion. They ask: “If the pub isn’t your community space, what is?”


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