What is the latest news?

Contrary to some rumours about the death of the Headingley Litfest (to paraphrase Mark Twain) they have been greatly exaggerated!! The small group of volunteers that run the group now put on their own events but also co-operate with other local artistic organisations under the umbrella of the Leeds Litfest.

From an early start in 2008 The Headingley Litfest was run entirely by volunteers as part of the Headingley Network but still managed to grow into a prestigious organisation running around 30 events, that celebrated both the written and spoken word, every year.

Why Headingley?

During the Victorian era Headingley, and Leeds in general, benefitted from an advanced transport and delivery system and a great deal of fine architecture, and many of these buildings still survive. A good example of this is the HEART centre (Headingley Enterprise and ARTs) in Bennets Road, Headingley; a sympatetically resored school which now incorporates a performance hall as well as a cafe. Add a large variety of different cultures that have arrived in the city over the last half century or so and you have a rich mix of artistic talent just waiting to blossom. The city leaders have always encouraged mutually supportive networks and so it is hardly surprising that such a vibrant creative scene has developed.

What was the Headingly Litfest all about?

Getting started as a creator of music, poetry, song, drama, can be difficult. The life of an aspiring writer can be very frustrating; just getting work in fron of a publisher is often a major challenge and rejection letters can be extremely disheartening.

The organisers not only gave all these creative people a stage to showcase their talent on but also persuaded many a successful writer poet or other artist to contribute ideas and constructive criticisms. Talks and workshops were attended by not only local but also national and international personalities.

By encouraging artists from every spectrum in the city the community as a whole was enriched and brought together by the sharing of experiences, knowledge, feelings, and culture. They not only worked with adults but also with local primary schools to encourage a love of the creative arts. Getting everyone from children to senior citizens to write and perform poetry not only brought out latent talents but also developed self confidence in people who had probably never before stepped onto a stage. There has even been advice on how to deal with the dreaded rejection letter, delivered by writers who have succeeeded despite receiving far too many of them!

A large variety of venues were used; the HEART Centre was (and still is) a popular venue but events were also organised in local libraries, schools, shops and even private homes.

Enter The Leeds Litfest

By 2018 is was felt that closer co-operation with other groups would be to the advantage of them all and so literature event organisers, including libraries, church organisations and other associations agreed to form the Leeds Litfest whilst still retaining their own independent activities This was up and running with the first festival in March of 2019 with a huge diversity of written and spoken word events showcasing the wide variety of talents across the city.

That same year they were shortlisted for the national Saboteur Awards for the best literature festival; Sabotage is literature review organisation supported by the Arts Council; and in 2020 they won it outright. Then Covid reared it's ugly head.

The Covid Toll

By March of 2020 the whole world was in the grip of the Covid Pandemic and all over Britain artistic venues, as well as businesses, were forced to close for an indefinite period. Performers were forced out of work; theatres, concert halls, libraries, and all meeting places were instructed to shut their doors. The effect on the performing arts were disastrous; many hitherto successful artists and entertainers left their professions for good and the venues they used were starved of income for many months.

The Leeds Litfest has survived, thanks to the work of numerous volunteers and not a few generous supporters; and the intention is for all the associated organisations, including the Headingley Litfest, to continue their work together, and separately.

Copyright © 2022 Francis Blake