Statues across Leeds are about to start taking! Yorkshire Festival 2016 has commissioned arts producers Sing London to animate 10 of the city’s most popular statues. Pass a Talking Statue, swipe your smartphone on a nearby plaque and presto, get a call back from The Black Prince (as voiced by Vic Reeves) or from a Drury Dame (voiced by Game of Thrones' Gemma Whelan) or from Brian Blessed as a large stone lion. Each has a story to tell. Together they tell Leeds’s story.
The statue monologues have been created in partnership with West Yorkshire Playhouse and include contributions from some of Yorkshire’s most celebrated writers, actors and comedians. Some approaches are dramatic, others comic and others flights of pure fantasy. All aim to persuade the public look at the city’s statues with new eyes.
To hear the statues speak, just pay them a visit and bring your smartphone. There is no cost to the user. The statues start talking on June 16th 2016 and will talk for a year. Talking Statues Leeds includes:
West Yorkshire Playhouse have commissioned artists associated with the theatre to give voice to three iconic statues:
Gemma Whelan: “I’m from Leeds and I know City Square very well. To be given the opportunity to voice one of the Dames was a dream project. I have a bit of the inner dame myself!” (Gemma currently stars as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones)
Ian McMillan:"I'm always wanting to explore new ideas of getting language performed in places you don't expect it, and you certainly don't expect statues to start telling you a story!
As a child I had a fantasy that statues were just dying to tell you their stories, and now I can make that dream into a reality! And where better to do it than Yorkshire!"
“Most of us hardly notice the statues around us. Talking Statues Leeds aims to change this,” said Sing London Director Colette Hiller. “We have gathered a stellar line-up of writers and actors ready to put themselves in the shoes - or in some cases the paws! – of Leeds’s statues.”
West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Producer Gilly Roche said: "It is crucial to us to find and tell stories that are about the city we live in and to allow these stories to be heard by as wide and diverse an audience as possible. For this reason, Talking Statues Leeds is a perfect project for us to champion."
Talking Statues Leeds is part of Yorkshire Festival 2016, the UK’s newest international festival which runs from 16 June – 3 July. It will build on the resounding success of the first edition in 2014 and promises world premieres and UK exclusives with spectacular outdoor performances as well as music, theatre, arts and dance from theatres to clubs.
Yorkshire Festival Artistic Director, Matt Burman, said: “Talking Statues is a fantastic project; mixing culture, technology, a little bit of history and a lot of fun. We walk past these statues every day but by bringing them to life with some well-known voices, not only will locals and visitors to the city be entertained, they will also learn something about the historical figures who inspired each of these long-standing works of art. This is just one of many fantastic projects we have that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of our Yorkshire cities. We can’t wait for the Festival to get underway.”
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The ten Talking Statues are:
1. THE BLACK PRINCE, City Square, LS1 2AN
Written by Kelly O'Reilly, performed by Vic Reeves
• Vic Reeves voices The Black Prince who isn’t sure what he’s doing on a horse in City Square. After all, he never even visited Leeds in his lifetime ...
2. DRURY DAME, City Square, LS1 2AN
Written by Elizabeth Dearnley, performed by Gemma Whelan
• Gemma Whelan as a Drury Dame - discover why this elegant lamp bearer caused a major public outcry!
3. THE PETANQUE PLAYER, Bond Court, LS1 2JZ
Written and performed by: Ian McMillan
• Ian McMillan asks what a Frenchman is doing playing petanque in Bond Court
4. TOWN HALL LION, Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, LS1 3AD
Written and performed by Brian Blessed
• Brian Blessed brings the large stone lion guarding Leeds Town Hall to life
Our partners at West Yorkshire Playhouse have commissioned artists associated with the theatre to give voice to three iconic statues:
5. JAMES WATT, City Square, LS1 2AN
• Writer Ben Tagoe and Coronation Street's Drew Cain reveal what inventor James Watt is thinking
6. GOLDEN OWL, Leeds Civic Hall, Millennium Square, Calverley St, Leeds LS1 1UR
• Poet Khadijah Ibrahim and Poppy Shakespeare's Claire Benedict imagine what the Golden Owl at Leeds Civic Hall sees as she surveys the city
7. ARTHUR AARON, Eastgate Roundabout, Eastgate, LS2 7JL
• Going Viral playwright Daniel Bye and Shameless actor Lee Toomes create a voice for World War II pilot Arthur Aaron
*Give a Statue a Voice - Creative Writing Competition*
3 statues await the gift of speech! The winning pieces will be decided by public writing competition and recorded by known actors in the autumn.
8. TALBOT HOUND, Trevelyan Square, LS1 6ET
*YOUNG PEOPLE'S COMPETITION STATUE*
• a Victorian stray dog in Trevelyan Square
9. JOHN HARRISON, City Square, LS1 2AN
• a cat-loving wool merchant from 17th-century Leeds
10. EQUUS ALTUS, Trinity Leeds shopping centre, Albion Street, LS1 5AT
About Sing London:
SING LONDON is a non-profit arts organisation whose work aims to lift the public's spirit. Past projects include London's Street Piano Project, Ping! which saw thousands of public ping pong tables installed across the UK. Talking Statues was originally funded by NESTA’s Digital R&D fund. The project has been produced in London, Manchester and Chicago to date.
Twitter: @Sing_London and @TalkingStatueUK
Facebook: TalkingStatueUK and S1ngL0nd0n
For further information contact:
Support for Talking Statues:
Statues can’t just talk by themselves, you know! Talking Statues is made possible with financial support from the Yorkshire Festival and from generous assistance from Audible.co.uk. Additional support comes from Leeds Art Fund.
Notes to Editors:
1) The launch: Join us on Tuesday June 28th at 5:30PM in City Square to meet the statues and hear what they have to say for themselves. Bring a smartphone and wear walking shoes.
The walk will finish in Bond Court next to the Petanque Players statues, where members of Leeds Petanque Club will be inviting people to play the game!
2) The public writing competition: Give a Statue a Voice!
At the time of the launch, 3 of Leeds’ statues still await the gift of speech. But what do they have to say for themselves? The winning pieces will be decided by public writing competition and recorded by known actors in the autumn. The competition statues are:
To find out more go to: www.talkingstatuesleeds.co.uk/competition
Yorkshire Festival 2016
• Yorkshire Festival 2016 runs from June 16 - 3 July with preview events around the Tour de Yorkshire weekend at the end of April.
• Yorkshire Festival is backed by Welcome to Yorkshire with government funding through the Arts Council England as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative.
• Yorkshire Festival will present hundreds of performances all over the county.
For more information, go to www.yorkshirefestival.co.uk or follow on Twitter @YorkshireFest or on Facebook yorkshirefestival
For further information, contact:
Debbie Bradley – Senior Press Officer – Yorkshire Festival
Tel: 01943 603311
Mob: 07740 362861
Olivia Rhodes – Press Officer - Yorkshire Festival
Tel: 01943 603311