Sign up below to be the first to hear about festival news

International Womens Day

International Womens Day

March 8, 2020
By Chapter 81

Leeds International Festival will always promote equality and diversity, and we are always looking to improve our platform for different voices and different perspectives.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we thought we’d look a little deeper into just some of the amazing women who will be speaking, exhibiting and performing at this year’s festival.

Sharmila Sen

Sharmila is the author of award-winning memoir Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America. She is also the Editorial Director of Harvard University Press, a publishing house established with the university in 1913. Born in Calcutta, India, Sen immigrated to the USA aged twelve. She qualified from Harvard and then did her PhD at Yale, in English Literature. She taught courses on literatures from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean as an assistant professor at Harvard for seven years, before her current role at Harvard University Press. Not Quite Not White examines why whiteness retains a magic cloak of invisibility in America today, whilst other colours are made hyper-visible, and interrogates the synonymity of Americanness and whiteness, in a searing appraisal of race and the path forward for the next ‘not quite not white generation’.

Sharmila Sen is one of five speakers at the L20 event Future. Identity. Power: Reframing equality and justice. 5th May, 18:30 – 21:30.

Mandy Barker

Internationally-renowned photographer Mandy Barker is an award-winning photographic artist who has been shooting work involving the plastic detritus in our seas for over ten years now. Leeds born, Mandy travels the world with scientists to collect the ephemeral plastic waste which she captures in her ethereal, peaceful, surreal and somewhat hypnotic imagery. She received the 2018 National Geographic Society Grant for Research and Exploration, and her work has been published in over 40 countries, by publications like Time Magazine, The Guardian and UNESCO. Her first book, Beyond Drifting, was named as one of the Ten Best Photography Books of 2017 by Smithsonian.

Mandy Barker’s exhibit Altered Oceans forms part of the A Generation to Cool the Earth series of events. 30th April – 9th May, Victoria Gate.

Lacey M Johnson

Lacey M Johnson is an author, as well as being a professor, curator and activist, based in Houston. Her novel THE RECKONINGS was named a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist in Criticism, and one of the best books of 2018 by Boston Globe, Electric Literature,Autostraddle, Book Riot, and Refinery 29.  Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, amongst many other publications. She teaches creative nonfiction at Rice University and is the Founding Director of the Houston Flood Museum.

Lacey Johnson is one of five speakers at the L20 event Future. Identity. Power: Reframing equality and justice. 5th May, 18:30 – 21:30.

Maya Chowdhry

Maya Chowdry is an award-winning poet, transmedia writer and theatre-maker who uses interactive theatre-making and digital storytelling to create immersive experiences. Her previous poetry collection is The Seamstress and the Global Garment, and she’s been published in many anthologies as well as having won the Cardiff International Poetry Competition. Tales from the Towpath was shortlisted for the New Media Writing Prize. Her work at this year’s festival looks into the future of our dining table, by serving up a synaesthetic feast – enjoy a three-course dinner alongside visual projection mapping and a score from composer Caro C – which all serves to explore a future in which the food we love is in short supply.

Maya presents What’s Eating Reality? Alongside chef Helen Russell Brown. 7th – 10th May, Various Times.

Michaela Strachan

Michaela Strachan is a beloved British TV presenter and nature enthusiast. After training for a career in the performing arts, Michaela’s first big break was in the kids TV show ‘THe Wide Awake Club’ in the 80s, as well as the cult late night music show ‘The Hitman And Her’ with Pete Waterman. Her career as a naturalist TV presenter began when she joined ‘The Really Wild Show’ in 1993, and she has since become one of the main presenters on BBC nature series such as Springwatch, Autumnwatch, and Winterwatch. Over the past thirty years she has worked on wildlife shows such as ‘Orangutan Diaries’, ‘Michaela’s Zoo Babies’, ‘Animal Rescue Squad’ and ‘Countryfile’, to name but a few.  Michaela will be the compere for the event A Generation to Cool the Earth, featuring talks from Mike Berners-Lee, Roger Hallam, Bernie Krause and Vandana Shiva. 6th May. Various times.

Selina Thompson

An interdisciplinary artist and performer, Selina Thompson and her company Selina Thompson Ltd has made urgent, playful and intimate work that ranges from theatre shows and workshop plans to radio works. In 2016 STLtd retraced the Middle Passage Transatlantic Slave Triangle by cargo ship, and went on to create Salt, a performance which has gone on to tour to four continents, and won three awards. With a focus on those excluded by mainstream society, STLtd creates work characterised by ambition and integrity. For L20 Selina brings a show called Oh God! Not Another One? Where a ‘kitchen table council’ of Leeds locals will try to come to a consensus about today’s political issues, and see if the ‘amateurs’ can reach better outcomes than the politicians elected to do so for us. 1st – 3rd May. Various times.

Eleanor Snare

A writer, artist, tutor, speaker, coach and consultant, Ellie Snare is all about spreading creativity in the world and helping people achieve their creative potential freely. She has worked as a visiting lecturer on Fashion Branding with Communication and Fashion at Leeds Arts University, teaching two days a week across level 5 and 6 at the North’s only dedicated arts university, and as a Teaching Fellow for final year BA Fashion Marketing students at Leeds University. After last year’s L19 event Sex Tapes, which encouraged selected spoken word artists to tell their sex-positive stories without the taboo and embarrassment society traditionally imposes around all things sexual, this year she brings The End is Queer: A Doomsday Disco, alongside Lord Whitney, You Need Help, Sex Tapes and Love Muscle. This hour-long immersive apoca-disco of theatre-performance will take the audience to the end of days…and beyond. 9th May. 20:00 – late.