L19 Guest Blogs - Meet Joanne Armitage Automation and Me - Leeds International Festival
Chapter 81

L19 Guest Blogs – Meet Joanne Armitage Automation and Me

Meet Joanne Armitage. In this guest blog, the brains behind the amazing L19 event Automation and Me tells us about the evolution of this great event, from application to final iteration.

Q: How did you find out about Leeds International Festival?

“We were told about Leeds International Festival by our friend and artist Akeelah Bertram who suggested we should apply. We were looking for a new project to develop and Automation and Me grew out of that.”


Q: Why did you want to get involved?

“We appreciated Leeds International Festival’s ethos for contributing to the cultural capital of Leeds. As a small collective based in and around Leeds/Yorkshire, we aim to increase diverse participation at the intersection between arts and technology.  We recognised the huge potential of being involved in the festival and the support that would bring to our mission.”


Q: Tell us about your event. What did you submit, and did it evolve before its final iteration at the festival?

“The main event we organised was a two-day hackathon, which was opened by a symposium and ended by a public sharing exhibition. The aim was to allow womxn and non-binary folk the space to creatively explore emerging and pressing topics surrounding technology. This brought together leading international academics, artists and engineers to examine the themes of automation and its relation to public life.


Alongside this main programme, we were also able to offer three different workshops that related to the theme of automation for the general public: building light theremins, building a feminist Alexa and providing an introduction to machine learning for the arts.”

Credit: Ben Bentley
Ben Bentley

Q: What did the festival do for you / your brand / your event?

“The festival provided advice, funding and marketing, as well as linking us up with contacts at Victoria Gate (shopping centre) who provided us with a beautiful venue for our events. Our participants particularly liked the cute image brandings [for Automation & Me] that the Leeds Int Fest design team made up.”


Q: What do you think of Leeds’ creative landscape?

“The landscape of Leeds is a particularly fruitful space for creativity due to the amount of exciting spaces and collectives forming around the city. There is an amazing music scene, with venues such as Wharf Chambers, Chunk and the Brudenell, but also a great variety of artist-led projects and spaces such as Poor Image Projects. There are lots of opportunities to get involved in events and small pots to develop your own events with.”


Q: Is Leeds changing? How are festivals and events such as ours shaping the city?

“Festivals and events such as Leeds International Festival are curating exciting and diverse programmes that support existing projects, facilitate new ones and attract a range of thinkers, makers and performers to the city. Leeds is growing and constantly developing: we can see it happening on the skyline. As the centre expands we need to be conscious that some of this development is putting financial pressure on organisations, charities and creative spaces like MAP. As organisers and artists we need to be conscious of these changes impacting our cultural landscape. We should constantly be thinking about the diverse population of Leeds and how we can develop activities for and with them: for it is the citizens who truly shape the city.”


Q: What’s changed, personally or professionally, from you having taken part in L19? How did the event go for you?

“On a personal level, it was both exciting and inspiring to see a space that is much needed take form. Professionally, both collaborations and pieces that came about due to the event’s facilitation will have a lasting impact on Leeds’s cultural space and on those who were able to participate. There were some really beautiful moments of collaboration, and we learnt so much from all the amazing participants.”


Q: What advice would you give to someone entering the open call for L20?

“Just go for it!  If we can run a feminist hackathon about automation I’m sure your idea has legs too. The festival staff were open to discussing our idea and developing our plans.  Be ambitious, but also make sure you think your project plan through, including time for unexpected setbacks!”