L19 Guest Blogs: Meet Nat Edwards of Facing Brave: Women Take On the Acid Throwers.
In this guest blog Q&A, we catch up with the Thackray Medical Museum’s Nat Edwards, and his pioneering L19 event Facing Brave: Women Take On the Acid Throwers.
Q: How did you find out about Leeds International Festival?
“Starting a new job in Leeds, I had come across the festival in my research – but it wasn’t really until I had met members of the team and been bowled over by their energy and enthusiasm that I got a sense that it was something that promised a different approach to the normal arts festival.”
Q: Why did you want to get involved?
“Simple – the people. The Leeds International Festival team are incredibly creative and open to new ideas and to working with new collaborators. It just felt like a natural thing to do.”
Q: Tell us about your event. What did you submit, and did it evolve before its final iteration at the festival?
“I had come across a remarkable story – about a young girl, Almas Ahmed, who had been inspired by a visit to our museum to become a doctor.
She had gone on to develop a revolutionary new product – an acid-proof makeup. I had a vague idea that Dr Ahmed’s story could be both inspiring and illustrative of grass-roots innovation in a really interesting way, but it took a couple of conversations with the LIF team to help shape it into a really exciting event (and to encourage me to MC it too – which ended up being both a privilege and a heap of fun).”
Q: What did the festival do for you / your brand / your event?
“It gave us some great publicity – both in traditional media and social channels. It helped us to shift our own attention to be a bit more outward-looking. Most importantly though, it brought a really engaged and diverse audience. It’s not that often a museum event will see quite so many intelligent, lively young people really engaging with a topic. That made the whole event for me.”
Q: What do you think of Leeds’ creative landscape?
“I’m a newcomer to Leeds and in the past, I’ve probably unfairly thought of the city as hiding its light under a bushel, compared to some of the louder-mouthed cities like Glasgow and Manchester who are happy to talk their arts scene up. I see now that that’s not accurate, but that Leeds is absolutely teeming with great quality creative practice – literally up every ginnel.”
Q: Is Leeds changing? How are festivals and events such as ours shaping the city?
“I haven’t worked in Leeds long enough to say if it’s changing – it certainly feels like it is – but I know it is the perfect time for a big shift in the cultural paradigm. With the big infrastructural changes due over the next 15 years, Leeds might be facing the choice of either becoming a sort of smart super-suburb, with nice shops and public spaces, or the heart of a new Northern Mega City that redefines the whole region. Culture is key to that.”
Q: What’s changed, personally or professionally, from you having taken part in L19? How did the event go for you?
“That’s easy. I’ve got the taste for it – where can I score some more?”
Q: What advice would you give to someone entering the open call for L20?
“This is inspired by my Geordie FD – ‘Shy Bairns Get Nowt’. Don’t be shy to have big, difficult ideas and to ask big, difficult people to help you realise them!”