L19 Guest blogs - Meet Tom Jordan of Conductor - Leeds International Festival
Chapter 81

L19 Guest blogs – Meet Tom Jordan of Conductor

In this final guest blog Q&A in our series, we chat to Tom Jordan of Interplay Theatre, for a catch up on how his event ‘Conductor’ panned out during the L19 festival.

Q How did you find out about Leeds International Festival?

“I wasn’t actually aware of the festival prior to seeing a post on social media about the open call for L19 in (I think) October 2018; I guess it goes to show how effective marketing via social media can be! I’d only spotted it a few days before the application deadline, but it seemed to fit so well with what we wanted to do with ‘Conductor’ that we just had to go for it.”


Q Why did you want to get involved?

“It seemed like a great way for us to share our work with the people of Leeds and beyond. Much of our work creating immersive experiences had been hidden away in schools or some venues outside of Leeds in more recent years, and the festival seemed like the perfect opportunity to open up our experiences and explore new audiences.”


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

“Our event was ‘Conductor’ – a Virtual Reality experience where audiences use VR to explore a forest, and conduct the world around them. Our original submission wasn’t hugely different to the reality in terms of its creative content, but what did evolve was how/where we shared the work. We ran events across three different sites; within our immersive inflatable dome in the even bigger L19 dome (which I liked to call our ‘dome in a dome’) for the Family Day, in the Discovery Zone containers over a very busy Briggate weekend and from our venue space in Armley, Leeds. Each venue for the work was really unique and brought in a wonderful range of different audiences, from 5 year olds to a 74 year old lady (who loved it once she’d gotten over her fear of virtual heights!).”


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

“In the follow-up to the event we’ve had some amazing interest in our work. We were successful in joining a NESTA programme to further develop and innovate using VR technology, and toured ‘Conductor’ to other arts and digital festivals in the UK. We’ve even had interest from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, who had spotted us as part of the Leeds International Festival programme.”


Q What do you think of Leeds’ creative landscape?

“The city’s creative landscape is growing more and more. I don’t think there’s ever been a lack of talent, but until more recently I think a lot of the talented and skilled people looked to work in some of the other major cities of the UK to properly utilise themselves and be noticed. That’s something that’s definitely changed in recent years. Every night there are amazing events across the city in lots of different art forms. What I particularly love is how some of the smaller and homegrown venues are thriving, Brudenell Social Club being a great example of this.”


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

“Leeds Int Fest this year looks to be set to really provide a world-class platform for artists, discussions and events. Through the work of events programmes such as Leeds Int Fest we’re seeing that the city has such a huge wealth of talent already here, but also that local audiences have a thirst for bringing big names and international acts to their city.”


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

“I’m just one part of a team here at Interplay Theatre that worked on ‘Conductor’ (as developer and technical director), but it had a huge impact for me to create a piece of work that was part of L19. For many years I’ve worked in creating immersive theatre experiences and augmenting them using digital technology through projection mapping and other mediums, but ‘Conductor’ was the first time digital technology was at the forefront of the experience of a production we’ve created. The personal impact of this for me as a creative was enormous; to see something I had worked to create featured in an international festival in my home city of Leeds, a place where my creativity has been nurtured and supported. It was empowering for me as someone who once was a high school dropout, to say the least. Being involved in L19 has been part of a real sea-change for the organisation in how we look at working with audiences and how we use digital technology to tell and interact with stories.”


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

“Be aspirational but honest about what you want to achieve, both with yourself and the Leeds Int Fest team. The festival team were incredibly helpful and supportive throughout the experience, so don’t be afraid to try new things and change things if you think it will make your event better.”