L19 Guest Blogs: Meet Chris Hudson of What Does it Mean to be Human?
For Leeds International Festival 2019, an important theme was who we are, who we were, and who we could become. This was epitomised by the What Does it Mean to be Human? series of events, which were submitted and co-ordinated by Leeds Beckett’s Chris Hudson.
For this guest blog in our L19 Q&A series, we spoke to Chris to see how the events mapped out from initial inspiration to final execution, and to glean any advice from him on how to submit a successful (series of!) Leeds International Festival event(s).
Q: How did you find out about Leeds International Festival?
I saw the Open Call in an email circulation here at Leeds Beckett University (I am a Leeds BID Board member).
Q: Why did you want to get involved?
Because my suggested theme, What Does it Mean to be Human?, seemed to capture the zeitgeist of public discourse about mental wellbeing, technology, pace of life and uncertainty about the future.
Q: Tell us about your event. What did you submit, and did it evolve before its final iteration at the festival?
Yes, it did evolve, as the speakers I initially suggested were not available, so some searching for alternatives was done. This meant a shift of perspective in some, which all worked out very well anyway (phew!).
Q: What did the festival do for you / your brand / your event?
It enabled me to ensure Leeds Beckett played an active and full role in helping the city stage this event – the additional PR work we did on social media in particular gained a lot of traction.
Q: What do you think of Leeds’ creative landscape?
It’s OK, but when we look at what Manchester International Festival does we are years away yet. We are not lacking in ambition but short of the level of resources they are ploughing into it. Leeds’ creative landscape is different though – it doesn’t have the same cultural ‘big names’, such as Hacienda.
Q: Is Leeds changing? How are festivals and events such as ours shaping the city?
Having a diffuse cultural offer is vital to ensure our city is, and is seen as, a great place to live, work or study and the Festival is part of that offer/mix.
Q: What’s changed, personally or professionally, from you having taken part in L19? How did the event go for you?
The 2019 ‘What Does it Mean to be Human?’ series of talks enabled me to show the city’s audiences the expertise we have at the University, which is very much hidden, but generates important research and teaching which is attractive to (potential) students, employers and the general public about what we have here in Leeds. It also provided a platform for me to attract (inter)nationally known speakers (Matt Haig, Alice Roberts) and subject specialists (Simon Anholt, Gelong Thubten) to our city, who in turn attracted diverse audiences – helping the Festival to be seen to be offering something for the city’s citizens.
Q: What advice would you give to someone entering the open call for L20?
Anything goes really; the programme this year was incredibly varied and the interpretation of the brief for L20, ‘Generation Future’, can be applied to just about any subject – so go on! My submission this year is likely to be about the Climate Emergency and provide a collage of artistic, academic, political and public perspectives.