L19 Guest Blogs: Meet Eleanor Snare of Sex Tapes
One of Leeds International Festival 2019’s saucier events, Sex Tapes was a celebration of positive sexual encounters, unlike anything you watch on TV or read in magazines. It was risque, but only because it broke that British boundary, and allowed some very personal details into a public forum.
We caught up with Ellie Snare, the mastermind behind Sex Tapes, to see how the event went for them.
Q: How did you find out about Leeds International Festival?
I’d been involved with the Festival in 2018, as a performer with Bettakultcha, so I was aware they were doing more ‘fringe’ events [with the introduction of the OFF programme]. I saw the open call come through and decided to apply.
Q: Why did you want to get involved?
I’ve lived in Leeds since 2009 and consider myself an honorary Northerner. This city is where I studied, protested, got my first speaking job, got my first full-time job, made my professional network, and a thousand other things. I’m proud to be part of Leeds, and the International Festival felt like an exciting opportunity to show that in front of everyone. It also felt like an achievable goal – the submission form wasn’t too complicated, the budget wasn’t too high, but it was an international stage and so I felt comfortable going for it.
Q: Tell us about your event. What did you submit, and did it evolve before its final iteration at the festival?
Sex Tapes opened the ‘OFF’ programme of Leeds International Festival in the purpose-built Cube on 2nd May. It’s a night of sex-positive spoken word with hand-picked poets performing saucy tales and stories, with a portion of the profit from the event going to SARSVL, the official Rape Crisis charity for Leeds.
The submission I sent in changed very little between the first idea and the final execution. Originally, I had suggested we would audio-record each poet and compose an album of performances to be available after the show. However, logistically and budget-wise that didn’t work out. But everything else did. Sex Tapes has three philosophies:
1.) Everyone gets paid
2.) Sex positivity is for everyone
3.) Have fun
All of those things happened! We also added in some cute stuff like sex-positive games for each table, Sex Tapes stickers and a suitably fruity playlist.
Q: What did the festival do for you / your brand / your event?
Getting funding for Sex Tapes gave me and the poets who were selected a huge confidence boost. Sometimes, writing and performing about sex can be seen as taboo: you’re either doing it for the shock value or because you’ve got nothing better to talk about. Being part of an international event helped me and the other poets see our art as legitimate – that people are interested, it is subject matter we want to talk about, and it can be fun too.
After the event I spoke to different audience members about their experience. One comment stuck with me. Someone said “At first I was uncomfortable because it was all about sex … then I stuck with it … and I ended up absolutely loving it.” It’s so easy to feel uncomfortable around sex, love and relationships, and therefore skip out at that first ‘negative’ feeling. But by making the whole night a celebration of sex-positive experiences, and encouraging people to become part of it, it really changed some people’s minds.
I’m planning to do more Sex Tapes events, in a different iteration, but if nothing else comes of it I am just happy that it changed some people’s view of what sex is like, from negative to positive.
Q: What do you think of Leeds’ creative landscape?
The creative landscape in Leeds always seems to be shifting and adapting, and the universities have a big role to play in that. The continuing challenge for Leeds is its tendency to stay fragmented and ‘cliquey’. People worry too much about looking cool and fitting in with the right crowd instead of doing something off the wall and shouting about it. I love that you can find anything you want here – but I don’t love that some people look down their noses at it if it doesn’t have the right hipster logo attached to it.
Q: Is Leeds changing? How are festivals and events such as ours shaping the city?
Cities are in a constant flux state – that’s woven into their existence. Events like Leeds International Festival help to draw the eye of the nation and the world to the city, and to bring something different into it. I think it’s a powerful thing, to be able to walk down a street in the city you’ve lived in for a decade, and see something brand new. But it’s key no-one is left behind; that Leeds Int Fest and other events don’t just take place within a certain geography or with a certain demographic of people. We are a city of diversity but also discrepancy – in income, access, opportunity and more. It’s crucial as a city we don’t get distracted by shiny things and change for the sake of it, but instead focus on what we’re great at: thoughtful work, beautifully delivered, which brings everyone into an experience of creativity.
Q: What’s changed, personally or professionally, from you having taken part in L19? How did the event go for you?
When I think of the skills I developed from submitting and curating the event, the networks I’ve gained, and the positive influence it’s had on others, I feel proud and confident in what I can do next. I loved the event, meeting the poets, meeting the judges and connecting with the audience. I feel more able to apply for funding and events, and more sure in what I really care about: bringing sexy art to the masses!
Q: What advice would you give to someone entering the open call for L20?
Think carefully about what your event is going to do for other people. It’s easy to get wrapped up in ‘your vision’ when applying for funding, but ultimately Leeds International Festival is about what ten days of events can do for the good people of our city. Ask yourself ‘What does this give to people? What will they get from it? How will it improve things?’. I think that’s key to putting together a great submission.