L19 Guest Blogs: Meet Jess and Harry of Leeds Needs Help
In this series of blogs we’re catching up with some of the amazing talent behind many of our favourite Leeds International Festival 2019 (L19) events, which today brings us to the lovely Jess and Harry, of Leeds Needs Help.
Their event, held at Sheaf Street, was a sold-out success. A hilarious and unique mixture of sketches, stand-up, lip-syncs and town-planning (!), they had the audience in stitches.
We catch up with them to see how L19 went for them, and what they’re up to now.
Q: How did you find out about Leeds International Festival?
“We were aware of the festival but heard about the open call for submissions through Facebook. We thought it sounded like an exciting thing to be a part of, and that perhaps it was worth a punt!”
Q: Why did you want to get involved?
“As writers and performers we were looking for more opportunities to make work, and as Leeds residents it felt like a really exciting prospect to be part of the cultural momentum of the city. We also liked the fact that the festival seemed to programme a really varied mix of bold work!”
Q: Tell us about your event. What did you submit, and did it evolve before its final iteration at the festival?
“Leeds Needs Help was an evening of comedy performance designed specifically for the festival. It was a version of an existing concept called ‘You Need Help’, which we’ve been performing in Leeds since 2017. We wanted to create something bespoke for the festival which focussed on Leeds, and also provided a platform for other local performers. The show itself was a comedy self-help spectacular based on the idea of a public consultation on how to make Leeds a city of the future.”
Q: What did the festival do for you / your brand / your event?
“The festival provided us with an opportunity to make something bigger and better than we ever had before. We both work full-time, so while it was a huge challenge, the support and funding allowed us to work in a way we hadn’t done previously. It also provided a platform for us to raise our profile and build audiences within Leeds, and it’s really helped us progress and develop as performers and writers. People who would never have heard about us previously came to our show and that felt like a real triumph!”
Q: What do you think of Leeds’ creative landscape?
“While it perhaps feels less developed than places like Manchester and London, there are hundreds of people making great things happen – strong communities forming, with exciting work being made and it feels like a big time of progression and growth. We’ve really benefited from and are enjoying working with all types of creative people in the region. It feels like Leeds is a great place to build connections, try out new ideas and support one another.”
Q: Is Leeds changing? How are festivals and events such as ours shaping the city?
“There are more creative things happening, leading to more opportunities in the city. Festivals such as Leeds International Festival are a huge part of making this happen. Also festivals like Transform and Light Night have a big part to play. More people having more opportunities and creating wider audiences can only be a good thing!”
Q: What’s changed, personally or professionally, from you having taken part in L19? How did the event go for you?
“The event couldn’t have gone better! We sold out and were really pleased with the work we produced. The response has been really positive. It’s been a great motivation for us in terms of our partnership, our belief in our ability to get things done, and realising that people actually want to watch what we make!”
Q: What advice would you give to someone entering the open call for L20?
“Do it! What’s the worst that can happen? We never expected to get picked! The workload was big, but we had a massive sense of achievement being part of such an amazing festival! Also, don’t be frightened of applying alone as the team at the festival gave us lots of support.”