Open Call - Leeds International Festival
Leeds International Festival 2020

Generation Future
Open Call

What is Leeds International Festival?

Leeds International Festival is the UK’s leading metropolitan festival of new ideas and innovation. Since its inception in 2017, the Festival has expanded rapidly, attracting increased funding, partners, and collecting international awards for best practice. The festival has played a significant part in shaping the city’s vibrant character and is pushing the identity of Leeds as a beacon of invention.

Why does Leeds International Festival exist?

  1. To promote the discovery and exchange of new ideas.
  2. To give local creators an international platform to showcase new and experimental works.
  3. To shift perspectives, challenge convention and change the way we view the world.
  4. To introduce the brightest minds to our city, and our city to the brightest minds.
  5. To be the UK’s largest platform for global thought leaders and pioneers to discuss the world of tomorrow.
  6. To provide funding and support for local creators to produce works and events that would otherwise not be economically viable.
  7. To increase Leeds’ confidence and position as a leading European city of culture, innovation and business.
  8. To provide one more excuse to party!

CORE and OFF programmes

The CORE and OFF programmes – the ‘pillars of the programme’ – have equal weighting at Leeds International Festival, each offering a unique flavour that showcases Leeds’ creative DNA. The programme brings an influx of new ideas and innovation to the city from national and international speakers and artists.


Our CORE programme invites the world’s leading creators, innovators, thought-leaders and pioneers to Leeds to disseminate new ideas and discuss the world of tomorrow. By introducing the brightest minds to our city and our city to the brightest minds, the CORE aims to challenge our understanding of the world today and deliver an exciting vision of the future.


OFF Programme is eclectic, noisy and unpredictable. It is a dizzying whirlwind of live music, performance, food, after-parties, exhibitions, discussions, comedy and experimental events. In streets and venues across the city, OFF will shine a spotlight on Leeds’ rich cultural diversity and unshakable creative spirit.


30th April – 9th May 2020

2020 FESTIVAL THEME: Generation Future

We live in an era of extraordinary complexity. From politics and economics to the environment, technology, and society itself, the world we live in is more interconnected than ever before. This interconnectivity brings many positives, yet it is only now that the challenges are truly being understood. Actions we take on a daily basis have effects that ripple through the world in ways none of us can predict, and the unintended consequences are mounting up.

In this time of great global uncertainty, there comes a need for a sea-change in the way we think, behave and interact. We sit in a uniquely challenging yet exciting position in the history of humanity. Infinite possibilities stretch out ahead of us, but what we choose to do now could define the future of our species and planet for millennia to come. There is no turning back; no shifting the blame. This is our time, and our trial. We are Generation Future.

Generation Future is the theme for L20. We encourage applications that explore and question what the term Generation Future means to you. How will the world of tomorrow differ from that of today? Will we shape that future, or will we let it shape us? How do we ensure that there is a future to shape at all?

Leeds International Festival 2020 will provide a platform for exploring new ideas and innovation around the complexity of modern human interconnections. Join us in looking at how the people of today can affect the world of tomorrow.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it” – Abraham Lincoln


We are opening up our CORE and OFF programme to an open call. If you have an idea and you’d like to be a part of L20, we’d love to hear from you.

Proposals are encouraged from all, whether comedian, speaker, musician, performer, early in your career or an established creator or organisation, working in performance art, film, dance, theatre, comedy, sound etc. We want to showcase local, national and international talent.

Leeds International Festival encourages proposals from international applicants, as well as those which embody the diversity of Leeds and the people who live and work here, including ethnicity, age, ability, gender and sexuality. We commend submissions where thought has been given to accessibility and engaging with new audiences. And we encourage submissions from those currently underrepresented in the arts and cultural sector, particularly disabled and BAME artists. We also welcome access documents from applicants, for more information please visit:

To apply via the Open Call please fill out the relevant application form at the bottom of this page.

Open call drop ins: We will be hosting two ‘drop in’ sessions at The Tetley for those who want to find out more about the festival and the open call.

The dates of the drop ins are: Wednesday 17th July and Wednesday 7th August, between 10am – 3pm – Gemma Holsgrove, Festival Executive and Polly Cuthburt, Festival Co-ordinator will be in The Tetley bar / kitchen and we encourage all to come and find out more. Full address of The Tetley: The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, LS10 1JQ.

The team will be located in the bar area of The Tetley.

Deadline for applications: The deadline for applications via the Open Call is 5pm on Friday 6th September. Applicants will be notified of decisions by the 30th of September.

If successful, applicants must be available to undertake the commission between October 2019 – May 2020.


Deadline for proposals 5pm on 6th September 2019
Shortlisted applicants notified 30th September 2019
2020 successful applicants meet & greet event* 17th October 2019**
All event venues confirmed 2nd December 2019

*successful applicants will be invited to an event with the L20 Festival Team where you will have the opportunity to meet other successful applicants who are part of the 2020 festival and find out more about the festival and our expectations of working together

** provisional date – subject to change


The programme for Leeds International Festival 2020 will come together through two routes: the Open Call, of which we anticipate will account for approx. 70-80% of the programme and the Executive’s Programme – events that are commissioned and curated directly by the Festival Executive and the team, including collaborations with other organisations.

We continue to strive to be a festival that is open and inclusive to all and welcome conversations with organisations and groups within Leeds and further afield to foster new relationships and collaborations.


For Leeds International Festival 2020, Open Call applicants will all be eligible to apply for funding for their proposed event.

For the OFF programme, we will consider events that may need as little as £1,000 up to £15,000.

For the CORE programme, we will consider events that require budgets from £15,000 up to £50,000.

Please note that we expect a high number of applications for this year’s Open Call so we encourage applicants to consider what they anticipate their event will cost and provide a clear outline of how they will use the funding should they be successful. The above provides guidance on the Festival’s funding for events submitted via the Open Call; however, we are open to being flexible should there be additional requirements to support the delivery of an outstanding event.

Applicants are welcome to apply / bring additional funding from other sources to support their proposal.

All projects will receive the same level of non-financial support, for instance through festival marketing.

Here are some examples of previous L19 CORE and OFF events and the approximate cost:

Between £1,000 – £3,000
Tender Balance
Page 127:
For Oluwale II: Experience the exhibition with added insight
The Mountains and Other Tales of She Transformed

Between £3,000 – £6,000
Sex Tapes
The Sunday Practise: Festival Edition
All That Lives, Feasts
Leeds Needs Help

Between £10,000 – £20,000
Get Into Gaming
The Changing Face of the UK Film & TV Industry
Sport 2.0

Between £30,000 – £50,000
Falling Light


The festival takes place across multiple locations in the city, and has done since it first started in 2017. In 2019, two temporary spaces were unveiled – The L19 Cube at the Village and The Discovery Zone. Both event spaces will be back for L20 in their pink glory! We invite applicants to consider venues around the city of Leeds when applying whilst also welcoming submissions for events to take place in the Cube and Discovery Zone.

L20 Cube - Venue Information

Examples of Cube events

Examples of events that took place at the Cube in 2019 are:

  • Crazy P & Friends welcomed 550 people for a special one-off day-and-night party
  • What Does it Mean to be Human? – a series of eclectic talks exploring that very question. The speakers ranged from Buddhist monk, Gelong Thubten to novelist and mental health advocate Matt Haig.
  • BlaqueXplosion brought a day of discussion and celebration, showcasing the richness and vibrancy of Leeds’ Black British culture with Frank Bruno MBE, Jermain Jackman and radio DJ, JoJo.

Cube Specification

500 standing (gig style)
300 theatre style
150 banquet style seating

The L20 Cube is provided with a full spec of lighting, sound, and staging to accommodate a variety of events.

Discovery Zone - Venue Information

The Discovery Zone hosted intimate, fringe events ranging from a Bloody Big Brunch, a local writer exploring race, to child-friendly sculpture making with Yorkshire Sculpture International.

Capacity: 25-30 seated

Drop in workshops were hosted therefore capacity varied.

Screens and a PA system are available.

Please note: We encourage and will look favourably on applications that are willing to deliver a talk, activity or workshop (minimum duration 30 minutes) as part of their event at our Discovery Zone on Briggate. The Discovery Zone is another opportunity for successful applicants to showcase their work and for us as a festival to link our venues together and showcase the festival programme across the city.

Other Venue examples

Other venues that have been used during LeedsIntFest are:

  • Sheaf Street (Duke Studios’ event spaces)
  • Leeds College of Music
  • Leeds Arts University
  • The Merrion Centre
  • Mill Hill Chapel
  • The Leeds Library
  • Sela Bar
  • Corn Exchange
  • Victoria Leeds
  • Brudenell Social Club

Although the L20 team are able to support with venue hire, and your event may take place in the festival village, it is the main responsibility of each individual / organisation to secure a venue for their event. We ask that you consider accessibility when proposing a venue.

If your application is successful, venues must be confirmed by the 2nd December 2019.


Each individual / organisation is responsible for dealing with technical requirements and ensuring Health and Safety compliance. Where required, Leeds International Festival can offer advice and support with regards to completing risk assessments, and the fitting out of off-site spaces etc.

Responsibility also lies with each individual / organisation to ensure all relevant insurances and licences are in place. L20 will request copies of insurance and permission documents.


Leeds International Festival is committed to minimising environmental impact. As such, we are keen to see proposals that consider the ecological impact, from repurposing or recycling resources, to the carbon footprint of an installation or performance.

Staffing events

When budgeting for your event, we encourage applicants to think about all aspects of developing and delivering the event. For example, if you think you will need a lighting and / or sound technician during a performance or invigilators throughout an exhibition or installation, please account for this in your planning and budgeting. We recommend early career artists/creators account for a producer in their budgets.

PR and Marketing

Successful event partners will be required to work with the festival PR and Marketing teams to facilitate publicity, media opportunities and branding requirements. More information will be provided if applicants are successful.


All ticketing for the 2020 Festival will be organised by the Festival with our ticketing partners Ticket Arena.

Further Information

For further information on Leeds International Festival, we recommend you explore our website to find out more about how the festival has evolved into its current form over the last three years.

If you have any further questions about the festival and/or your application, if you are local to Leeds, we welcome you at one of our drop ins on either 17th July or 7th August (see above Open Call drop ins for more information). Alternatively, you can get in touch by emailing

Good luck!

L20 Festival Team