Children’s theatre company fly flag for Leeds

Wendy Harris, artistic director of Tutti Frutti.
Wendy Harris, artistic director of Tutti Frutti.
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They have performed to audiences as far afield as Singapore, Poland and Ireland, and are currently involved in high profile talks with American producers to take their latest show across the Atlantic.

But for children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti, home is definitely where the heart is, and they are proud to fly the flag for Leeds across the globe.

The company, based in a small office in Harehills, will next week jet off to Hong Kong to perform their latest production, The Princess and the Pea.

They may not (yet) have the budget or public image of the some of the city’s bigger, flagship theatre organisations, but they are one of many small but dazzling jewels in Leeds’s brimming cultural crown.

This week, the Yorkshire Evening Post is profiling some of the well-known - and not so well known - cultural highlights of the city, as we call on our decision-makers to say #YesLeeds, and bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Wendy Harris, artistic director at Tutti Frutti, said she was “hugely supportive” of the city putting in a bid for the title.

She said: “I have good links with Liverpool (the last English winner of the title) and I know what these projects can do for cities, galvanising and bringing communities together to do brave new things.”

Many of the young people Tutti Frutti serves will be grown up by the time 2023 comes around, and Wendy said it would be “amazing” to use the bid to inspire future generations.

“Leeds is a great city for young children, with the academy at Northern Ballet, youth theatre at the Playhouse and projects like DAZL in south Leeds doing youth dance,” she added.

“I feel hugely privileged, as a mum, knowing all this is out there, and it would be fantastic to profile that.”

However she also urged the city’s decision-makers to “make sure that the resources are there for grassroots engagement” as part of any bid.

She said that often, with Government policy, the “big shiny flagships” grab the headlines and the bulk of the funding, but all the work with young people in schools, community halls and libraries can get overshadowed.

“For me, arts and culture should be in our bloodstream,” she said. “It defines who we are. It’s about what we think of each other, cohesion and understanding.

“I think investment needs to be put into organisations that understand that. I would absolutely call on the decision-makers to recognise that engagement with our young people and with those communities who don’t necessarily identify those experiences immediately as being for them.”

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