Yorkshire Festival 2016: Party in the city

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As the Yorkshire Festival – a feast of arts events – draws to a close this weekend, Nick Ahad takes a look at some of the highlights.

As the artistic director of the Yorkshire Festival 2016, Matt Burman promised in the brochure that the festival would give audiences ‘the unexpected, the unusual, the bold and the brassy’.

It’s fair to say that he has delivered on that score with a variety of ground-breaking events going on all around the county over the course of 18 days, featuring 900 artists from 22 countries.

The festival draws to a close this weekend and one of the highlights will be the Big Disco which will be taking place tomorrow in Leeds and featuring the world’s largest disco ball. At 10.33m in diameter, it’s the same size as a three storey house or two adult T-Rex. It will be suspended from a crane above Duke Studios in Leeds while thousands of people dance to the same track at the same time, at parties across Yorkshire. The track has been chosen by public vote from a top ten tracklist, selected by DJs and music industry professionals – and the idea is to set a new world record.

Leeds has also seen many of its municipal statues come to life over the course of the festival – with performers such as Vic Reeves, Brian Blessed, Ian McMillan and Game of Thrones actress Gemma Whelan lending their voices to statues such as The Black Prince, the lions outside Leeds Town Hall the Petanque Player at Bond Court.

Passersby can swipe their smartphones on nearby plaques to hear their stories and interact with the statues.

Another of the highlights of the festival is The Sonic Journey, a collaboration between two of Yorkshire’s most high profile and celebrated artists, writer Blake Morrison and composer Gavin Bryars. Passengers travelling between Goole and Hull on the train simply need to download the track made available via the festival and experience the poetry of Morrison with the music of Bryars and allow themselves to be taken on a journey.

“It is quite a task to plot such a range of work over such a large county,” admits Burman and, of the fact that he appears to be determined to get to every single piece of work that has been programmed, he says: “We want all the artists to feel that real sense of Yorkshire hospitality, so I’m trying to make sure I get to everything and see all the artists.”

When the festival finishes Burman should take a step back and look at what has been achieved. In the space of September to December last year, he had 300 meetings with artists hoping to bring their work to the Yorkshire Festival. “Every meeting I started by asking the question of the artists ‘what can we do together that you can’t do separately?’. I wanted that sense of collaboration and that real sense of work that was genuinely born, produced, made in Yorkshire.”

To absolutely underline that point, the festival also features a work called God’s Own County. That one features enormous projections being shown on the front of Weston Park Museum in Sheffield, created by two arts collectives working in the city called The Collaborators and The Professors.

The festival, a legacy from the 100 days of arts performed when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire two years ago, is funded by the Arts Council and Welcome to Yorkshire and on the final day on Sunday a city-wide art installation in Hull, Place Des Anges, will take place. “In the space of 55 minutes, 10,000 tickets went for that event,” says Burman. “It’s almost impossible to describe, but as a visual spectacle on the streets of Hull it is going to be extraordinary.

“It’s about what events like 
this bring to the people of the
 city, how it changes them. There are so many forces that seek to divide us – at these moments we can come together and share something that is out of the ordinary, together.”

For more information about the remaining events in the last few days of the festival, visit www.yorkshirefestival.com