VIDEO PREVIEW: Space travel, robot sex, new music and Leeds United film memories - Leeds International Festival is back

Space travel, the ethics of robot sex, film score commissions, intimate audiences with…and some serious tunes ,  Leeds International Festival returns April 28 to May 12.

Organisers are an unforgettable fortnight of events to excite, entertain and inspire. The UK’s leading metropolitan festival of new ideas and innovation celebrates local creativity and international culture whilst creating one of the biggest events in Leeds.

First Briton in space Helen Sharman CMG OBE

TICKETS: For full programme and tickets visit

Launched in 2017 to critical acclaim the festival is an annual celebration of new ideas, local creativity and international culture with speakers, original performances, new music, seminars and discussion. The goal is to inspire and grow communities by bringing people together and promoting the discovery and exchange of new ideas, whilst creating one of the biggest events in Leeds.

It is funded via Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID) and key partners including Sky, O2, Rabbit Hole, I Like Press, Hebe Works, Futuresound Events, Fashion in Leeds and Consume Communication.

The eclectic programme today revealed for this year boasts an array of original performances, world firsts, premieres and debates with big names from across the worlds of music, technology, moving image and fashion, popping up in venues across the city.

Circuit des Yeux

From space travel with the first Briton to go out of this world, and sex, love and Artificial Intelligence, to music from the UK’s only blind orchestra to a celluloid trip down memory lane with Leeds United – to name but a few.

Topping the bill are names including astronaut Helen Sharman CMG OBE, Sarah Beeny, June Sarpong, Steve Lamacq, Jamie Jones Buchanan and Nick JD Hodgson (former founding member of The Kaiser Chiefs).

New events announced include a special LIF hour long commission from the Inner Vision Orchestra, performed in the dark; a look at space travel – past, present and future with three experts in their field; a charity chinwag with cultural icon Cosey Fanni Tutti; an empowering conference showcasing a panel of female speakers’ career journeys into and through the digital domain and a re-worked score with an exciting collaboration with Opera North and Circuit Des Yeux as they take on the film Salomé.

Andrew Cooper, Chair of Leeds International Festival and Chief Executive of LeedsBID, said: “Leeds International Festival is back in 2018, celebrating new ideas, local creativity and international culture in the city, with an inspired programme of events from original performances, international speakers, intriguing debates and discussions, new music, alongside some excellent visual treats.”

New music guru BBC radio's Steve Lamacq

“This festival, bought to you by LeedsBID, aims to encapsulate all that is great about Leeds, providing the opportunity for business and cultural organisations to collaborate on showcasing the city’s strengths to audiences from near and far.

“The ambition is for the international festival to become a showpiece annual event, growing in status, calibre and appeal each year.”

Tickets go on sale for a number of new events on Friday 2nd February, with more programme details revealed in the coming weeks.


Sarah Beeny

28/04/18 Disconnect, AQL, Salem Chapel

Today, providing access to technology is no longer the priority. A bigger concern is beginning to emerge - when technology invades all moments of our lives, is it possible to disconnect?

Three experts - Rohan Gunatilake, founder of meditation app Buddhify, BBC presenter and neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis and BT’s Head of Customer Insight and Futures Dr Nicola Millard - will help navigate the balancing act, of enabling the benefits of both tech connection and offline time.

01/05/18, Sex, love and Artificial Intelligence with Dr Kate Devlin, Hyde Park Picture House

Dr Kate Devlin talks us through the history of sex and technology in this fascinating look into the innovations that are bringing together the worlds of love and AI in new (and controversial) ways.

What are the ethical and social implications of a future where computer interaction moves beyond the mouse and keyboard? How intelligent does technology need to be before we award it empathy? Can a robot consent?

After the talk, there’ll be a screening of Oscar-nominated Lars and The Real Girl, a quirky and critically acclaimed comedy featuring Ryan Gosling and Emily Mortimer. Lars’ ‘RealDoll’ girlfriend may lead him, and his town, to a new place – a place of acceptance, and perhaps love?

Stalls: £10.50 adult, £9.50 concession. Balcony: £12.50 adult, £11.50 concession.

05/05/18: Astronauts required, no experience necessary, AQL Salem Chapel, 13-15 Hunslet Road LS10 1JQ

This event is a chat with three space experts - Helen Sharman CMG OBE, who was the first Briton to go to space, alongside Bas Lansdorp (CEO and co-founder of the Mars ONE mission, which is planning a one-way journey to populate Mars in the next decade) as well as BBC TV presenter Dallas Campbell.

They’ll be discussing space travel - past, present and future.

£12 for adults, under 16s go free.

05/05/18: Live At Leeds, various venues

This festival-within-a-festival sees hundreds of bands descend on venues across Leeds city centre (and as far as Hyde Park’s Brudenell Social Club), gifting us with performances from bands both undiscovered and already successful.

Now in its eleventh year, the festival has featured names such as Bastille, Ed Sheeran, Rag’n’Bone Man and Royal Blood on their way to chart-topping international success – it’s THE festival to attend to catch future stars on their way up.

This year’s festival features big names such as The Horrors, British Sea Power and Circa Waves, alongside upcoming names such as BBC Sound of 2018 nominees Pale Waves, Tom Walker, Lewis Capaldi and Sam Fender.

Tickets: £36 ADV + booking fee

For the full programme of events, more information and to buy tickets:
30/04/18: As Good As It Gets? Film premiere, Everyman Cinema

The ultimate in sporting sacrifice? This feature-length documentary film about a challenging period with the Leeds Rhinos will premiere at Leeds International Festival.

Some of the most successful players and coaches in super-league history (as well as from the national and international rugby stage) star, including: Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brian McDermott, Gary Hetherington and more

Tickets to the premiere: SOLD OUT - New Screenings to be announced

03/05/18: Empowering Women with Science and Tech conference, New Dock Hall, Leeds Dock

June Sarpong chairs an all-female panel of speakers including Sarah Beeny, Belinda Parmar OBE, Dr Suze Kundu, Dr Sophie Scott, Linda Liukas and Dr Pippa Malmgren as they discuss their career journeys through the digital domain.

12/05/18: Salomé with live score by Hayley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux, Howard Assembly Rooms

Christianity’s ultimate lascivious woman, Salome, dances for Herod – and wins John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

In this Opera North Project for Leeds International Festival production, Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr performs a newly commissioned, original soundtrack to the startlingly seductive and scandalous 1923 silent movie, Salomé, directed by Charles Bryant.

03/05/18: In Conversation with Viv Albertine, The Wardrobe

Singer songwriter Viv Albertine (best known as the guitarist in ground-breaking avant garde Punk girl group The Slits) will be navigating her journey through genre-defining Punk through to life today, through critically-acclaimed 2014 memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes. Music Music Music. Boys Boys Boys to her newest work, To Throw Away Unopened (due for release April 2018).

Tickets £10

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