Going in circles: Leeds Compass Festival set for Nov 11-20

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It doesn’t matter where on the map they draw the line - whether it’s through a building, across someone’s garden, even over water - performance artists Gary Winters and Greg Whelan are going to try to walk it.

It doesn’t matter where on the map they draw the line - whether it’s through a building, across someone’s garden, even over water - performance artists Gary Winters and Greg Whelan are going to try to walk it.

“It might mean that we have to knock on someone’s front door and ask them kindly if we can come through their house and out the back,” explains Gary, a 45-old father-of-two who forms one half of the Lone Twin act.


The duo, who have performed all over the world, will be one of the acts taking part in this year’s Compass Festival, which began in 2011 and was staged again in 2014, with the intention of being biennial from now on.

The festival centres on performance art as a way of engaging audiences. Lone Twin have taken that concept to another level, however, with their project this year, entitled, simply, Spiral.

Dragging a telegraph pole through Colchester dressed as cowboys is an obvious way to attract attention

Gary Wright, one half of performance duo Lone Twin

The walking artwork will take place over the course of seven days and will see the duo walking a predetermined route as best they can, while collecting objects along the way. They will be tweeting about their progress and the things they find and are more than happy to meet people.

“In a way, that’s what it’s about,” says Gary, who stands a lean 6ft 4 and puts one in mind of a mountain explorer, his beard thick and flecked with grey, hair lank and just brushing the shoulders of a crumpled navy blue jacket.

The ‘spiral’ concept is something they have tried once before, however, at the Barbican, with interesting results.

“We were stopped most days by the police,” admits Gary. “I think they were

interested in what we were doing but they got to know us.” Or, rather, the radio dispatchers did. But Gary and Greg also became so familiar with their surroundings that by the end of the piece, they were pretty much experts on giving directions.

“When you do something like that and you’re in the area for that amount of time, you get to know it. The Barbican estate is renowned for getting lost in, it’s full of tight corners and blind alleys but by the end we were telling other people how to get places.”

Indeed, getting places - travelling - seems to be something of a theme for the duo, whose previous performance art pieces have included dragging a telegraph pole through Colchester while dressed as cowboys, cycling the same route every day for 21 days in Amsterdam and ‘climbing Mount Everest’ while on stage.

“We had a line drawn on the stage and I had to go up and down it about 300 times, which was the same distance as climbing Everest, while Greg read a book. Part of what we do is about generating a reaction from people. So, dragging a telegraph pole from one side of Colchester to the other dressed as cowboys is an obvious way to attract attention. We get talking to people and find out who they are. People would shout out from cars and so on. There was a reaction.

“With the piece in Amsterdam, we cycled the same route, stopped for a break at the same bench, went to the same cafe at lunch time and so on. On the first day, we were just new. On the second, it was like ‘you again’... and the third and fourth but by the seventh day we were talking about our lives to the waiter and him to us and we would update what we did at the end of each day, so it became this little soap opera and some people were really into it, wondering what was going to happen next.”

Aside from walking the spiral in Holbeck over the course of a week, they will also be collecting objects along the way, something Gary says is more akin to beachcombing that just picking up random items. As they collect objects, they will join them together using tools, cable ties, gaffer tape and the like, so that by the end, they will end up with something quite unique. During their Barbican spiral walk, someone gifted them a table and later an old style computer monitor, which they then had to lug around, which, as you can imagine, drew more than a few puzzled stares.

Annie Lloyd, co-directors of Compass Festival (the other being Peter Reed) is the former director of Gallery and Studio Theatre, Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett). She said puzzled stares were what it was all about.

“That’s what we want to do with this festival. We were very particular about the acts we chose. There will be a series of interactive arts projects in and around the city which are placed mostly in public settings. Rather than relying on people who know about something and them go to it deliberately, this is about arts projects happening in the streets, market places, libraries, so everyone can enjoy and engage with them.

“Spiral is one of 18. Some will last days, others hours. Each of the projects is different. This is one of 18. Spiral goes on for seven days. Some last days, some just a few hours. We talk about it as live art. It’s about working with people. This could not work without them engaging with the people they meet. We wanted to do this in Holbeck because its incredibly mixed with old and new industries, a mix of peoples and often those groups are not in touch with each other, so this spiral has the function of connecting people.

“With Spiral, the work is the walk. They walk the area and collect objects people either give them or they find and they bolt them all together. If someone gives them a piano, then they have to figure out a way to take it with them. They will be continually photographing and tweeting and each thing will come with a little story attached. Many people won’t know what’s going on and they will be dealing with their reaction to it in the moment. They will be aware there’s something about this which is a little bit crazy but at the same time they will meet two very affable men willing to listen to their story.”

Compass Festival runs Nov 11-20.


Bethany Wells’ Warmth: @Art Hostel, Nov 12-14 & 17-19. A mobile, wood-fired sauna in a converted horse trailer, people will be invited to enter while artists perform.

Stan’s Cafe: Of All The People in All The World: Room 700, Leeds Central Library, Nov 16-19. Using a ton of rice, Stan’s Cafe aims to bring all the people in world to Leeds, so: one grain will represent the Queen, 12 for the people who have walked on the moon, a pile for UK teachers, a pile for millionaire in Europe. Visitors are invited to suggest other cohorts.