‘a building for human habitation, especially one that consists of a ground floor and one or more upper storeys’
‘home, place of residence, homestead, lodging place, a roof over one’s head’
House began with the story of Robert Arthington, a rich man locally known as the Headingley Miser. He built a large house for his bride; but the bride never came. So he lived alone in one room, on half a crown a week, and received his visitors in the dark.
Around him 19th Century Headingley was growing from a country village separated from Leeds by fields and farms to a vibrant suburb, where industrialsts and imperialists alike built themselves splendid houses. The miser’s millions meanwhile were supporting missionary projects around the world. Arthington, Liberia, bears his name to this day.
Created by A Quiet Word in collaboration with members of the local community, House was a site-specific performance that explored how property and power connect Headingley and the wider world. Participants were invited behind closed doors for a conversation in the dark, and to where the present overlays the past.
Events ran from Tuesday 30 January to Saturday 3 February 2019
Photos by Lizzie Coombes.
New site-specific performance piece House will take place between 30 January and 3 February in Headingley, Leeds. You are invited behind closed doors for a conversation in the dark, and to where the present overlays the past…
House begins with the story of Robert Arthington, a rich man locally known as the Headingley Miser. He built a large house for his bride; but the bride never came. So he lived alone in one room, on half a crown a week, and received his visitors in the dark.
Beginning in Farsley this summer and, over the course of a year, we’ll be exploring and documenting the town in a range of ways.
We’ll be interviewing local residents, documenting the shops and high street with photographer Lizzie Coombes, delving around in the archives at Leeds City Library and designing a Farsley Monopoly set with children at Farsley Farfield Primary School.
All this activity led to some amazing conversations. We heard all sorts of different stories – some funny, some sad, some strange, some inspirational – a mixed bag of local folklore, historical anecdote and personal recollection. We chose thirty of the stories we were told and coupled each one with a black and white illustration, to create a Farsley colouring book, as a way of sharing back the material that we gathered.
Images by Lizzie Coombes.
One road, a thousand stories.
A Promenade Performance on Roseville Road
Roseville is a place in California where the sky is always blue. The story there begins with the dreams of pioneers. We have our own Roseville in Leeds, of a different kind, a road on the way to somewhere else. Our story here also begins long ago.
Take a walk with us down Roseville Road, for a performance trail created with the people living, working and seeking residence in the Roseville area of Leeds.
There will be romance, food, and stories you won’t have heard before – for the blue sky though, you may have to go to California.
Roseville is a strand of our ongoing exploration of the city through 365LeedsStories. The project was funded by Leeds inspired and Arts Council England and produced by A Quiet Word.
This performance walk ran from Monday 8 – Saturday 13 December 2014.
Video by Blessing Bolu Oyebanji
As part of our 365 Leeds Stories project, we will be taking part in Light Night on 3 October this year. Following A Leeds Labyrinth, which we presented in the Arts Space upstairs during May, Matthew and Alison will be bringing the central section of the structure to the main library space during the evening.
We will be launching the Almanac, a functioning diary for 2015. This Almanac is presented as part of the ongoing project; a record of the past and an invitation for the future. On its pages are reflected the ideas of over 300 people and our experience of living in Leeds. In the course of a year, stories were told aloud, poems, ballads and songs composed, paintings and photographs made, shadow puppets set loose on film, embroideries sewn and a radio programme broadcast. We travelled around the edges of the city with enquiring eyes and brought it all together in an installation ‘A Leeds Labyrinth’ at the Central Library in May 2013.
On each page of the Almanac is a story written by Matthew Bellwood, who in 2011 began a daily transmission via Twitter of snippets of overheard conversations, odd bits of local history, personal reflections and vignettes from the streets. As more stories were written, people responded, offering their own thoughts and stories in return. This ongoing microblog, @365LeedsStories, created a picture of the city – a sort of map of a particular space and time.
Since September 2013, A Quiet Word has been working with Moveable Feast and a team of artists to create further maps that trace aspects of the past and the present of our daily experience of living in Leeds. These maps have a range of forms. They bear little resemblance to the A-Z, or the tourist maps provided to guide visitors around the city, but offer psychic, geographic, sentimental, embodied, imaginary – and impossible journeys that may nevertheless be undertaken. We have also been thinking about the future, especially with the young people we have worked with, of primary school age and teenagers. We have considered what information might be needed and what constructive visions will sustain us as we go forward, collectively, into the next decades.
The origin of the word Almanac is debated – it could derive from the Greek ‘almenichiaka’, meaning calendar, with information about the movement of the stars and agricultural records, or possibly from Arabic ‘al-manakh’, referring to the climate and forecasting of the weather. The idea of presenting statistical information relevant to special interests along with a tabulated way to track time is ancient and enduring. Contemporary almanac publications cover a comprehensive range of subjects including sport, medicine, politics, farming, economics and show business. This is one designed to make space for you and your stories, as well as being a functioning diary for the coming year.
We hope to see you on 3 October …
We are delighted to have received support from Leeds Inspired for our autumn 2014 project ‘Roseville’. This is a site specific performance piece celebrating the life and history of Roseville Road in Leeds. It’s a great story:
Roseville Road is at first sight one of those chaotic, nondescript, slightly run down inner city roads, which you only drive up or down to get to somewhere else. Most of the houses which used to line it have been demolished. The residential buildings have given way to car show rooms, self storage warehouses, wholesale outlets for the ragtrade and used furniture stores.
Nevertheless, if find yourself walking along either side of the wide road and have the time to really look at the buildings, you might be surprised. You might want to break your journey into the centre of the city, or back out to the suburbs – you might want to stay awhile.
Let’s say, we begin at the New Roscoe Pub, the venue for tribute bands which is in family ownership. We are greeted by Mein Host who tells us a little of the nearly famous musicians who have played there over the years.
We pass the KMA building which houses the specialists in doors and window frames, the dojo where it is possible to have a personal coaching session on a Sunday, by appointment only and a wholesale textiles outlet. All of these businesses are closed on Fridays, as if conspiring to keep this end of the street quiet that day.
Opposite is a large carpet warehouse with a colourful display of floor coverings in the window – you could almost imagine that these are sculptured into fabulous outfits. There are people making patterns with the offcuts on the pavement – they wave at us and continue with their work.
We turn left into the lane which leads to Berwin, tailors. The stones on the foundations of the long, low building attest to the founding father, son and nephew who laid them in 1935, Jacobson. The business has been operating as Berwins since the 50s. On the other side of the road, Bridget is watching the traffic on the pavement. She tells us that they have only recently had the business on Roseville Road – ‘only since 1985 ..’ she says. The business is owned by her father and it supplies Leeds market traders with sweaters, cardigans and casual tops. She has to stand outside on the pavement between 9.00 and 11.00 am, to try and stop cars parking outside, so that the delivery van can unload. The parking situation is so bad because people working at St James’ hospital don’t want to pay the parking charges up there, so they park for free on Roseville Road. They don’t realize people have to earn a living.
Josie at number 65 remembers what the road was like when there were houses on both sides, and a school. Her’s is the only row of houses left on the street now.
We walk into the quiet, clean temple of Samuel Taylor’s, the haberdashery and stationery wholesalers. It is cool and light inside. There is a group of older people quietly at work with scissors and card. As we leave, we are given an invitation to a wedding.
Back on the road, the buildings have narrow fronts and boarded up windows. We enter a whitewashed hallway and climb narrow stairs which take us to the first floor of what appears at first to be a tiny structure. A vast array of second hand furniture stretches over several thousand square metres. From the window overlooking the road, we can see right across to the Parkinson Building tower. Backlit in this window, a couple are arguing over the issue of whether to buy bunk beds or twin beds for their children. The children meanwhile are bouncing energetically on a double bed nearby.
A young man is being fitted for a morning suit in the window of the gentleman’s outfitters.
His bride walks toward him, up the street, on the arm of her father. Her dress appears to be constructed from carpet of all hues and patterns. Her veil nevertheless is gossamer and floats gently down the street behind her, the bridesmaids catching the hem before it gets tangled.
At the Chinese Restaurant a feast is served for us, the wedding guests. Music plays. A Dragon dances, and then moves off, into the distance.
Please join us from 4 May at the Central Library in Leeds for a journey through a labyrinth. 365 Leeds Stories is a collaboration between Alison Andrews and Matthew Bellwood and our companies A Quiet Word and Moveable Feast. A Leeds Labyrinth is a collection of the work we have done with a wide range of people in the city from September 2013 – gathering stories and making maps of places important to us. These maps have been rendered in embrodieries, as shadow puppets, soundscapes, photographed, drawn as cartoons and presented in books.
We look forward to seeing you.
We have just set up a dedicated website for the project, designed by the wonderful Amy Levene at Wingfinger. Amy is also working with us as a graphic designer, and it’s her drawings you’ll see on the home page.
The link to the website is www.365leedsstories.org
We have just had the great news that Arts Council England has agreed to support the project – so with Moveable Feast, Matthew’s company we will be working with 7 different group across Leeds to create maps of life in the city. The project will take place between September 2013 and June 2014, and we will be in residence at Leeds Central Library in February 2014, working towards a performance and installation to be launched on 1 March.
We are really excited to be presenting (The story is not) Set in Stone at Slung Low’s space The HUB in June. We’d love to see you there …..
‘Mid way through the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood where the straight path was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.’
Dante: The Inferno – Canto 1
Set in Stone is an exploration of the ways we use stories – to make sense of the journey of our lives, to imagine alternatives, to reinvent ourselves, past, present or future, to while away the time or to scare us out of apathy and into action.
How far back in the story do you need to go to have the possibility of taking a different path?
Matthew and Alison explore this and other questions in a performance which draws on the wit and wisdom of writers, film makers, folklorists and philosophers, ancient and modern. It is a conversation which started in a small library hidden away in the middle of a city somewhere in England – it is also a piece about that place: how is the city story told, who is telling it, where does the story come from and what does it say about us, individually and collectively?
We will also be in residence in Hunslet in the week of 10 June, gathering stories from people we meet – some of which may find their way into the show … Box office details can be found on Slung Low’s website – link on the right … go to ‘upcoming events HUB’!