Posted on 26 Nov 2015


The first Transform programme took place at West Yorkshire Playhouse four and a half years ago. Those initial two weeks of performance, residencies and events sparked the beginning of what continues to feel like a great adventure, during which time we’ve presented four festivals and created some amazing experiences with visionary artists from Leeds and across the country.

During each festival, we took over almost every space we could find within the West Yorkshire Playhouse building with productions and events. In 2013, we took our first tentative steps in exploring beyond the venues walls, creating projects outside of tower blocks, within city landmarks, and on busy shopping streets. Each festival represented its own kind of experiment, each trying out for size a different perspective and approach to what theatre can be now, and what a project like Transform, within a venue like the WYP and a city like Leeds, can feel like and what it can do.

Since Transform began, the artistic landscape of Leeds has consistently grown in ambition, and there have been considerable shifts within the city and world around us. Inspired by all this, it began to feel the right moment to move Transform into a new chapter.

During the summer of 2014 I spent some time talking to a lot of the different people who had already been part of shaping Transform in some way, either by creating or participating in projects or attending the festivals, to get their thoughts on the direction Transform should take next. Quite quickly it became clear there was shared desire for Transform to develop and connect with more partners across the city, and whilst continuing to work with local artists and communities, to also look to other parts of the world to inspire what we do. The possibilities of what could happen if Transform became an independent company working in a citywide and international way started to feel increasingly exciting.

Last Autumn I left my role as Associate Producer at WYP to focus on developing Transform in this new context. In the Spring, we presented our evolution moment, Transform 15, bringing together artists and thinkers from across Leeds, mainland Europe and beyond, to develop new ideas for future Transform festivals. By the summer, we were registered as a new company, with refreshed mission and newfound independence.

Now, we are developing exciting partnerships across the city whilst plotting and concocting future projects. Today we launch the new Transform. In January, we announce details of our 2016 trailblazer events, giving a taste of what’s to come as part of our major 2017 festival, the first we will produce as an independent company.

The new Transform is guided by five principles, which have emerged from our work over the last few years. Since the beginning we’ve been committed to creating and presenting projects that reimagine what theatre can look like and what it can do, and this will continue to be at the heart of our mission. Embracing the independent and adventurous spirit of Leeds, our work will connect deeply with the city and world we live in now. Working with local and international artists, Transform will bring different contexts and people together through performance, parties, feasting, conversation, and amazing experiences. Transform will happen in theatres, arts venues, found spaces, and out and about the city, with many of our projects created with and for local communities. Over the next year we will launch ongoing enquiries into critical themes that affect our city, the North of England, and the wider world, inviting artists to respond to the current moment.

Transform is already being made happen thanks to an incredible mix of people. It feels the right moment to say a particular thanks to the artists we’ve developed relationships with over the years, whose input into the new direction has been instrumental, and whose ideas continue to inspire. I have the privilege to work with the amazing Ric Watts (Transform’s Executive Producer) whose insight to date has already been instrumental. Ric and I are supported by a fantastic board who are already giving so much time and expertise, and by some key individuals who we are collaborating with and who have quickly become firm comrades. Its worth giving a special mention to everyone at West Yorkshire Playhouse, who continue to support and believe in Transform, and to the new partners and funders we will be working with in 2016.

We will always be on the look out for new people to meet and work with, and would love to hear your thoughts on the new Transform and our plans over the coming years, so please do get in touch.

Amy Letman
Creative Director