Throughout 2019 we hosted 5 artist residencies, presented 3 new projects, produced 1 exhibition and created a digital publication; all of which helped inform our programme for compass festival 2020.

Find out more about about our 2019 projects below.

Image: Listen Through my Ears by Nicole Murmann. Image by Vicky Mathers/Iconphotomedia.

Artist Development Bursaries 

In 2019, we ran a series of Artist Development Bursaries, offering a mix of cash, consultancy and contact with a range of artists who took part in our 2019 residency programme.  The scheme focuses our commitment on retaining and developing live art practice across Leeds and Yorkshire and some work has been developed as part of the programme for Compass Festival 2020. 

Matt Allan Matt Allen is an artist and performance maker based in Leeds. Matt creates digital and participatory art under the name Closed Forum. The latest project Matt is working on, The Journey, is a series of interactive narratives that lets participants reimagine places in Leeds. These take the form of mobile games that are played on the streets of Leeds. The Compass Bursary is allowing Matt time to research and develop his projects while focusing on ethical participation and how he works with artists and audiences.  Alice BradshawAlice Bradshaw is an artist, curator and writer. She is interested in discarded, everyday materials and words. Recycling and repetition are important strategies in her work, which sets up a dialogue around the value of rubbish through objects, publications, exhibitions and events.Through her Compass Live Art Development Bursary, Alice is exploring the role and value of dialogue in art practice. Alice is blogging daily about dialogue as part of her artist development project. She is focussing on everyday conversations relating to her art practice, the liminal spaces of dialogue and dialogical learning.Nicole Murmann (She/They)Nicole Murmann has lived and worked in Leeds since 2016. Nicole’s areas of research explore inclusive-feminism, queer, politics, the limits of the body.ies, collecting opinions, stories and sharing conversations. Their current research explores public space as political strategy of exchanges with no-specific “audience”.

With the Compass Live Art Development Bursary, Nicole is developing a one-to-one performance/installation about her childhood using sound, imagination, memories and stories. Nicole will share childhood memories, inviting participants to share their memories or to simply have a conversation. China Duke (They/Them) China is a changeling born from the Yorkshire dirt. Constantly shapeshifting into witches, fauns, clowns and oracles, their practice is an attempt to elude the social order in order to reimagine those structures and forge a new spirituality within them. They use ritual, storytelling, visual art and dance in a tiny, desperate attempt to edify, protest and heal the wounds caused by the late-capitalist hellscape we’re all trapped in. They can usually be found in liminal spaces like nightclubs, hotel corridors and fields (places where God is easier to hear).They intend to use their time with Compass Festival to research methods of communality and kindness in live art, and develop a piece of work intended as a gift to Leeds.


Leah Earnshaw is our first ever recipient of the Compass Graduate Award Scheme. 

Leah Earnshaw is a recent graduate from the BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance course at Leeds Beckett University. She is interested in developing durational work which is based around social, economic and environmental issues which are rarely discussed or reported on by media outlets. For her most recent piece of work she performed ‘The Genes of Jeans’ at Leeds Beckett University. The performance spanned across 4 days as part of the Lift Off festival and creative arts festival Beyond. She undertook the task of unpicking the stitching from denim jeans, in representation of Bangladeshi garment workers. Leah’s main focus is socially engaged practice and her interests lie in connecting with audiences to relay research to educate and provoke discussion amongst them. 


07/08/2019 – 11/08/2019

During our 2018 festival, strangers were invited to place a small piece of clay between their hands to create a unique impression of a moment of communication. The handshake is a universal symbol of greeting, parting, agreement and acknowledgement. It’s a physical connection all the more significant in our contactless, virtual reality, hands-free world. 

This summer we were lucky enough to host a celebration of Sarah Caputo and Brenda Unwin’s 1000 Handshakes in Bond Court. We are displaying the fired handshakes for participants to find those very impressions

In total we hung 599 handshakes by 1000m of fishing wire and collected some more along the way. We met hundreds of people throughout the course of the exhibition who spent time chatting and sharing stories with us. We were joined by an investment banker who travelled the world and shook hundreds of hands a day and reflected on how he never thought about the space in between – but now he would. We met a little girl who came in and wanted to shake every single one so she could say she had met 600 people. Compass cant wait to bring similar art works and interventions to the city in our 2020 festival in November. We would like to thank Leeds Inspired, Leeds BID, Leeds Bus Station and La Bottega Milanese for their support during this project.


Throughout 2019, we invited 5 artists and artist groups from across the UK and Europe to Leeds for artist residencies. Embedding themselves in the daily life of the city, the artists met locals, groups and organisations whilst also enjoying studio time to develop their latest ambitious projects. Residencies will resulted in public sharings and helped inform the programme for Compass Festival 2020. 

Demi Nandhra

‘We’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired’ is a project about collective sadness, political failures and resistance. It was born out of Demi’s own lived experience of being confined to her bed by crippling depression. She started to wonder and read about the connections between her sadness and her oppressions. She wondered if her sadness was collective, she wondered if our sadness is political and wondered if we could use our beds and our sadness for protest. In 2019, Demi will work to develop her solo work, ‘I’m Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired’ into a collaborative group project with women of colour from across Leeds.

Demi’s residency with Compass will include studio time, research into the recently published The State of Women’s Health in Leeds report, community meetings and sleepover workshops. Building on this she will develop a new ensemble performance for the lobby of a major Leeds office building, to be performed by women of colour from Leeds during Compass Festival.


ZU-UK are working to create a piece that is re-enacted by audiences, with and for each other. A space led by image and sound, where we play at re-enacting British history with question ‘How the f**k did we end up here?’  A place where all our views can be experienced, played out and appreciated as nuanced temporary positions. A site for play and risk-taking, an experience that brings us closer to our fellow human beings. An interactive work that asks if it is possible for us to re-imagine ourselves, others and the world around us. 

ZU-UK invite you to explore intimacy, anger, re-enactment and large scale spectacle with fellow humans. Teaming the dystopian and familiar setting of a car park with a wireless sound aesthetic, they are on the hunt for the possibility of mobilised collective action. 

Joshua Sofaer 

During Joshua Sofaer’s residency with Compass Live Art in 2019, he will meet as many private collectors living in Leeds as possible, share stories and develop the project ‘Museums in People’s Homes’ which is a collection of collectors across the city, unified by their desire to showcase things they have spent time amassing. Sofaer himself is an enthusiastic collector of marginal things: disposable ice cream spoons, Finnish bread ties, fortune cookie fortunes, fake noses, to name a few. He is especially interested in odd and unique collections of things that might normally be disregarded and wants to work with collectors in Leeds to showcase these.

Etheridge & Persighetti 

Etheridge & Persighetti’s work usually contains 100’s of different kinds of exchanges between artists, audiences, and participants. This year they are developing Public House, which had its first expression in Compass 2018, by setting up an exchange between Penryn and Leeds.

This particular notion of exchange links into one of the key elements of a good pub, and that is the art of hosting. We are inviting a couple of Leeds based partners (who have already expressed an interest in exploring pub culture and issues in Cornwall) to come for a weekend of conversations, excursions and meetings, with the idea that we will then return the exchange by bringing a couple of Cornwall based pub activists to Leeds.

On location in Leeds or Penryn celebrating and exploring the diverse cultural roles of pubs in city and more rural contexts we will be discussing and sharing thoughts about the process and implications of viewing pubs for example, as Assets of Community Value. We will consider the social and economic impact and challenges to pubs, publicans and customers posed by the digital age.

We believe that by bringing people together face-to-face the Exchange will yield some unexpected, entertaining and creative outcomes that would not come about via remote communication networks. There could be new songs, new brews and connections that will provide celebratory, public outcomes fermented by this geographically extended residency. 

Peter Aers 

Ghent based artist Peter Aers will spend a week with the children of Leeds, reflecting with them on our systems of crime and punishment, whilst documenting these conversations through wooden sculptures made collaboratively with the children and creating an agora-like space. During the conversations and woodworking, the meaning of living and thinking together will be examined, as well as the meaning and (im)possibilities of sharing a space.

Peter is interested in how we can create a space for and with children (as community members that are usually not often heard), that feels safe, free, and open. Peter’s aim is to work with children from across Leeds from traditional school contexts to home schooled networks and beyond into alternative education provisions. He will work with recycled materials provided by Leeds Wood Recycling and will be assisted by local carpenters.


We released Happiness, Loneliness and Animals written by Chris O’Connor. This publication documents the encounters and experiences of those who engaged with the festival in 2018. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

You can read the publication here


Compass Festival 2018 was supported by Arts Council England, Leeds City Council, Leeds BID and Leeds Beckett University. ‘Happiness, Loneliness and Animals: Reflections from Participants of Compass Festival 2018’ was written by Chris O’Connor and supported by Live Art UK



This Digital Arts and Food Justice Forum, What’s Eating Reality?, was commissioned by Compass and presented in partnership with Leeds International Festival.  

What’s your relationship with coffee and sugar? How much do you know about those saccharine grains and bitter grounds you reach for every morning? What’s Eating Reality? explored how digital art can be used to examine issues around food justice. The forum was an opportunity to activate audiences, and questioned whether using creative projects to highlight inequality in the global food system can lead to changes in policy and public opinion, with the intent to move towards producing a fairer food system for all. The event featured food justice campaigners, academics, technologists, culinary artists and digital artists, who all examined the use of art as a mechanism for inspiring, entertaining and informing audiences.

The evening featured two short immersive works for smartphones by artist Maya Chowdhry which investigated our relationship with coffee and sugar. On arrival, attendees received an ethically-sourced drink and snack prepared by Liverpool based chefs FoodSketz.

Our special guests included Viv Taylor: Head of Product at Olio; Behla Hutchinson: Coordinator at Hyde Park Source, and Megan Blake: Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Sheffield and author of the blog GeoFoodie. 

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