TRY Leeds - RUGBY UNION WORLD CUP CULTURAL PROGRAMME
In 2015 Leeds hosted two matches from the Rugby Union World Cup welcoming international visitors from South Africa, Canada and Scotland. Run by a central event organisation each city was asked to produce wrap around activity that would provide a welcome to visitors, build a sense of anticipation in the city and engage the local population in activities, particularly low-income families who would be unlikely to attend the matches.
I commissioned a cultural programme in two parts, which became known as TRY Leeds. Working with local artistic producers Dep Arts, Leeds based outdoor theatre specialists Slung Low and London-based theatre company Tangled Feet, we created a two-week festival of theatre and performance leading up to the matches being hosted in the city.
One of the main challenges for the programme was to build interest in Rugby Union matches in a predominantly Rugby League city pitching the events based on opportunities for celebration and participation rather than the specifics of the sport.
TRY Leeds created a touring production by Slung Low which was designed to be played on rugby pitches to family audiences, and toured 12 clubs over a two-week period before playing two final shows in the main Rugby World Cup hub at the city’s Millennium Square Fan Zone. The production focused on the songs and anthems, both official and otherwise, that have coloured the game and charted the political and social mood of nations - from South Africa’s uplifting tribute to Mandela, and the New Zealand Haka to the stiff upper lip of the British National Anthem. The four-person cast performed the one hour show as a headphone show giving them the full run of the pitch and the audience an intimate audio history of Rugby Union at its best.
Building on the interest and appetite created by Rugby Songs we also commissioned a large scale outdoor performance to be shown in the Fan Zone on the eve of the games in Leeds. Working with Tangled Feet we recruited a community cast of performers and worked across leisure centres and village halls to rehearse a carefully choreographed performance featuring residents from age 19 to 90.
The show told the story of the team work that is central to Rugby Union throughout which our community cast erected a giant goal post and worked together to score a winning try in a spectacular finale of fireworks and flames overlooking the Leeds Civic Hall.
The production had a final community cast of more than 150 people, and was ticketed but free to the general public attracting crowds of more than 2,000 residents and visitors to the official Fan Zone and celebrating the hosting of the games in style.