Leeds Arts Centre Chapel FM brings vision to the airwaves

Image credit: Joanna Sedgwick

Just over a year since it had to be postponed as a result of Covid-19, Chapel FM Arts Centre in East Leeds is presenting a three-day radio and digital festival, Writing on Air. Based around the theme of Vision, writers and performers will be taking part in over thirty events, including a radio drama peering into a dystopian future, stories from writers in Leeds’ German sister city Dortmund and programmes about award-winning photographers.

In addition, from the 26–28 March there will be surprise-filled glimpses into the history of eye diseases, vision-inspired music performances, audio soundscapes, plus four free writing workshops, open-mics and more. As festival organiser and Chapel FM director of words Peter Spafford explains, the lockdowns haven’t stopped people creating quality output.

“Topics being explored in this year’s Writing on Air festival range from mystical visions to the history of optical science. All the shows are created by writers and readers in Leeds and Yorkshire or others with a direct connection to our city.”

The Writing on Air festival has been an epic spring-time annual event for the past six years with each instalment taking up a different theme that prompts writers and other word-oriented artists to make connections around a shared topic. The vision-themed edition of Writing on Air was set to happen last spring on the very day the Covid-lockdown arrived. Its long-awaited return will happen in two-parts in 2021: the digital and radio edition in March and an in-person sequel this summer.  Hopefully.

“It was tough to have to call off Writing On Air last year, but we always knew it was only a postponement. We already had over 30 programmes in the can, so we’re beaming them all to the world on the weekend of March 26th-28th. There are some great add-ons too in the form of 4 writing workshops led by exciting new writers from the renowned Writing Squad, plus 2 Open Mics. There are still places, so sign up!”

The theme of Vision is especially fitting for Chapel FM Arts Centre at this time. During the covid lockdown, the Seacroft-based arts centre underwent an expansion and renovation, adding a community café fitted out with space for a small bookstore and take-a-book-leave-a-book library designed to showcase the work of local writers plus many other new features giving people from the community space to enact their own visions in the future.

Chapel FM’s community radio station also reimagined its way of connecting communities during the pandemic, launching a number of new radio projects such as the youth-led Red Kite and bringing literary radio shows like the long-running Love the Words to wider audiences in podcast form. Station co-director, Tony Macaluso, sees the redesigned festival as a sign that things may not be what they were, but at least going in a more positive direction.

“For anyone in Leeds or the wider world looking for reasons to feel a little more hopeful about how artists and especially writers can help us all see the way forward after this turbulent year, the Writing on Air Festival offers an amazing weekend-long voyage. Each individual programme will be exciting and full of fresh ideas, but hearing how all of these different writers and artists’ work fits together into a bigger whole that helps us think about the idea of vision is new ways – that will be an especially insightful experience.”

All of the Chapel FM Writing on Air programmes can be streamed on the Chapel FM website.

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