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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Sekabo – Utopia on t’Moors?

Sally Bavage writes:
Photo courtesy Shanghai Daily
Richard Woolley was founding Head of the Northern School of Film and Television at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University) as well as founding Dean of Film and TV at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, all part of an illustrious CV. You could describe him as a musician and composer.  Or filmmaker.  Or scriptwriter.  Morphing into a serious novelist.  

Speaking at a LitFest 'Between the Lines' event in the intimate surroundings of the Heart centre's café yesterday evening, he told his audience that he was first set thinking about the premise for this novel after watching Chris Patten in tears on the eve of the handover of Hong Kong, a place where the British tried out political, social and economic experiments which disturbed the watching Chinese.  And still disturb the present Hong Kong youth.

This imaginative teller of tales has written his third novel, Sekabo, strongly influenced by close to two decades living in Leeds and a decade living in Hong Kong.  It has two time frames – 1990 and 2097 – and two key locations – England and Sekabo.  It has two parallel plots that gradually interweave in sometimes expected, sometimes surprising ways, leaving you uncertain as to your powers of prediction.  Plots and sub-plots abound in a tale that is as much about entertaining contexts as it is about the fates of our heroine and hero.

Cover graphics designed by Daniel Reeve
The book is a lively “mix of research, imagination and personal experience”, clearly written by a writer employing strong visual imagery; it intercuts the plotting to maintain the suspense with the immersion in another timeframe.  Vonnegut undertones and many subliminal sci-fi references fuse into a book that really is Something Else. 

Be prepared to be surprised, drawn in, perhaps slightly shocked - there are a few raunchy episodes.  Most of all, enjoy the many references to local places around the North Yorkshire Moors.  You have probably walked there.  Prescient comparisons - political, social and technical - are referenced more obliquely but give many pauses for wry thought.  Utopia on t’Moors? 

And the denouement?  Ah, you’ll have to buy the book - or download it to an early prototype reading device that by 2097 will be viewed as a museum piece. 

Read this piece in The Shanghai Daily:

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Sekabo is the third novel by Richard, who as as well a novelist is a successful screenplay writer and film director. He was the founding Head of the Northern School of Film and Television at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University) and is a former Director of the Dutch Film Academy, founding Dean of Film and TV at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, inaugural holder of the Greg Dyke Chair of Film and Television at the University of York and, most recently, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Performance, Media and English at Birmingham City University. 

The café will be open especially for this free event, which is presented as part of the Between the Lines programme of Headingley LitFest. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Dinner with the Decameron

in the Salumeria

Following the success of ‘Dinner with Dante’ during the Headingley LitFest in March, we are proud to present the sequel. This time, some of the classic stories of Giovanni Boccaccio will be read to you to help you digest your light supper, in English with some of the original Italian. They go perfectly with a glass of wine!

With Gigliola Sulis and Richard Wilcocks

Monday 8 December       7.30pm

Tickets £15 from Salvo’s             0113 - 275 5017

   A LitFest ‘Between the Lines’ event

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Mimika - completely enchanting

Small Worlds - Saturday 1 November - Mimika


Gail Alvarez writes:
Waiting to be invited into the tent
Picking apples from an unsteady ladder,and the broken ankle that followed, did not stop Jenny, one half of Mimika children’s theatre, from working with partner Bill in four sell-out performances at the Heart centre in Headingley. Thanks go to her sister Sheila for helping out and ensuring the show must – and did – go on. Fortunately, Jenny's part in the production involved mainly crawling about, out of sight, on the floor of a large, custom-made, igloo-shaped tent.

Not long before the beginning
Old and young alike packed each show, which held audiences spellbound.  I half expected to see some of the adults sucking their thumbs too, so intent were they on the small world created inside the intimate and cosy world of the tent. Utterly absorbed by the unfolding drama, eyes wide, mouths agape.  The children in the audience too!  Lovely to hear  those children giggle in delight and stare in concern at a form of entertainment which was born thousands of years ago but which is still such a good medium for sparking imaginations.

No wonder that Mimika provide such a gentle but profound experience, taking us all to a (small) world we can see, hear, imagine, describe and talk about in our mind’s eyes and our internal conversations.  Film clips, hundreds of sound effects, music geared to the action, puppets and props create a microcosm of rural life for a small living things. The creatures get larger as the show develops. There are butterflies of various hues, a pink-spotted bug, honking geese (soprano and bass), a mother fox slinking through the woods and looking after cubs in the sett, a green lizard which is squashed by a child's bicycle before it can snap up flying insects, a girl straight out of a six year-old's drawing - for forty-five minutes the audience was captivated.  
Owls are always welcome

What ideas have been planted in our observers by these tiny tales?  Time will tell but storytelling always starts in the mind’s eye.

Audience comments include:
Mesmerising!  The detail is wonderful. Thank you for coming to Heart.  Please come again.  Everyone should see this.  Julia.

So wonderful to see handcrafted settings and such a different, unusual mixture of media.  Captivating!  Loved the foxes and bugs particularly! Music was beautiful too.  Would definitely come again! Luisa

Beautiful, engaging, very magical for the kids.  Would love to see more. Liz

A magical experience – I emerged bemused, enraptured – full of questions!  Thank you.  Lis

It was absolutely beautiful.  Magical.  I was almost crying which is unusual for me!  Thank you!  Lucy

Truly enchanting and I could not help but wonder at the huge amount of time and energy involved in the making and production of the performance - the art work, model making and the combination of digital film and immersive sound was inspired. The audience - young and old were truly engaged and spellbound. Douglas

Bill Parkinson and Jenny Ward                                Photo: Richard Wilcocks

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Inspiring stuff for Ilkley - and Headingley

Sally Bavage writes:
Osmondthorpe and Headingley Writers work their magic again

Saturday night at the Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe and two groups who collaborated to put on a fantastic performance at the Headingley LitFest in March joined together once again to reprise some of their work and add in a few new pieces.  Inspiring stuff – despite that you were sometimes holding your breath with admiration and awe as feelings and effort were laid bare.

The groups were first brought together early in January 2014 by a partnership between the WEA and Headingley LitFest, supported by a grant from Jimbo’s Fund.  LitFest commissioned local author and WEA tutor Alison Taft to provide significant additional tuition to wannabe writers and poets from the Osmondthorpe Resource Centre.  The new creative writing tutor at the ORC, Maria Preston, did her group proud as compere, with strong technical support from centre manager David Fletcher. Their belief in their writers shone out, and it was wonderful to see the self-belief developing in our performers, despite the shaking hand-held papers and quavering voices.

The groups have produced a heartwarming 48-page anthology of their writing and poems, available for only £2 from the Osmondthorpe Centre.

Contact for further information.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Grim Tales from the War

 – but love, laughs and life too.          Tuesday 14 October

Gail Alvarez writes:

Richard Wilcocks, Secretary of Headingley LitFest, treated a large and supportive audience at the Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe in the Ilkley Playhouse to an absorbing selection of anecdotes from a wide range of sources.  The medical practitioners – the VADs, matron, staff nurses, RAMC surgeons – and the patients all had a representative in the book to tell their tale.  Medical care and practice in WW1 had many surprises: for examples the team of privately-sponsored masseuses (yes, really), smoking in bed as the norm, a singular lack of pain relief or antibiotics and the surgery that rebuilt faces and shattered lives.

His extensive interviews with surviving relatives in the Yorkshire region had provided accounts based on personal memorabilia and recollections and Stories from the War Hospital, first published in March 2014 by Headingley LitFest, details life at the 2nd Northern Military Hospital in Headingley, known at the time as Beckett Park Hospital.  Two years went into the research and the writing, exemplified tonight by the extraordinary true tales of Private Robert Bass and VAD Nurse Dorothy Wilkinson, just two from the dozens in the book. 

Richard is an entertaining speaker/performer, with a talk illustrated by snatches of song, poetry and racy gossip as well as some of the starker statistics about the close to 60,000 patients who passed through the doors of the former City of Leeds Training College for teachers.  He has a knack for exploring the grim and the grime, to find the laugh, the life and even the love story. For more on the book go to its website at

Richard is available for Powerpoint-illustrated talks and storytelling sessions based on his book, and is also offering teaching sessions and drama workshops in schools. Get in touch by emailing

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Mimika Theatre - Small Worlds

The internationally renowned Mimika Theatre returns to HEART with 'Small Worlds' an enchanting new show for Leeds.

Mimika's performances, which use immersive soundtracks, puppetry, digital animation and miniature landscapes, are presented in a beautiful white tent where children and adults alike experience an intimate and atmospheric show full of magical and poetic imagery.

This is an ideal half term treat for all the family. 

or at Heart - see poster for details.

A Headingley LitFest event: