The Wood Beneath the World, A Truly Magical Experience

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Exploring The Wood Beneath The World

Before Christmas I was lucky enough to visit my old neighbourhood of Leeds, Yorkshire, in the North of England and catch up with some of Leeds most creative folk. I popped into say hi to James Abbott-Donnelly and Laura Wellington, co-founders of creative and photographic space, Duke Studios. Then downstairs from them, the lovely folk at Colours May Vary, all at the wonderfully eclectic Munro House. The My Patch exhibition at CMV was brilliant, featuring a host of great designers connected to Yorkshire, most of which I know from my eight years living in Leeds. They included Jay Cover of Nous Vous, Nick Deakin, Lucy Ketchin, Dan Mather, Drew Millward and Peter Mitchell. You can have a retrospective look at or buy their prints in the CMV online shop.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Old Christmas – beautiful set design by Lord Whitney, The Wood Beneath The World

I was super excited to hear that our mutual friends, Lord Whitney (Art Director Duo Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney) were putting on a fantastical immersive theatre show in the depths (The Crypt) of the epic Cuthbert Broderick designed Leeds Town Hall. This also happens to one of my favourite buildings in the world. I already happened to be joining some other lovely friends at the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Leeds Festival Chorus in the Town Hall that evening so popped into Lord Whitney’s The Wood Beneath The World beforehand.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Mystery and Suspense – The Wood Beneath The World by Lord Whitney

It was a truly wonderful experience, full of intrigue, fantasy and suspense! Everyone was asked not to use their phones so we could fully envelope ourselves and our senses in this world. The set was created exceptionally well and the actors played their part perfectly. The Crypt at Leeds Town Hall, which used to be prison cells really complimented the ambience of Lord Whitney’s clever narrative. Locking the intimate party of guests in between jail gates as we journeyed deep into the bowels of the immense dark building, left us in suspense. One or two guests were syphoned off from the group which had knees trembling when they didn’t return.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

The Wood Beneath The World by Lord Whitney

Soon, we were reunited and brought into a characterful room full of mystical items relating to research about the woods, folklore and much more. An old vintage formica phone and typewriter, pages of material about Celtic culture and history including Ogham stones. Coincidentally I went on a pilgrimage to find and experience the largest Ogham stone in Europe last August when road tripping with my brother around the West of Cork in my home country of Ireland. We were then armed with torches, brought into another room and encouraged to explore freely.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Celtic Ogham Stones and more – The Wood Beneath The World by Lord Whitney

Surrounded by magical trees and wandering paths, we winded through The Wood Beneath The World, punctuated by impromptu, often one to one performances by our guides. We went about discovering small rooms full of slightly eerie but charming suspenseful magic, lost in time, whilst admiring and inspecting items from a time gone by…an old text about Christmas, more information about the stars and a spellbinding display of the Milky Way. Our experience then ended with a performance by our two guides, where we felt their eyes glow in the dark, through such strong and yet light acting of their dreamy parts in this mystical world.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Discovering the Wood Cabin in The Wood Beneath the World, by Lord Whitney

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Discovering the Wood Cabin in The Wood Beneath the World, by Lord Whitney

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

The Stars in our Galaxy – The Wood Beneath the World, by Lord Whitney

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Our Milky Way Galaxy at Night – The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney

At the end I managed to catch up briefly with the lovely Amy Lord, one half of the super talented Lord Whitney. We hadn’t seen each other since the opening evening of their studios in Meanwood, Leeds just before I went off to travel the world for a year in 2011, after which I moved to London. Since then they have worked on numerous international projects in art direction, prop design and set design for the cream of the crop.

Amy Lord, Half of the Dynamic Creative Duo that is Lord Whitney - The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Amy Lord, Half of the Dynamic Creative Duo that is Lord Whitney

Their rapidly growing client list includes Missoni, Hunger Magazine, Transport for London (TFL), Tate Liverpool, London Collections, Glastonbury Festival, The Princes Trust, Computer Arts Magazine and YCN Agency. It was great to catch up with some of Leeds finest creative talent, who I can assure you will be hearing much more from in the future.

Thanks to the gloriously talented creative duo Lord Whitney for the opportunity to see this wonderful show. I’m already looking forward to your next project!

Feel free to explore their fantastic world further on Lord Whitney’s website, where you can commission them for work or just sign up to their mailing list to keep in touch with their adventures in creativity!

Gabby

Dr Gabrielle Lynch @ Dalston Street Feast, Hackney

Dr Gabrielle Lynch @ Dalston Street Feast, Hackney

Gabby and I were flatmates for a few years when we both lived in Leeds some time ago. She worked as an academic for Leeds University whilst I worked for Leeds Metropolitan University close by. Those days we only had to walk across Hyde Park or Woodhouse Moor as it’s also called in Leeds, for 20 minutes to get to our respective offices.

Since then our lives have taken us across the world, with my documentary photography adventures and Gabby who is now living in Nairobi whilst working for the University of Warwick. As she is an expert in tribal politics, Gabby follows truth commissions around Kenya. She is also writing yet another interesting book on the subject.

I currently live and work in London and always look forward to seeing my old flatmate when she visits. We always meet, celebrate and enjoy ethnic food in places such as Brixton Village Market or Dalston Street Feast, where I made Gabby’s portrait above. I loved how the blue shipping container we ate beside acted as the perfect impromptu backdrop for her splendid and vibrant outfit.

 

Nell Bryden – A Pure Legend of a Woman

©gavinfreeborn ©gavinfreeborn (1) ©gavinfreeborn (2)

I first met Nell Bryden years ago when she played at WuFest @ Dr Wu’s Bar in Leeds, organised by our mutual friend and superwoman Emma Tate nee McPartland whose wedding I had the pleasure of shooting a few years after. From the moment I first saw and heard Nell perform I knew there was just something about her. Nell and I met at Wufest a few years running when she was over from New York and we would have our annual catch up sitting by the mesmerising silver ball fountain sculpture on Calls Landing near the river Aire. A year would have gone by and we would hear each others news on life, love and lots more.

Time passed and for various reasons we didn’t cross paths both being busy in our own lives. I was out of the country a few times when Nell played Leeds again, although I was aware she had been making waves in the UK music scene with six playlisted singles on BBC Radio 2. The Irish broadcasting legend Sir Terry Wogan is a big fan! So when I was searching gig listings in London recently and found Nell was playing the Roundhouse in Camden, I was super excited to catch up with an old friend. Then I read news of Nell’s experience with battle with hair loss through alopecia which was detailed in her feature in the Daily Mail.

Nell full life story can be read here. It really is a truly unique and wonderful story showing how life shapes people. Through being a highly sociable person I meet a lot of folk and I feel very lucky to have happened upon such a talented strong and inspirational human being. Nell grew up on Brooklyn and was there when the 9/11 attack devastated her home city of New York. It took her a long time to write about it but when she did she really did! Every time I listen to this track Sirens it brings me close to tears. In my opinion President Barack Obama should have this song as the unofficial national anthem of the United States of America…what would fit better for a nation who are pushing to improve themselves and stay strong in times of uncertainty?

Nell is starting her new tour in May so don’t miss out if you get the chance the voice of this Pure Legend of a Woman.

Looking forward to seeing you again soon Nell.

Sam Brown

Samantha Brown (Sam), is a friend from Leeds where I used to live. When we both found out we’d be in Sydney at the same time as she was relocating to work as an Accountant, we’d said that we’d catch up for a drink. Little did we know that she would be living less than a minutes walk from where I happened to be staying with Don. She came round and I made us all Chai and Don cooked the most wonderful curry…photos to follow. It was lovely to be able to introduce Sam to one of her new neighbours so she’d have a friendly face in the area.