A dozen dazzling highlights from Chapel FM Arts Centre in 2021
Friday 31st Dec '21
To celebrate the start of a new year:
a dozen dazzling highlights from
Chapel FM Arts Centre
The world continued to change in unimaginable ways in 2021 and Chapel FM adapted, invented, mourned, celebrated and used the power of community arts and radio to help keep us connected.
Below are a dozen highlights of the epic journey we and our community have undertaken over the past year.
And stay tuned for a bundle of exciting new plans for 2022.
1) Our expanded and renovated venue opened to the world
After several years of careful planning and community input, we completed a major transformation of the Chapel FM Arts Centre, nearly doubling its size and adding glorious new multi-purpose hall, a cafe and outdoor seating area, meeting rooms, rental space, innovative environmental infrastructure such as ground source heating and other other features that will make Chapel FM a more inviting resource for Seacroft and the rest of East Leeds in the years to come.
“Over the years I’ve been impressed by how Chapel FM acts as a mixing pot for like-minded creative people. I know so many local musicians who are now friends with other local musicians because of work they’ve done at Chapel FM. The same is true of other groups, from writers to audio technicians, film buffs to environmentally concerned citizens, young and old. The organisation provides an extremely welcoming environment, and is an enabler of much creative activity.”
2) Our Next Generation youth broadcasters and artists soared with the Red Kite radio show and other projects
Despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid pandemic, we continued our weekly youth courses and presented lots of special workshops where hundreds of young people from our community learned how to use radio, music, creative writing, theatre and other arts to create unique stories.
Over the past year, Red Kite episodes have included: interviews with local MPs and city councillors, actors, musicians and activists; field recordings from a canal boat on the River Aire and the COP26 summit in Glasgow; coverage of Remembrance Day, the United States presidential election, Leeds Lit Fest and the Kill the Bill protests; explored local Seacroft history; reviewed local music events and theatre productions and much more.
3) Our radio station East Leeds FM was reimagined
Building on the changes we made in how we use our community radio station in 2020 when we responded to the Covid pandemic by creating a series of new more community content focused radio shows (including a daily 3-hour show, “Staying Close” in the first months of lockdown) we have continued to rethink our radio output in a number of exciting ways.
We created a new monthly East Leeds FM (ELFM) schedule that clusters radio shows together around shared themes that make the radio station easier for people in the community to understand and engage with.
We also designed a new logo for East Leeds FM that seeks to make the radio station more friendly and personable and also emphasizes an environmental focus by using the images of a red kite (the name of our flagship youth show and also a nod to the prevalence of red kites soaring over East Leeds) and an owl (the symbol of Leeds).
Among the new shows that have been created in the past year to address specific community needs are:
Care to Air – Produced with Age UK and Time to Shine, focusing on older people.
Think Global Act Local – Local discussions on confronting the climate crisis both at home and around the world.
During this past year, 743 different radio programmes were created and broadcast on East Leeds FM and received around 92,000 listens. These radio programmes also featured 640 on-air guests, many from other local community organisations and projects who were able to use this platform to disseminate information about their community work.
Finally, we are pleased to share that East Leeds FM radio was selected as a finalist for Digital Station of the Year for this year’s Community Radio Awards in Coventry.
4) Our Live Arts Events were bursting with local and national talent
Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, Chapel FM produced and hosted more than 60 live arts events and festivals including our annual Writing on Air Festival that showcased more than 150 local writers creating original work around the theme of Vision and our annual 24-hour Musicathon with more than 40 acts performing every imaginable genre of music.
Among the other live and digital arts events at Chapel FM this past year were performances ranging from a celebration of Burns Night, to new formats of our long-standing community Open Mic and Quiz Nights, debuts of world-premiere composition from our Chapel FM Jazz Collective as well as many other music, theatre, spoken word and live broadcasts as well as our 3-week “Good to Go” celebration described below.
“Chapel FM is a vital resource for East Leeds. Giving young people an outlet, a place to be themselves, be part of a community and grow in confidence. In the sessions I was part go it was inspiring to see people from a range of background all be together and think of themselves as creatives and writers.”
– Testament (Andy Brooks) hip-hop and spoken word artist
5) “We Are Seacroft” & Other Community Partnerships
One of the most significant and exciting consequences of the Covid pandemic in Chapel FM’s story is the formation of a new alliance of third sector organisations in our community: We Are Seacroft.
This network that Chapel FM developed along with LS14 Trust, Seacroft Friends and Neighbours, Fall into Place Theatre, Kentmere Community Centre and Seacroft Community on Top, evolved out of the early months of pandemic lockdown in the spring of 2020 and has since evolved into a formal, ongoing set of partnerships to share resources, knowledge, communication strategy and, above all, a vision for the future of our community.
The We Are Seacroft coalition meets weekly to share on-the-ground information about challenges and opportunities in our corner of the city. We support and promote one another’s projects, we share volunteers and participants whenever one of the member organisations has a large event or project, we conduct joint training between our staffs (for example: on engaging with asylum seekers and responding to community threats to their presence) and we are developing a new identify for We Are Seacroft that will include a new website to present our participatory offers under one umbrella.
One specific example of how We Are Seacroft leapt into action during the pandemic was around the purchase, renovation and utilisation of the Seacroft Ice Cream Dream Machine, a vintage ice cream truck that we purchased collectively, renovated and began to use in the summer of 2021 to bring cheer to the community, to raise awareness of offers and issues (such as Covid-19 vaccines) and to give out the FAB: You’re Fabulous Community Heroes ice cream awards to community members who stepped up in creative and socially engaged ways to help others during the pandemic.
This consisted of a series of celebrations where the Seacroft Ice Cream Dream Machine arrived at community centres, parks and even private homes to give local heroes their awards accompanied by live music and staff members from our organisations in the presence of neighbours. These events were highly cathartic for everyone involved after a difficult year.
As we head into 2022, Chapel FM’s role in the evolution of We Are Seacroft will be a key element in our growing role in helping develop and hold space for wider discussions about the future of East Leeds and we look forward to sharing updates on how this facet of our work evolves.
“I am an independent artist who moved to Seacroft in March 2020. Since then, Chapel FM has become a second home. The building is bright, light and the whole team are welcoming, hard-working and community-minded. Every time I enter the building I speak to someone new. It’s like there is an unspoken rule that if you are using this building then we are a part of an extended family. That is very hard to achieve and Chapel FM makes it look easy.”
– Natalie Quartermass, local climate activist and theatre-maker
6) “Sound It Out” Summer Youth Radio + Arts Project
In the summer of 2021, Chapel FM produced a three-week summer broadcasting project named Sound it Out around the theme of exploring public spaces across Leeds.
This project included field trips to gather audio at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, on a canal boat on the River Aire and Leeds-Liverpool Canal and a local history walking expedition along the Wyke Beck Way in East Leeds.
This past autumn we officially opened the newly renovated Chapel FM Arts Centre to the world with a 3-week arts and broadcasting festival (funded by Leeds Inspired): the “Chapel FM Good to Go Celebration” featuring 49 arts and broadcasting events for our community of Seacroft and the wider city and region. This festival brought more than 1,100 visitors to the Chapel FM Arts Centre during this period and engaged more than 200 participants (artists and other contributors).
Among the organisations we worked with during the “Good to Go Celebration” were:
Arts at the Arms
BBC Radio Leeds
East Leeds Project
First Story Leeds
Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip
New Leeds Church
Northern Short Story Festival
Oasis School of Human Relations
Photographers Peter Mitchell and Lizzie Coombes
Rodillian High School
Scalarama Film Festival
Seacroft Climate Hub
Seacroft Community Friends & Neighbours
Swan Song Project
The Performance Ensemble
The Sunday Practise
Time to Shine
Tower of Song
We Are Seacroft
As this list suggests, the scope and content of the “Chapel FM Good to Go Celebration” was extensive, allowing us to bring many people into our newly redesigned venue and spark ideas for future collaboration.
A few of the other “Good to Go” celebration events included:
A day-long Chapel FM Grand Reopening Celebration on Saturday 25 September featuring more than a dozen activities including a giant puppet-parade created by Handmade Parades, a Community Photo-Portrait Studio by artist Lizzie Coombes, a song-writing workshop by The Swan Song Project, local oral history tours led by Matthew Bellwood, puppet-making workshops by Thingumajig Theatre, community radio show making, an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new venue and much more.
The Fellowship of Questions Cube was a large interactive community sculpture installed on the Seacroft Village Green from 1-4 October, created by Split Design, that invited participants to playfully respond to questions by pasting their own questions onto a 3m x 3m wooden cube. This Seacroft installation was part of a pan-European project on the role of questions in public discourse being run by Heads Together Productions across 2021 and 2022. A radio broadcast about The Fellowship of Questions Cube can be heard here.
More than 20 live performances in our newly reopened venue from a wide variety of artistic genres by artists and organisations such as punk poet Mik Artistik, the theatre and storytelling collective Arts at the Arms, Irish folk-singer Sabrina Piggott, interactive theatrical storytellers The Very Grimm Brothers, the award-winning norther brass band Kippax Band, a screening of the classical Yorkshire film “Kes” curated by a young film-historian as part of Scalarama Film Festival, the Chapel FM Jazz Collective presenting the world premiere of several compositions created during (and about) the the Covid pandemic and more.
A Senior Activity Day that was centered on our long-standing partnerships with organisations serving older people Leeds Age UK and Time to Shine as well as our resident tenant Seacroft Friends and Neighbours that provided a range of activities for older people including a dementia-friendly singing group (which we will carry forward as a regular activity), an oral-history themed radio show “Care to Air” taped live in our radio studios that day, craft activities and a catered meal.
A Connecting Women event that brought together more than three dozen female artists and third sector creative workers from our community to share stories, artistic performances, resources and food during the course of a special evening with the intention of creating a new template for ongoing gatherings.
The Yorkshire Audio Storytelling Network, a new collective formed by Chapel FM Arts Centre over the past year that has already brought together more than 20 podcast, radio and sound art producers from a wide range of backgrounds and styles to share ideas, resources and feedback with one another. As part of the “Good to Go” celebration we presented our first public sharing of new and experimental audio work that included pieces ranging from poets perspectives on the climate emergency to a live DJ deck mix of excerpts from an ambitious 6-part radio documentary series about the history of Leeds Jazz.
Chapel FM’s flagship youth radio show and podcast “Red Kite” hosted an evening sharing about the work that our teenage broadcasters and artists were doing to prepare to travel to the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November 2021, just over a month after the “Good to Go” celebration.
As a result of the “Good to Go” celebration, we began to understand how our new venue benefits from curated juxtapositions of seemingly unlikely happenings: a traditional northern brass band performing immediately after an event of experimental narrative sound art or a forum with politicians and activists about the nature of parliamentary debate followed by the dedication of a library of books by local writers dedicated to the memory of a magnificent local poet, Helen Burke, with long ties to Chapel FM.
Combinations of events like these is something that is difficult to programme in more traditional arts venues and the intersection of participants and audiences from these types of events creates something a bit magical and greater than the sum of the individual programmes.
As a result of what we have learned during the three weeks of “Good to Go” we have already begun to programme arts events and other happenings at Chapel FM in a different way than before the renovation and Covid pandemic, looking at how seemingly contrasting mixes can produce intriguing outcomes. These discoveries will shape Chapel FM’s community arts programming in the years to come.
8) Showcasing Local Artists and Oral Histories: Peter Mitchell’s Photography and More
Another delight of 2021 was the opportunity for Chapel FM to host an exhibit of photographs of Leeds spaces by legendary visual artist Peter Mitchell (curator of Strangely Familiar). Peter’s remarkable body of work includes a much-loved photo of our home, the old Methodist Seacroft Chapel – seen above juxtaposed with a contemporary image of Peter sitting outside Chapel FM surrounded by some marvellous Fire Bird puppets by Yorkshire’s Thingumajig Theatre as part of Chapel FM’s “Good to Go” celebration.
We are also eager to use our newly expanded space to showcase more visual art by artists with connections to our local community and we welcome submissions and suggestions.
9) Arts & Activism Training for Adults
Chapel FM offers an entire range of formal media and arts training programmes for adults in our community. Most notable of these are our Find Your Frequency and Have a Go courses that are free to local residents and especially seek to recruit adults who are struggling with mental wellbeing, employment or other difficulties making the next step in their lives.
In additional, Chapel FM has offered a variety of other community adult training programmes over the past year including our long-running Chapel FM Tech Group that provides in-depth skills-building around live events tech (sound, lights, video) as well as a variety of radio tech. and the Chapel FM Writing Group. We have also offered more than 25 other one-off workshops on topics ranging from performance poetry to podcast production and editing skills.
An especially forward-thinking and ambitious partner project connected to Chapel FM is UNION: The Northern School for Creativity and Activism which is developing new ways to provide on-going training for adults from across our sector. UNION, which is operated by Heads Together Productions (Chapel FM Arts Centre’s parent organisation), recently launched its second year-long course with a gathering of more than two dozen participants from all parts of Leeds and will bring a bundle of new ideas, connections and energy to our work in the coming year.
“Chapel FM is one of the best things that has happened to the community. It serves as a useful mouthpiece, giving voices to both young and old people. I am particularly grateful for the courses and the programs being offered to all. It’s a true stepping stone to achieving great things.”
– Nimat Tijani, Community Participant
10) Hosting Community & Arts Happenings
Thanks to our newly expanded venue, Chapel FM has a much greater ability to convene and hold space so that individual members and other organisations in our community can work together to develop more ambitious visions for the future of Seacroft and East Leeds.
An important facet of this role is our ability to use East Leeds FM radio as a tool for getting people who might not normally talk to come together for discussion of social topics and ability to use our expanded new venue as a uniquely welcoming and adaptable community gathering space.
Among the various groups who regularly gather at Chapel FM are the new Seacroft Climate Hub, the local Labour Party, local school head teachers, job placement staff and organisations, the NHS, several socially engaged church groups, art therapy sessions, dance groups, a local theatre group and many others. In addition, Seacroft Friends and Neighbours, which serves older people in our community, is our resident tenant.
“Chapel FM is a resource for the whole community. They have given us a warm welcome to use their building for our climate group and it makes such a difference to us to be able to meet in an inviting and comfortable space. There is an openness to work together on projects that meet common goals, which is great, as for our new group it feels that we have a partnership we can grow into. We are looking forward to co-hosting the first Seacroft Community Climate Forum with Chapel FM in the New Year.”
– Sue Hoey, Coordinator of the Seacroft Climate Hub
11) New Faces – Our Growing Staff, Board and Volunteers
Chapel FM Arts Centre was delighted to welcome many key new people to our organisation in 2021.
Three fantastic new staff members joined us this year: Community Broadcasting Worker Henry Raby (above right), Community Music Worker Martin Berger (above left) and Centre Administrator Emily Moxon.
We also add six new stellar members to our Board of Trustees: Fiona Evans, Luke Judd, Nobuhle Kweyama, Linda Sage, John Toolan and Brian Williams. Thanks to this new leadership, we have begun to develop new approaches to strengthening our youth arts and broadcasting participation programmes, shaping plans for a public cafe and connecting with many more members of our community.
All of the activities at Chapel FM depend on the energy and creativity of volunteers – whether greeting visitors, overseeing front of house or doing tech for live events, producing radio shows and so much more.
“I think Chapel FM is the best for people with disability we can go on the radio and we can say all we want. I want to use there for my new musical group. It has an open door for the community and each worker are good in all they do. It breaks down walls for people with disability and I am thankful for Chapel FM.”
– David Boyd, artist and disability activist
12) Climate Emergency Radio + Arts at COP26 in Glasgow
Finally, one of the highlights of 2021 was a radio-making expedition by a group of Chapel FM teenage broadcasters and artists to the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November.
In order to prepare for this epic trip, we created a Chapel FM Youth Climate Group that met weekly throughout the summer and autumn to learn about the intersections between art, media, activism and the global climate emergency before embarking on a three-day journey to Glasgow where they interviewed people from around the planet and gathered ideas and insights that will shape our youth media and arts work in the years to come.
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