Reduced arts festival fails to draw the crowds

By John Fisher, June 28, 2012
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Festival director Ellie Ruhan with the Graffiti Classics quartet on Monday

Festival director Ellie Ruhan with the Graffiti Classics quartet on Monday

An energetic performance by Polish klezmer band Klezmafour kicked off a reduced programme for the 12th Leeds International Jewish Performing Arts Festival on Monday.

Klezmafour — finalists in their country’s Must Be The Music talent show — performed to a crowd of 120 at Leeds College of Music, under half the number attracted by the headline openers in the 2011 festival. Dramatic input was provided by American actress Deborah Jean Templin’s nod to the Titanic’s Unsinkable Women and the programme also featured London comedy string quartet Graffiti Classics. The rags-to-riches story of international theatre producer and “Secret Millionaire” David King was told to Radio Leeds presenter Liz Green.

Comedian Mark Maier was back in the city after appearing at a recent Leeds UJIA fundraiser, playing for more laughs in the Northern Ballet arena on Tuesday. Israeli group the Doo-Wop Girls performed on Thursday.

Local talent included 14-year-old Alex Stanley and Gay Abandon, winners of the Leeds Choirs Rock competition. “This time around we decided to go for quality over quantity and I feel we succeeded,” said festival director Ellie Ruhan. “Our patrons were thrilled with the diversity.”

However, at the beginning of the week, only 2,000 of the sales target of 3,000 tickets for the four days of performances had been sold.

“Festival sponsorship remains as robust as ever so our budget has not been affected,” maintained festival chairman Stanley Cundle. He was confident that, despite disappointing opening night attendances, ticket sales would rally for the later shows.

In any event, Klezmafour’s manager Piotr Bronka was heartened by the audience response. “The crowd seemed to like us and gave us a fantastic reception. We like the city and the sights.”

Audience member Hillary Miller was impressed by the performances but upset by the turnout.

“The acts I’ve seen have been terrific and deserved to play to bigger audiences. I lament the lack of drama, though. For a performing arts festival this creates an imbalance — as does the midweek break.”

Organisers are predicting a near sell-out for Sunday’s festival finale with showband the Yiddish Twist Orchestra.

    Last updated: 3:25pm, June 28 2012