Festival beats the blackout

By John Fisher, July 18, 2008

Arguably the most impressive performance of the eighth Leeds Jewish International Performing Arts Festival took place behind the scenes before Sunday’s opening night.

With a record 3,500 tickets sold and performers arriving from America, Canada, Israel and the breadth of the UK, the organisers learned that a planned 48-hour strike by Unison members would shut the festival venue, The Carriageworks in Leeds city centre, on Wednesday and Thursday.

However, after hours of negotiation with the Carriageworks management, the organisers were given permission to bring in technicians from an outside company.

Festival director Ellie Ruhan said that “at one point I felt I was sitting around the table at the UN. But we all managed to keep our heads and come to a happy solution.”

Stars of the five nights included mind-reader Marc Salem, comedians Josh Howie and Yisrael Campbell, the Tel Aviv Youth Performing Arts Academy and jazz and funk bands.

Leeds Jewish Representative Council president Sue Dorsey took pride in how local Jewry had embraced the festival. “We are a vibrant community and this event is a testament to that.”

Opening the festival, deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Gerald Wilkinson said: “We value the enormous contribution that the Leeds Jewish community is making to this city.”

Last updated: 3:35pm, September 22 2009