19 January 2018

Our 2017 – What a Year!

2017 was a big year for us at GCF and, to celebrate, we’ve created this very handy infographic that shows you all the amazing things we got up to. A massive thank you to everyone who helped make our projects, events, partnerships and goals a reality – we couldn’t have done it without your support. Here’s to another action-packed and creative year! To view the infographic full size, click here.

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Please explore our Projects Page to find out more about what we’ve got planned in the coming months.

8 December 2017

Creating with our Young Creatives

The last couple of week have been busy ones at GCF with the first workshops for our new Heritage Lottery funded project, ‘Windrush – An Influential Force on British Culture’, Leeds Carnival Choir rehearsals ahead of their upcoming Christmas concert on 15th December, and filming sessions with our Young Creatives for their short films. Phew!

You may have caught a glimpse of us filming at various locations across Leeds over the past two weeks as part of our ‘Portrait of a Young Creative’ film project. These short films follow ten young people as they explore how the arts have shaped and will continue to shape their lives. Actress and poet Melissa was relieved to find the forecasted rain held off during her day of filming in the city centre.

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Filmmaker Ashley and young creative Melissa preparing before filming in Leeds
Melissa and Luke film project shoot, young creative stories
Shooting in central Leeds for Melissa’s short film

We weren’t so fortunate with the weather when we filmed Callum outside on the coldest day of the year – Callum and the crew were forced to take refuge in cars during snow flurries! But the team persevered and managed to capture some very atmospheric shots of the actor in the picturesque grounds of Harewood House.

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Film crew wrapped up to film actor Callum in minus temperatures

Pianist Rowan serenaded Christmas shoppers and commuters alike during his filming sessions playing the public pianos at Victoria Gate and Leeds Train Station. He has been working on a composition especially for this project, and we loved hearing it for the first time.

Filming Rowan in Victoria Gate Leeds
Filming Rowan in Victoria Gate Leeds

Filmmaker Ashley Karrell, who has been working with our Young Creatives to both shoot and help develop their films, said:

It’s great to see them taking artistic ownership of their individual short films. I think a few struggled with the amount of creative freedom they were given with this project at first. However, now we’ve started filming, it’s the perfect opportunity for each young person to start leading the creative direction of their films. After all, it’s their own stories and creative journeys they are exploring.

We can’t wait to share the final films with you in the new year. To find out more about the film project, click here.

9 November 2017

Call for Young Creatives to take part in new performance project

Looking for a new opportunity to develop your creative skills and perform to a wide audience? The Geraldine Connor Foundation is currently searching for young creatives aged 14+ and based in Leeds who are interested in music, spoken word, dance or film to create and take part in a production celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Windrush.

What was Windrush? The ship called ‘Empire Windrush’ brought the first wave of Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948, marking the beginning of the mass immigration movement in the UK that resulted in an estimated 172,000 West Indian born people living in the UK by 1961. To many, they are known as the Windrush Generation. Our brand-new production that you will help create will explore this momentous historical event and its impact in Britain today.

Weekly workshop sessions will be on Monday’s 6-8pm at the Mandela Centre in Leeds, starting on Monday 20th November, and lead to performances in June 2018. We are looking for passionate and creative young people interested in exploring their cultural heritage to sign up for this exciting new project, which will also allow you to achieve the Arts Award at Bronze or Silver level. Please note, these workshops are free to attend and, although this opportunity is unpaid, it is a fantastic chance to develop your creative skills and work alongside professional artists.

Want to find out more and express your interest? Please get in touch! Contact the Geraldine Connor Foundation by email at selina@gcfoundation.co.uk or phone us on 0113 243 1166. For more details on this exciting project, click here.

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1 November 2017

Ashley Karrell on Geraldine’s ‘unique spirit’

Leeds based film-maker, Ashley Karrell, chatted to us about Geraldine Connor ahead of the screening of his film, ‘Carnival Messiah The Film & Documentary’, which is showing at Leeds Town Hall on Tuesday 7th November as part of the 31st Leeds International Film Festival…

Geraldine Connor was a professional mentor and personal friend. It was an honour to create the film and documentary that showcases all the fantastic aspects of her epic theatrical production of Carnival Messiah. This incredible musical spectacle shows some amazing carnival costumery, magnetic voices, and a creative cast of over 150 drawn from the local Leeds community and celebrated international artists.

 

The film marks the tenth anniversary of the original production, staged at Harewood House as part of the Trust’s celebrations of the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. A decade on, Carnival Messiah has taken its rightful place as a cultural landmark in Yorkshire’s arts scene and remains relevant today. Geraldine’s vision of empowerment and inclusivity through the arts lives on not only through the film, but also through the work of the many artists she mentored and inspired. It has been a privilege to ensure that her unique spirit and phenomenal impact are cherished forever.

Feel inspired too? Then come join us at Leeds Town Hall on Tuesday 7th November at 8.15pm for Carnival Messiah the Film & Documentary. More details here.

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Ashley Karrell at the premiere of ‘Carnival Messiah the Film’ at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Sept 2017

14 September 2017

Carnival Messiah: Proof That This World Needs Art

The wonderful Anna, who has been working at GCF as part of the Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship at the University of Leeds, reflects on the lasting legacy of Geraldine Connor’s magnum opus, Carnival Messiah

When I applied to do a summer research project on ‘The Impact and Legacy of Carnival Messiah’, I never imagined where it would take me. From being mic’d up to interview world class opera singers, to drinking tea with the Earl of Harewood, to spending an evening freestyling to Caribbean dancehall music with a group of strangers, I have been awed and inspired at every turn. After six weeks work I can safely say there is no simple way to describe my exploration of Carnival Messiah, but I’ll do my best.

Anna May at the Carnival Messiah the Film screening
Anna May at the Carnival Messiah the Film screening

Carnival Messiah was the pinnacle of Geraldine Connor’s artistic career, both an exceptional piece of theatre and a politically charged platform for social and personal transformation. With its beginnings as a student project in the 90s at Bretton Hall and developing into a huge scale professional production with performances in Leeds, London, and Trinidad, it has now been seen by over 750,000 people across the globe. Geraldine herself described it as a ‘spectacular musical showcase, featuring a multi-ethnic multitude of singers, musicians, masqueraders, dancers and actors […] the excitement, music and colour of Carnival blended with Handel’s most inspiring and exhilarating melodies’. The classical Christian story presented in an explosion of global art forms sounds bizarre and chaotic, and in many ways it was, but it worked.

Carnival Messiah 2017 1 - Photograph by Diane Howse
Carnival Messiah, Photograph by Diane Howse

Carnival Messiah was a dazzling spectacle that received standing ovations from audiences night after night, but it was also deeply enlightening and transformative. The production was embedded with history and politics; it aimed to educate the diverse community of Leeds about its rich mutli-cultural heritage, with a focus on Caribbean culture, looking at themes such as the migrant experience, the meaning of Carnival, and the history of the slave trade. Geraldine was concerned by the harmful divisions in our society, by the way cultural difference was being exploited for conflict and exclusion, rather than celebration and unity. She saw Carnival Messiah as a way to approach these issues in a non-confrontational way, while helping each participant to develop professional and life skills at the same time. Through art, Geraldine created a platform for empowerment, equality, and hope, and paved the way to space of ‘safety and well-being where all can co-exist in love, peace and harmony’.

Carnival Messiah 2017 5 - Photograph by Diane Howse
Carnival Messiah, Photograph by Diane Howse

Ten years since the last performance at Harewood House, and six years since Geraldine passed away, Carnival Messiah is still alive and kicking. Every single person (and I mean about a hundred of them) who have spoken to me about their experience seem buoyed up by some sort of external energy, a sense of truth and joy unique to Carnival Messiah. Each person has been on their own journey, both professional and personal, which continues to impact them even now. Every interaction, the face-to-face interviews, the phone calls, even the emails, have been full of life and taught me a multitude of unexpected lessons about the creative world, but also about life more generally. I feel privileged to have had my eyes opened to the very special world of Carnival Messiah and am grateful to everyone I have met and who made this possible.

Carnival Messiah is the perfect example of good art. While drama, dance, music, design etc. may be seen primarily as a creative outlet, a source of entertainment, or a showcase of talent, we must not forget its powerful potential to enrich and transform people’s lives. To me, this is what art is, and this is what we should be striving for.

If you were involved in Carnival Messiah and would like to share your experiences about the production with us, please get in touch: info@gcfoundation.co.uk.

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