Portrait photograph of Alan Bennett


Alan Bennett will join a lineup of mature talents, as more events are revealed for a ground-breaking celebration of age and ageing at Leeds Playhouse

6th April 2023


It is less than a month to go until Leeds Playhouse is taken over by the revolutionaries, modern-day activists and contemporary artists of 1001 Stories . As part of this exciting two-week takeover, Alan Bennett, the multi award winning actor, author, playwright and screenwriter, best known for The Madness of King George, The History Boys and The Lady in the Van, will return to his home city for a rare appearance just days before his 89th birthday.


1001 Stories is a collaboration between The Performance Ensemble, Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Museums & Galleries, Leeds Older People’s Forum and LEEDS 2023.


Artistic Director of The Performance Ensemble and Director of Sinfonia Alan Lyddiard said: Having Alan Bennett join our 1001 Stories programme is a wonderful affirmation that creativity doesn’t stop as you get older; he continues to be an astute, satirical and engaging force, still creating incredible work well into his 80s. John Fox and Sue Gill started the pioneering company Welfare State International (WSI) in Yorkshire in 1968 and I am delighted that they have been able to return to Leeds to be part of this project. They are great bookends to the takeover and we feel very honoured that they, and all the many participants involved, are joining us on this journey.


“1001 Stories isn’t just for older people, it’s for all ages to enjoy, to experience and understand the narratives and lives of the older members of our society, who are just as relevant and vocal today as they were in their younger days.”


In conversation with Alan Bennett is just one of the many events at the Playhouse during the two-week takeover from 24 April to 6 May. From the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s to the enormously successful television series Talking Heads and the multi award winning The History Boys at the National Theatre, both previously staged at Leeds Playhouse, Bennett has been a significant name in the British and international cultural scene for over 60 years.


Originated by Leeds-based The Performance Ensemble, 1001 Stories has been developed with Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Older People’s Forum, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Leeds 2023 to give a voice to the pioneering generations who have lived life to the full and are still here to share their incredible stories of love and family, of the everyday and the extraordinary.


John Fox and Sue Gill, pioneers of outdoor cultural spectaculars through Welfare State International (established 1968 – 2006), are leading on an opening event that will include live music and projections. Radical Acts of Being Human will see an immersive digital installation by multidisciplinary creative studio Field bringing to life all 1001 stories of Leeds residents, past and present.


The Front of House areas of the Playhouse will host free daily events. Mornings will feature warm ups and workshops such as zumba and line dancing, roller skating and trapeze, and a free performance programme will also take place each afternoon including sessions with Pudsey Ukulele Group, a Punjabi Poetry Workshop with Sikh Elders Service, a screening room with Leeds Young Film and Leeds International Film Festival, movement sessions with Yorkshire Dance, a reunion for workers from the Burton factory, once the biggest clothing factory in the world, and an exclusive reading from the autobiography of Arthur France, founder of Leeds West Indian Carnival, written by Max Farrar. People who were part of the punk scene in Leeds and the Rock Against Racism movement are joining a panel discussion and sharing of extracts from a new play by local artist Janet Alexander, celebrating the music and the people of the time. Bringing an international flavour to the takeover are 16 older artists from Hong Kong and Guangzhou who will tell stories and perform their own songs.


The full programme of events will be on Leeds Playhouse’s website.

Already announced as part of 1001 Stories, with tickets already on sale, are new spectacular theatre production Sinfonia, full of stories, music, dance and life; In Conversation with Ken Loach, where the British film director discusses his career with the star of his film, I, Daniel Blake, Dave Johns; and the world premiere of Cormorants by Hong Kong cultural leader Augustine Mok Chiu Yu. Dave Johns makes a second appearance with his comedy show I, Filumn Star/ I, Stand up; professional and community dancers come together for Moving with Joy; Dunstan Bruce, former lead singer of chart-topping band Chumbawamba, premieres his new one-man show Am I Invisible Yet?; and the history of the steel pan is celebrated in Steel Pan Stories.


Funding for 1001 Stories has come from Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund, Leeds City Council – Leeds Inspired, The British Council, The National Arts Development Council, Hong Kong, Link Together Initiative, Hong Kong and LEEDS 2023.


Tickets for In Conversation with Alan Bennett are on sale to Leeds Playhouse’s Priority Access, Playhouse Pass Members from Wed 5 April, with tickets on general sale from Wed 12 April.