Summer festival of region’s emerging theatre talent

Martin Bonger in his theatre piece Kin.
Martin Bonger in his theatre piece Kin.
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Across Yorkshire we are lucky to have some serious talent in theatre circles – talent that is both realised and has the potential to be so.

A festival of new work called Emerge SummerFest is the perfect name for the place where you can spot the latter.

Emerge SummerFest, produced by Dick Bonham and based at the venue Leeds Carriageworks is like an Edinburgh Festival in miniature and part of a wider Emerge programme which develops artists in Yorkshire all year round.

Opening on Sunday and running for a week, SummerFest features theatre work at various stages of development – some of it, appropriately, barely at the stage of emerging, blinking into the stage lights.

Jaye Kearney has secured one of three Emerge mentored commissions which will see her work over the next 12 months with the theatre and more experienced theatre makers. After a degree at Scarborough University she studied at Oxford School of drama, but then worked in arts administration for over a decade.

“I feel like I’m re-emerging as an artist,” she says.

“I spent ten years working in arts marketing so to have Emerge support me as a theatre artist is incredibly important. I’m making a one woman show over the next year on the theme of loneliness. I’ve been given a small pot of money, which is great, but what’s more important is that over the next year I’ll get four weeks in a rehearsal space to create the piece, which I will then present at Emerge next year.”

Bonham says: “The last couple of years have seen a real sense of energy in the performance scene here in Leeds and Yorkshire. Emerge is all about celebrating the wealth of new talent that we have in the region and helping theatre-makers take the next step in their career.”

An artist who has already been through the process that Kearney is setting out on is Leeds University graduate Martin Bonger.

“Being brought into Emerge gave us a chance to see how our work would be received by audiences and also gave us the chance to have a platform to go on and talk to people about our work,” he says.

Bonger graduated from Leeds University, where he trained at the Workshop Theatre, in 2007 and began working with a number of theatre companies. He established his own company, Move to Stand, and developed his piece, Kin, alongside the Emerge programme last year.

He is back in Leeds this week to present the finished version of the work.

“We’ve already toured the piece and it made a huge difference for us to be able to say that we had developed this piece with Emerge and with a theatre that is recognised as somewhere that interesting new work comes from,” he says.

“When you are starting out on a career in theatre, it’s absolutely vital that there are established venues and people that allow you to create work at a grass roots level and then support you to take that work out and put it in front of larger and wider audiences.”

The Emerge SummerFest will also feature a range of other theatre artists, talks and workshops, beginning on June 17 at 2pm with an Open Space led by Unfolding Theatre which poses the question: “What are we going to do about theatre and performance in Leeds and Yorkshire?”

Full festival details at