1001 Stories Take-over: Older People from across West Yorkshire taking over the Playhouse building

18 Apr 2023


Household names and local undiscovered talents, all over 60, have joined forces with Leeds Playhouse for a ground-breaking celebration of age and ageing, developed by hundreds of older people and partners from across the city.  An original concept by The Performance Ensemble, 1001 Stories will be a ‘takeover’ by older people of every space at Leeds Playhouse, from 24 April – 6 May.

As part of this radical two-week takeover, the Front of House areas of the Playhouse will host a range of free daily creative activities. From screenings and performances to workshops and talks, the building will be buzzing with the rebellious sounds and sights of older people having their say creatively.

“We began co-creating the takeover by reaching out to older people’s groups across the Leeds City Region asking the simple question: What is it you would like to say or do?,” said Alexander Ferris, Associate Director of Leeds Playhouse. “We were inundated with incredible creative ideas and suggestions for celebrations and shared experiences. The result is that more than 60 different groups of creatives over 60 will now wow audiences with their stories, skills, knowledge and creative talent.

“Visitors of all ages can spend the whole day with us during the two-week takeover, filling their mornings with interactive workshops, breaking bread with new and old friends and, in the afternoon, enjoying entertainment performed by older artists who will dance, sing, play the ukulele, share stories and even show off their latest fashions.”

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


Tuesday 25 April

  • Make your own chapati with the Association for Blind Asians from 1.30pm
  • Experience touching stories through movement with Touchstone’s Hamari Yaadain South Asian Dementia Café participants at 3pm


Wednesday 26 April

  • Stretch with seated yoga run by Hawksworth Older People’s Support Service from 11am
  • Join in with raucous (sometimes bawdy!) sea shanties led by Heydays from 3pm
  • Enjoy songs and a play reading by MESMAC’s Sage Men’s Group at 3.30pm


Thursday 27 April  

  • Strut your stuff with DECODANCE dance company with warm ups, workshops and performances throughout the day
  • Tour our backstage workshops and chat about carpentry and metalwork with our knowledgeable staff
  • Spend time with Leeds legend Arthur France MBE as he shares snippets of his biography, written by Max Farrar, from 4pm


Friday 28 April

  • You’re never too old to don your rollerboots for a skating workshop and demo with LSTEN from 11am-1pm
  • Stay in style with a fashion show from Ebony Milestone Events, featuring older models, at 1.30pm followed by a Swishing and Swashing Clothing Exchange


Saturday 29 April

  • Get Your Groove On with Yorkshire Dance Disco from 12.30pm

Tuesday  2 May

  • Burlesque performer Edwin Winlong shares his skills in a workshop and performance from 11am
  • Hear Arek Hearsh MBE in conversation with his wife Jean from 3pm as part of the MILIM Literary Festival
  • Meet Sarbjit and Jatinder from the Sikh Elders Service as they discuss being the first vloggers on the BBC.


Wednesday 3 May

  • Start your day with a gentle Tai Chi session at 10.30am
  • Join the Playhouse’s own Heydays Open Mic from 3pm
  • At 5pm, catch an exclusive performance by Hong Kong company Arts Options Limited as they ask you to Embrace the Tastes of Life


Thursday 4 May

  • Charleston with Northern Ballet’s Great Gatsby warm up
  • Learn about your family history with Leeds Libraries from noon
  • Discover that it is actually rocket science as Dr Margaret Bending performs her solo show Chasing the Dream: The Story of a Rocket Scientist at 3.30pm


Friday 5 May

  • Urban Angels Circus will have you in a spin as you try your hand at aerialism and enjoy their performances from 10.30am
  • Performance Ensemble member Tamara McLorg will perform her show They Moved Chairs to Give Me Passage at 11am

Saturday 6 May

  • Former Artistic Director of renowned theatre company Kneehigh Mike Shepherd shares his experiences in a lecture at 11am
  • Punks unite – writer, director and former F Club regular Janet Alexander presents some scratch scenes and a panel discussion exploring the early punk scene in Leeds and development of Rock Against Racism at 2pm
  • Bring along your favourite 7” records or justlisten to other people’s choices at Seven by Seven’s friendly open decks session from 6.45-10.30pm

Other activities you might like

  • We’ve partnered with Leeds City College students who will be offering free hand massages and manicures all round.
  • A newly-created boutique Screening Room will show short films, and maybe one or two surprise features, celebrating ageing and older people.
  • Give a Hoot! with MindWell’s Origami Owl Making – see if you can help us make 1001 owls and perch them in our magical indoor tree
  • Leeds Museums & Galleries will be in our foyer throughout the takeover offering a variety of workshops and drop-in activities from Sustainable Stories to Pop-Up Portraits
  • Our regular Heydays members will open up their weekly activities so anyone can join each Wednesday.
  • Enjoy numerous exhibitions celebrating older people, including In Mature Company’s sights and sounds of a care home; The Guava Group’s artistic expressions of migration and how the regeneration of cities can make the familiar unfamiliar; Swan Song’s melodies linked to artworks from of people planning their end stages of life or dealing with a bereavement;; Hawksworth Wood Older People’s Services’ celebration of older bodies.
  • Walk through Radical Acts of Being Human, an immersive digital installation by creative studio Field which brings to life all 1001 stories from Leeds residents, past and present.
  • Book to see any of our shows in the Courtyard. Why not pop in to see Sinfonia – the Performance Ensemble’s centrepiece to the whole takeover.

Where do I go when I arrive? 

Head to the Front Room Café or Level E on Playhouse Square and you’ll be greeted by one of our friendly Heydays members who can show you round and tell you what’s in store for the day.

Some events have a limited capacity and you will need to book those on the day through our

Are refreshments available? 

Yes – our Front Room Café will be open all day offering a selection of affordable options.



The full list of people running events as part of the Take-over is:
Bramley Baths, MindWell, REMPOD, Independent Age, NHS Charities Together, Lorna Ramsden, Leeds Museums & Galleries, Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Libraries, Leeds City College, Association of Blind Asians, Pudsey Ukulele Group, Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours Scheme, Touchstone, Hamari Yaadain Dementia Café, David Gill, Ruth Steinberg, all of our Heydays members, Pyramid of Arts Legends Group, Hawksworth Older People’s Services, Rachel Benn, Urban Angels, HOPE, MILIM, 753 Unlocked, Yorkshire MESMAC’s Sage Men’s Group, Performance Ensemble, DECODANCE, Temple Newsam, Zest, Feel Good Factor, Geared for Life, Oliver Craig, BAME Health & Wellbeing Centre Men’s Group, Kath Padgett, Arthur France, Max Farrar, David Perry, LSTEN, Ebony Milestone Events, Margaret Greenwood, Roger Harrington, Chapel FM, Yorkshire Dance, Eleanor Manners, Edwin Winlong, Refugee Council, Ascendance, Alan Lyddiard, Sikh Elders Service, Gems on the Hill, Seven by Seven, Cai Shuqun, Mike Sutton, Arts Options Limited, Northern Ballet, Burmantofts Senior Action, Armley Spinners, Clothing Rebellion, Swarthmore Education Centre, Eddie Lawler, Lens Lab, DJ NikNak, Gloria Hanley, Jeremy Burton, Ruth Johnson, Tamara McLorg, Swan Song, Aulson Lawrence, The Guava Group, In Mature Company, Swan Song, Lucy Campbell, Janet Alexander and all the people who have shared stories with our story gatherers.

With thanks to Leeds Young Film and Leeds International Film Festival for their support with the Screening Room programme.


    Arts Council
  • Leeds City Council
  • LTB Foundation
  • Principal Partner

    Caddick Group
  • Principal Access Partner

    Irwin Mitchell