From a Dark Room to The Damned United - here's five highlights from this year's festival (April 28 to May 12)

LEEDS International Festival is never less than eclectic but this year’s line-up for the fifteen day event is positively extravagant in the riches on display.

You’ve probably already pinned down Dr Kate Devlin’s Sex Robots Debate as your kind of positive thinking on AI and are set to get spaced out in the company of astronaut Helen Sharman (first Briton in space tells all), but that’s just a fraction of what’s on offer at the UK’s leading metropolitan festival of new ideas and innovation (April 28 to May 12). Full programme here.

And if amid all this cerebral probing your brain starts to suffer digital overload, let you hair down at music events as diverse as Mexrissey (Mexican string and brass Mozza cover band), House Gospel (classic house Whoopied up), Mansion of Snakes (Fela-Kuti inspired Tyke Afrobeat) and Yo La Tengo (US indie veterans plugging their first album in five years, There’s A Riot Going On – more meditative than noisenik).

For a full-on gigs experience, on Saturday 5 May there’s Live At Leeds, the citywide new music showcase. As always, the snotty-nosed aspirants share the bill with established acts – this year The Horrors, British Sea Power and Ash.

Away from the music here are five events we really fancy…

180420 Leeds International Festival 2018 Live At Leeds
Live at Leeds returns

The Dark Room and The Dark Room for Kids

This self-proclaimed ‘world’s only live-action videogame’ was a complete sell-out at last year’s Leeds International Festival – this year it comes packaged for smaller gamers, too. This crazy interactive experience, the work of comedian John Robertson, is part improv, part retro gaming and part rock’n’roll gameshow. You’re in a dark room, how will you escape? Pick from one of the options presented to you and find out your fate.

Sunday, April 29, For kIds 3pm-5pm, then for grown-ups (kind of), 6pm-10m. The Wardrobe, LS9 8AH. £12 and £14.

Dark Room Lif
The Dark Room

The Damned United

Don’t be put off by the 2009 movie, which has Michael Sheen as Brian Clough and a leprechaun as Billy Bremner. This stage adaptation should get closer to the brutal core of David Pierce’s fictional account of Cloughie’s turbulent 44-day reign at a football club he had openly despised for years. A Red Ladder Theatre Company and West Yorkshire Playhouse co-production

Monday, April 30, 6.30pm. LIF Spiegeltent, Millennium Square. £15.

180420 Leeds International Festival 2018 The Damned United
The Damned United

Plus on Wednesday 2 May, at 6pm (£30) at the Everyman Cinema a less splenetic overview of all things Elland Road there’s the world premiere of Leeds United Stories Vol.1. It’s a series of five short films from The City Talking, the makers of Do You Want To Win?, exploring iconic United stories from the 1993 FA Youth Cup Final against Manchester Utd to the infamous showdown with Stuttgart at the Camp Nou. 

This volume also tells the story of Lucas Radebe and his influence on Leeds’ music scene, Howard Wilkinson and the legacy of Thorp Arch and a special feature on Tony Yeboah (yes, starring THAT goal).

Everyman Company 1

Bettakultcha, Innovation or Enslavement?

A real talking shop this, bringing together a storytelling technologist, a digital masterclass trainer, a performance poet/marketing consultant and a flea circus impresario (OK, we made that last one up). Their mission? To thrash out whether society is being designed for humans or machines. Bettakultcha, we are informed, is an event where passionate people give five-minute illustrated talks. They are also offering a window for two volunteers who want to give their opinion on the perils and profits of technology (leaving out all those Sex Robots plus points).

Tuesday, May 1, 5pm, LIF Spiegeltent, Millennium Square. £10.

2017 10 18 Robots 2
Will robots make humans redundant?

In Conversation with Viv Albertine

You’ll definitely be buying this punk pioneer’s unsparing sophomore memoir To Throw Away Unopened after catching her in this Q&A with Chris Madden. The Australian-born Slits guitarist touches on the polemics of motherhood as well as functioning as a domestic noir and a manifesto of feminism (an important Festival strand).

Monday, May 7, 7.30pm. The Wardrobe, LS9 8AH. £10. 

180420 Leeds International Festival 2018 Viv
Viv Albertine

Marks & Spencer – A Living Archive

After all that a bit of retail therapy is in order and, despite its current offering of dodgy jumpers and comfort fit slacks, Marks and Spencer is still the stuff of High Street legend. One that started in Leeds back in the 1880s as a Polish refugee’s penny stall on Kirkgate Market. 

Since 2013 there’s been an M&S stall back in the 1904 Market Hall as a kind of heritage project with coffee, but the company’s archive is now held at the University of Leeds. A special exhibition utilising this is on display at the Briggate store, where Claudia Croft, Fashion Features Director, British Vogue, will discuss her curation of it. Then you can take home a bottle of French Full Red and some overpriced samosas.

Thursday, May 3, 5.15pm. The Fashion Space, M&S. £5.

180420 Leeds International Festival 2018 Mand Smarket
M&S stall in Kirkgate Market

Tickets are on sale now at leedsinternationalfestival