As with a lot of things in my life these days, I first heard about the Compass Festival via Facebook; someone who knew someone who knew me, must have posted a link on their wall, which eventually reached my page.
It was art, and it was in Leeds, so I Liked (I probably Shared too…that’s how it tends to work).
The next time I came across Compass was two days ago. I was walking through Kirkgate market; killing time, before heading across to Northern Ballet, in order to hold a microphone and help Pirate Dancer Paul conduct an interview with his dance teacher. Paul has learning disabilities (and a tendency to talk about himself, which can be a hindrance when you want the views of others).
I was walking past a unit in the market, and noticed there was a Compass Festival Banner in the window; and a poster explaining about “Personal Shopper”.
“Personal Shopper” wanted people to reconnect with the retail act; make it personal. This was something I’d touched on, in my work for the Place and Memory exhibition last year.
They were asking members of the public to lead a photographer to a favourite part of the market, and explain why they’d chosen that particular place. The photographer would then take a quote and a photo, which would be transferred onto a reusable shopping bag. The bags would be given to the people who chose the place.
I was happy to take part; support the festival, tell a story about my relationship with the market, procure a free and personalized shopping bag. But there was a problem.
As I led the photographer around the market, I explained my dilemma to him.
I’m old enough to remember the market in all its pre-fire glory; and as we walked, I told the photographer my memories of family Saturdays there, and that whenever I think of the place, it is with a sense of loss.
“Can I ask? Are you a writer?” said the photographer.
I looked at him, puzzled; trying to work out whether we’d met before…we hadn’t.
“Erm…yes” I replied.
“I thought so. There’s a literary flourish in your words”.
I resisted the urge to hug him.
“So where have you brought me?”
We were in the outdoor market by now; near to the Christmas tree. Next to us was a large van. Next to the van was another Compass Festival banner.
“These people are part of the festival” I said. “They’re inviting the public to share a piece of knowledge. You’re filmed in the van, and your video is posted online. This is the thing I love most about the market; the fact that this kind of thing takes place here. And now I’m going to go in this van, and tell people about your project…creating a loop.”