Earlier this the cohort for the DARE Edition of Leeds Creative Labs gathered to present their journeys over the course of the last month.

The lab team’s motivation for the DARE Edition was to understand if the labs model could be as effective a catalyst for innovation in areas such as the arts, culture and performance. That this notion made us uncomfortable also helped us understand that it was a risk worth exploring. Indeed, the DARE Edition has already helped innovate the labs overall; our terminology for curated participants was previously ‘technologists’ but now we think of them as ‘creative innovators’.

I was unsure how to approach the presentations. Would I be able to offer a useful critical perspective, without a background in the arts or a richer understanding of performance?

However, in the end, the labs are really about the emotional and intellectual effect on the participants. What was clear from the DARE Edition cohort, was that they’d experienced a similar journey to previous cohorts; the opportunity to play, explore and imagine…

I arrived slightly late, in the middle of a fun icebreaking session led by Katy and Brad from Cap-a-Pie. After a recap of the labs process from Lesley Patrick and Liz Harrop, we dived into presentations from the three groups

Alan O’Leary and Dan Norman opened with their exploration of grotesques, song cycles and carnivals. Their collaboration brought to mind where performers such as Dan could help humanise some of the technology elements explored in other labs. I was reminded of Thousands of Exhausted Things – a performance of names in a MoMA collection  – and a recent article on translating data from brain seizures into musical pieces.

Brad McCormick’s performance, based on his collaboration with Katy Vanden and Lou Harvey was the most interesting for me, presenting a spoken word story that illustrated the challenges of learning English.  The performance played with conventions and structures to unsettle the audience (I think!)… as someone from a family of many non-English speakers, I could understand these anxieties. By designing a performance around those anxieties, Brad’s interpretation of Lou’s research became intuitively accessible.

It was gratifying to see the effect each collaboration had on its contributors. As with the 2012, 2014 and Hepworth editions, the DARE Edition has been about finding alchemy and creating the human infrastructure for innovation.