Meet Leah, a Theatre & Performance Graduate
“My name is Leah Earnshaw and I am a recent graduate from the BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance course at Leeds Beckett University. Alongside graduating, I also became the first recipient of the Compass Graduate Award 2019 from Compass Live Art. I am interested in developing durational work which is based around social, economic and environmental issues which are rarely discussed or reported on by media outlets. For my most recent piece of work I performed ‘The Genes of Jeans’ at Leeds Beckett University’s Headingley Campus. The performance spanned across 4 days (accumulating to a total of 32 hours) as part of the Lift Off Festival and creative arts festival, Beyond. I undertook the task of unpicking the stitching of denim jeans in representation of Bangladeshi garment workers. My main focus is on Socially Engaged practice and I’m interested in connecting with my audiences and relaying my research to educate and provoke discussion amongst them. Looking at ‘The Genes of Jeans’ this piece aimed to cause my audience members to reflect upon their history with denim jeans and to raise questions about their personal fashion and retail purchasing habits.
I have worked in retail for almost 6 years and as a sales assistant, you begin to notice that the products being sold are sourced from various countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and China. It made me question, exactly where were these products being sourced from at such a high demand and who are the people who make these products for a living? During my research, I came across an article written by Sarah Butler for The Guardian titled ‘Why are wages so low for garment workers in Bangladesh?’. Reading this article, I became aware of how little the garment workers were being paid whilst working in unsafe, high pressured environments. When looking at a pair of jeans, it is easy to overlook the skilled work that is required to produce a pair in such a short time frame with the pressure of meeting production deadlines. This is where the idea for unpicking the stitching of the jeans came from. I wanted to display to my audience the meticulous work that went into each individual pair of jeans and provide an insight into the background of sweatshops in Bangladesh."
"Through the summer, I am working with Compass Live Art in Leeds who are providing me with monthly 1 on 1 sessions to help me develop my piece, as well as work experience within the live art industry. I am now focusing my research onto the environmental costs of the denim industry, illustrating the damage caused by producing denim fabric before it has been turned into a denim garment; which is a process within itself that also plays a part in damaging the environment. For my presentation, I am wanting to reflect upon ‘The Genes of Jeans’ by going into more detail about the piece and answering questions on the research that I came across. I will also introduce my work in progress about the topic in which I highlighted above, providing the research I have accumulated to spark debate and expand my own knowledge further through peer response.”
Hear Leah's presentation at Leeds Beckett's first Student Sustainability Conference. Get your ticket here.