Since Helen and Raf graduated from University of Leeds (with a degree in Performance Design, and Theatre and Performance, respectively) they have both been involved in a whole host of creative projects. Helen’s background as a curator, designer, facilitator and cake designer underpins a specialised knowledge of immersive and hosted environments. Raf has established a name for himself producing and managing arts markets and large scale arts and music events across Leeds, and has recently joined the team at MAP charity. He also founded &/or Emporium, an online creative network organisation that supports artists by showcasing work and offering professional opportunities. The network has 1,500 members and can be found on Facebook (when you search for &/or Emporium Network Group).
Helen and Raf love dreaming up events and experiences that offer something a bit different and help make Leeds city centre unique. There is such an amazing growing independent art scene in Leeds, which they describe “feels like such a wonderful creative family – everyone shares ideas, supports and helps each other out”.
Leeds is special at Christmas because it has been Helen and Raf’s home for so long (eight years for Helen and six years for Raf). “What’s nice about the centre during the festive season is that everything is so compact, so you can easily nip around a variety of atmospheres within one afternoon – whether wanting to hit the high street or find an alternative escape, which makes it super easy to meet up with friends”, say Helen and Raf.
The concept of Arctic Bazaar is to focus on the true sentiment of the season; togetherness. Helen and Raf have created a Nordic-inspired respite that offers a space to escape and reconnect. Created in collaboration with local artists and featuring a winter marketplace, WARMTH mobile sauna, hot chocolate bar, craft workshops. Held in the cosy confines of the Art Hostel on Kirkgate, visitors will be encouraged to explore a world created by local artists, enjoy a hot chocolate and cardamom cake, relax in the sauna and reconnect with friends old and new.
Helen and Raf feel that there are plenty of ways for people to get involved in the Leeds art scene and there are so many young and exciting artists always looking to collaborate and share ideas. “The more you are vocal about ideas and get excited with other people, the more opportunities you will find – we met in a bar after an overheard conversation about a project!” explain Helen and Raf, “East Street Arts is an incredible charity in Leeds – become member for a whole host of support such as career development and also check out enterprises such as Live Art Bistro and Hyde Park Book Club; hubs with all sorts of creative events where you are bound to make connections”. Arctic Bazaar 2016 was Helen and Raf’s first creative project together and Raf’s creative platform &/or Emporium is now becoming sort of a joint venture (more coming soon in 2018).