Threads: a market Mis-Guide

Threads, a Market Mis-Guide  to Leeds Kirkgate Market

part of Personal Shopper: Cornucopia! with Kate Etheridge and Simon Persighetti at Compass Festival 2016.



Inspired by my own visits to the market as a small child, and other interactions with markets over the years, Threads shows why markets are part of my personal history. 

The tour interweaves my stories and memories with those of the people I meet along the way, as a way to explore peoples’ connections to the market and to each other.



The walk explores the market through my personal stories and experiences, and invites the participants to share some of their own along the way.  To do this I use a ball of thread, which I unravel as we walk, and tie knots in to remember each story as it unfolds.



 I’d like you to think about all the people that have walked through the doors of the market hall since its completion in 1857.

What kinds of things would they buy, and how big a part would the market play in their daily lives?

Bear this in mind as we start our journey. 

(Alessi, 2016)



Now stand and think about the first time you ever came to a market, who was it with? What sounds, smells, sights and tastes do you remember?

My first trip to the market was with my Nan when I was about 7yrs old, and I mostly remember trying really hard not to throw up, because I felt so queasy on the bus. But as soon as we walked through the doors I completely forgot about it – there was so much to see…

(Alessi, 2016)



From eating tripe from a brown paper bag and watching an automated monkey somersaulting over a bar at the fruit and veg stall; to teenage rebellion and customising your clothes –  this walk takes the you from childhood to the present day.  Raising questions about how we use markets now and why they are such an important part of our social history.




Threads was a real highlight for me, such a generous and warm piece, that genuinely engaged its audience in a way that sparked memories and associations from audience members  of all ages and diverse geographical backgrounds. Your personal stories and memories were beautifully woven into a journey through the living market, stitching a narrative that celebrates all markets, and our lifelong relationship with these special places of trade, community, and continuity.’





Fri 11 – Sat 19 Nov, 9am-5pm | Tours at various times

In the sensory labyrinth of Leeds Kirkgate Market, Personal Shopper: Cornucopia! is the market in microcosm, a 21st Century Still Life of fruit, fish, textiles, jewellery, frying pans, friends and experiences. Offering a pick-and-mix selection of micro tours led by local shoppers, traders, market enthusiasts and mis-guides, Katie and Simon invite you to navigate the Market through a series of idiosyncratic Personal Shopper tours where poetic, playful and practical insights are intertwined with personal histories, individual passions, and lived experiences.



Personal Shopper: Cornucopia! was the final part of a 3 year project exploring and celebrating the rich network of relationships between shoppers, traders and goods in Leeds Kirkgate Market.  For Compass Festival 2016, Personal Shopper manifest as a stall where you can shop for experiences, rather than things, offering a pick-and-mix selection of micro market tours led by shoppers, traders, market enthusiasts and Mis-Guides.

images by Etheridge/Persighetti & Alessi©2016



From clutching my very first library card aged 3, to novels passed down by family and friends and given as gifts, books have always been a huge part of my life.  I love the smell and texture of them:,crisply printed new pages waiting to be opened, or foxed, slightly musty, fragile leaves printed years before I was born.

They signify important times, good and bad, and are my escape from the everyday.

But I find it impossible to let go of any of my books. And now I feel weighed down by them, hemmed in by my overflowing bookshelves and in need of some space and new experiences.

Hayley Alessi ©2015


KINDLE-ing is a One-to-One performance about my love of books and an inability to let them go.

The piece is called KINDLE-ing as Kindles are electronic books and I prefer something tangible in my hand and love the weight, feel and smell of a book. Kindling is when you use scrunched up paper to start a fire and get the wood burning.   It reminds me of the word ‘kindly’ or of just ‘being kind’ which is part of the process of the participant in helping me to release my books. Similarly Clearance/Making Space is a physical and emotional thing within the act itself.


Books, have always been really important to me, during certain periods in my life, a reminder of places I have visited, people I have known, my escape from the everyday.

But my bookshelves are overflowing as the books take over my home and life.  There are so many books I even have to pile them in stacks above the neat rows of alphabetised spines, sub-organised by genre, cramming as many as possible into every available space and making it impossible to remove one easily.  They are so full they have begun to migrate, in towering piles stacked everywhere that I have to step over, squeeze past and forever keep picking up as they topple over…


I need to have a clear out, sift through and choose: the ones vital for work or study, lovingly gifted tomes with personal inscriptions, unusual finds and unbound proofs sourced in charity and second-hand bookshops, the books where I queued for author signatures after poetry and play readings, childhood favourites and adult saviours.  Not forgetting my guilty pleasure – travel writing, and the ‘crack cocaine’ high of play scripts…

I tried to do the whole, ‘one boxes for charity, one for keeps and one for maybes’ – and ended up sat encircled by books, distractedly opening and re-reading long-forgotten favourites and the ones I bought but haven’t even read yet – looking at 3 empty boxes. An impossible task.


I need help, to sort the inconsequential from what really matters: disperse 2 of my 3 copies of Stuart Maconie’s Pies and Prejudice to allow someone else to find out why it’s one of my favourite books, find out if anyone wants to read the books I haven’t got around to opening after 3 years of sitting on my shelf, and explain to me why anyone needs The Army Fitness Guide.


The performance involves a selection of books: from childhood and tatty now, carefully chosen but not really me ones, the gifts given on bad dates, frustrating ones I have tried to read several times but never gone beyond page 23, thoughtful and inspiring gifts and more problematic hard to let go of but need to for my own good ones… Including the inserts that came with them from charity shops: postcards/bus tickets/first night play tickets used as bookmarks, inscriptions to the person they were originally bought for, including the ones addressed to me.  I will explain how each was obtained and what it symbolises to me. Then ask participants their own feelings around books and the things I have spoken about, invite them to share an experience of their own – and offer them a book to take away with them.

They can keep it or pass it on, recycle it, make paper jewellery, gesso the pages and make it into an artist’s sketch pad, etc. – but they must promise not to throw it into the rubbish to become landfill.  It has to have a use beyond the room and performance.


The participant is given a statement of intent, to read and sign if they accept a book – to take away with them as a bookmark/reminder of the performance. In return I ask if I can snap a Polaroid Picture of them holding a book, as a physical memento of the transaction – which unlike digital photos, is a permanent snapshot of the moment of letting go.


Devised for Wrought Festival 2014 in Sheffield


 And part of DNweekenD 2014 in Doncaster.

images by Gwylim Lawrence

and Hayley Alessi©2014

In the City

In the City…

‘In the City, there’s a thousand things I want to say to you.’ 

One of the Situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”]…

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.

Guy Debord Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956)

Hayley Alessi ©2014


This piece was part of the ‘Selfies’ project detailed below – and my attempt to explore the city of Sheffield through pictures and verbatim text.  As a theatre maker and writer, I often find myself on the fringes, observing people and scribbling down bits of overheard conversation, so I thought this would be an interesting way to structure my own practice and see what happened.


My remit was simple, to spend 2 weeks taking photos around the city on my mobile phone: these could be at any time of day or night, but must not be pre-planned or posed in any way, and had to include my feet.  I would then transcribe the first piece of speech I heard immediately afterwards, which could include one or more voices or conversations, and make a note of the estimated age and sex of the speaker.


I was not allowed to alter or edit the pictures or recorded speech in any way – nor discard or change the order of the pictures.  After the first few photos I also decided to include some instances of my own thoughts and internal dialogue, as and when the mood took me.


The performances took the format of a slideshow, and in putting mine together I decided to remain elusive onstage too, to maintain my flaneur persona.  So the piece opened with a spotlight coming up on my red shoes placed in front of an empty microphone stand on the stage, while I remained behind the scenes reading the script and attempting to embody and portray the variety of characters and voices I had heard on my journey around the city.




A cut-to-fit ready-made template for the single (even reluctant) performer

Forced Entertainment’s Terry O’Connor worked with University of Sheffield and local artists to define a simple new template for short performance pieces, addressed directly to an audience and placed before a selection of self-images. Borrowing contemporary vernacular, we called the performances selfies, though our iteration of the photographic self-portrait extended beyond the use of mobile devices and became a process of inquiry, rather than a simple vanity project.


  1. There must be between 5 and 50 images.
  2.  The performer must appear in each image, though it may have been captured by someone else.
  3. There must be a verbal element to the performance, this may be extensive or limited to one word.
  4. The performance should last between 5 and 15 minutes.
  5. Costume, characterisation, narrative or poetic device, fictional world or confessional revelation are all optional.

Engaging with audience essential.


 images by Hayley Alessi© In the City 2013