Heads Up Festival Tenth Edition: what’s in store?

Kicking off on 2 Mar, the tenth Heads Up Festival returns for 16 days this spring, bringing its typically diverse mix of theatre, dance, performance, panels, workshops and more in various locations across the city. Or, as Heads Up founder Dave Windass describes it: “really innovative work held in some strange places.”

After launching in 2013, Heads Up has always attracted suitably diverse audiences to match its carefully curated, mixed-bag programme. Hull production company Ensemble 52 created the festival in collaboration with Battersea Arts Centre, billing it as ‘the home of brave and brilliant performance’ and hosting two editions of Heads Up a year, in March and October.

Over the last five years, the festival has hosted work in numerous unexpected city locations, creating intimate new venues out of the Guildhall, St Paul’s Boxing Academy and Garden Village’s Village Hall, to name a few.

Ensemble 52 and Heads Up founder Dave Windass told us: “Last year was great for us. It brought people who hadn’t previously been to our shows; now we want to keep them coming back for more so we’re keeping up that momentum, bringing more innovative performance to the city, and putting on more performances in places that people wouldn’t expect. Our venues this time include Hull Minster and a yet-to-be-revealed urban location.” Our lips are sealed!

So what can we expect from this milestone edition as the festival reaches the big 1-0?



Fri 2 – Sat 3 Mar, 7.30pm (£12-£15)
Hull Minster

Ugly Chief is the work of writer and comedian Victoria Melody, and co-stars her dad Mike Melody, who many will recognise from Antiques Roadshow. It’s a comedy, based on the true-life events that followed when Mike was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given five years to live (it gets funnier, we promise.) Victoria was put in charge of planning Mike’s funeral – complete with a New Orleans jazz procession and a congregation dressed in Blackpool FC tangerine – until it turned out he’d been misdiagnosed. Mike and Victoria decided to hold the funeral anyway. Or rather, two funerals: the one Victoria planned and the one Mike really wanted.

Featuring live musical accompaniment for the funerals, with soul classics and local brass musicians, Ugly Chief will also include Mike doing an Antiques Roadshow turn. Audience members are invited to take along their heirlooms and curiosities to be valued, and Mike has said he’ll buy anything that takes his fancy.

Plus, Mike will host a pre-festival, mini Roadshow-style free event on Thursday March 1, 1pm at Kardomah94. No ticket required; everyone and their antiques welcome!



Tue 6 Mar, 7.30pm (£5)

Having previously featured playwright John Godber and 2017 chief Martin Green discussing their favourite films, the Introducing series will move away from the big screen and take on a musical turn, shining the spotlight on local singer Lyn Acton (Pearl’s Cab Ride, Bossa Revista). Lyn will introduce her ten Desert Island Discs and discuss her life and career to date in this music-tinged chat show-style event, which is likely to be a bit of an unofficial mid-season festival shindig.



Wed 7 Mar, 6pm (£3-£10)
Secret location in Hull’s Bankside area

Continuing Heads Up’s tradition of ‘putting on shows in some very strange places’ is the What Is? Collective. This multi-disciplinary arts experience is currently shrouded in secrecy, but we have it on good authority that audiences will be taken on an exciting guided tour around a city location – exact details are TOP SECRET – to soak up innovative new work from an eclectic group of leading artists.

Can’t take the suspense? Bag a ticket and all will be revealed, 48 hours before the event on 7 Mar.


Thu 8 Mar, 8pm (£10-£12)

After performing twice in Hull during 2017, Bill Drummond (The KLF, The K Foundation) was eager to return and brings his intriguing new double bill Daffodils & Death to Heads Up Festival.



Fri 9 Mar, 7.30pm (£7.50)

Local writer Russ Litten has curated a programme of music and spoken word with artists from Merseyside – Nick Ellis, Ant Campbell and more.



Fri 9 – Sat 10 Mar, various times (£5-£10)
Hull Central Library

Younger audiences are catered for at Heads Up this time around with Sponge at Central Library. This disco-inspired extravaganza by dance company Turned On Its Head invites little ones aged four months to four years to groove on down to a ‘soft, bouncy adventure set with a funky 1970s soundtrack’.



Dark Winter, 13 – 17 Mar, Hull Truck Theatre

As well as directing the festival, Ensemble 52 continues to produce new work for Heads Up. Its latest show Dark Winter is a highly anticipated adaptation of bestselling novelist David Mark’s acclaimed debut novel, a gripping detective tale set in Hull. Dark Winter reunites E52 director Andrew Pearson with original E52 founder and playwright Richard Vergette (As We Forgive Them), who has co-adapted the book with Nick Lane. Tickets for this brilliant adaptation have sold out, and we’re sure it’s going to be a belter.


Heads Up Festival runs from Fri 2 to Sat 17 March. Discover the full festival line-up and book tickets now.