Portrait of Leah Hand

Leah Hand

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background etc?

I am from a small town called Runcorn, next to Liverpool. I am from a town where not many people go to university, but I have found it to be an invaluable experience that has really shaped me!

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

Originally, when I was 18 I wanted to apply for Drama school. However, most drama schools are at the opposite end of the country, cost a great deal per audition and at 18 there was only a small chance of getting in. Therefore, I decided to look at other options. After some research, I found the Theatre and Performance course here in Leeds. After visiting the open day, I fell in love with the campus and Leeds itself. There was so much to get involved with such as performance societies and the course itself gives a real mixture between performative work and theory. However, what I really liked was the option to make the course ‘your own’. There are performance design modules, directing modules and performer training modules: all things I had not yet explored but wanted to.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I have always been passionate about performing: I love being on stage, bringing characters to life, making a performance my own and additionally, I love watching theatre. For me, getting experience in performance (acting, stylised performance, directing) is very much an essential part of my life. However, I also love learning about the political sides of performance, how performance can make a change in society. Such as Marina Abramovich’s feminist art. I also love how theatre can help people individually, I work with people with additional needs and I love seeing how performance skills can help them grow in confidence and help with literacy and social skills!

What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most? 

I really enjoy the practical side of the course the most, but also learning how the practical side engages with the theory. Additionally, I love that the course really can shape you as an all-rounder. I came on this course as a performer but I will leave having experience with directing, performance design, teaching and producing. The course has also taught me about the power theatre can have with helping others. Currently, I am working on a project about performance and the criminal justice system. We have had the opportunity to meet ex-prisoners, social workers and people who work with the law. All of these people had experience with theatre and we are currently making a piece of performance that looks at the criminal justice system and it’s relationship with humans.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

I love Leeds! Leeds is a very buzzing City, it has the best night life, places to eat, art galleries and theatres. It also has a really big university population; therefore, many events are geared for students, with student discount and offers! It also has a great shopping mall and lots of picturesque areas. Additionally, I am vegan and I have found it to be really easy to find places that cater for other’s needs.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The facilities at stage@Leeds are great. There lots of places to rehearse and perform and the technicians are really helpful, ensuring they can create the performance space you need as much as possible! The costume department is really good with a variety of costume available. The student union is great too, there are other theatre spaces you can use there such as Pyramid Theatre and other rooms you can hire out for rehearsal space.

Have you taken part in any activities outside of your studies (e.g. student societies, course rep, student intern, local groups/initiatives)?

Yes! I get involved with the performance societies as much as I can. They are a great way to get involved with theatre and a brilliant way to see how it all works in the industry as there is an audition process, budget and design process for all the shows. Currently, I am directing a show with Open Theatre and I have also performed and got involved with their socials!
In my first year, I saw that a local theatre company was holding auditions for their two-woman show. I auditioned and got the part, which lead to me performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then, the play was scouted by a theatre company in New York and we will be performing the play there in September! Getting involved with societies and other extra-curricular things can really shape your time here at Leeds and you never know what opportunities they may lead to!

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Definitely apply. There is a fantastic opportunity here at Leeds (the union has the most societies out of any other university) and the teaching staff are really helpful. If you’re struggling, you can send an email or go to their office and they are really happy to help you. The course will really shape you as a performance maker/performance theorist: you may come thinking your future is in dance but find you really love lighting design. You will gain so many skills that you can transfer into your future career with theatre, or if you’re looking to go to drama school you will be much more mature and more experienced, which will be essential.

Tell us about your accommodation and your experience of living in Leeds.

In my first year I lived at Mary Morris student accommodation in Headingley. It is a beautiful area in Leeds; a twenty-minute walk from the university campus but so worth it. It has a variety of cute little cafes and amazing restaurants really cool charity shops, student-filled pubs and bars. I am so glad I didn’t live on campus in my first year as I would have missed out on seeing Headingley, a place I have really enjoyed living! I currently live in Hyde Park, this is a very popular student area in Leeds. It’s ten minutes' walk from campus and home to a variety of pubs and cafes. I really enjoy living in Hyde Park as all my friends are close by but before you go on to sign a house, really ensure you have checked everything out fully. For example, we were lead to believe bills not included would be cheaper; however we’ve found it to have lots of secret extra costs! So, make sure you really do your research before signing.

What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

I am still planning on pursuing a career in acting! Right now, I am trying to gain as much acting experience as possible. Currently, I have three pieces of professional acting experience and you need four to gain a place on spotlight. My plan is to keep trying to gain experience, or after I graduate apply for a masters at a drama school. If I hadn’t have come to Leeds, I would have had zero professional acting pieces so this has really helped me on my journey! Additionally, if I had gone to drama school like I originally wanted to at 18, I wouldn’t have half of the knowledge that I have now to guide me. I am much more confident and have mixed with students studying an array of different subjects, thus I have met a variety of people who have helped influence my hobbies and interests, something that wouldn’t have happened at drama school! I believe getting a university degree is an essential way for shaping you as an independent person and giving you the fun, yet challenging experience needed for life.