Original play created buzz

JFEST! DELIGHT: Simon Jackson, Helen Frais, Lady Mayoress Janet Harper, Lord Mayor Cllr David Congreve, Stan Cundle and Cllr Dan Cohen

JFEST! International chairman Stan Cundle and festival director Ellie Ruhan have finally found time to relax and analyse the four-day event.

"The opening show, the Next Generation Showcase, highlighting the current crop of young Jewish talent, was incredible," Stan said.

"And it was good to see an original musical created especially for the festival.

"Bridge Street The Musical brought in two jam-packed audiences and it was fantastic to hear the buzz and excitement it generated.

"I've always wanted an original musical included in our programme, but had never been able to obtain one until the Sinai Players brought their idea to us.

"The work is still in its embryonic stage and we have a few things to iron out, but this is a project we will work on together to get the second part in shape for next year."

This year the four-day festival had a theme and Ellie's concept, to focus on Jewish youth and music, was highly successful.

"We compiled a diverse programme, from a showcase of the region's talented youngsters, directed by Stuart Woolf, to music from the Galil and the stars of tomorrow," Ellie said.

"It was refreshing to see youth take centre stage."

Both spoke with warmth and admiration for Musicians of Tomorrow from the Galil, presented by Myisrael.

There was also a moving story behind the visit, which gave the performance extra gravitas.

Plucked from a poor background, their lives have a new meaning through the teachings of tutor Anna Rosnovsky.

"Anna has nurtured them and allowed their musical talents to blossom," Ellie said. "That was awe-inspiring and very special for Leeds to see."

Both felt the festival has evolved dramatically since 2001.

"We moved the event out of a suburban synagogue complex to a bustling city centre and it has become a permanent fixture on the community landscape," Stan said.

"We also attracted the wider community to share our cultural heritage even though the ratio was smaller."

Ellie added: "We've polished the event to a more professional, well marketed festival and we remain very proud of that fact."

The move back to the Carriageworks Theatre worked well and both visualise the festival spilling out onto the streets, giving it a more Edinburgh Fringe identification.

"But that depends a lot on the logistics, licences and council jurisdiction; we are also restricted as to how we can use Millennium Square, but that's an idea we would like to pursue," Ellie pointed out.

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