Culture Around Every Corner: The Flipside

9th May 2022

Like this? Try that.

Leeds is a place that thrives on contrasts. We’re a city with a Victorian heart, moving to a 21st century beat. Nationally renowned opera and ballet on one street, the upcoming big unsigned indie band on the next. Huge festivals and intimate recitals. World-class paintings and awe inspiring street art. Basically, we’re a city where it pays to explore. To find the culture around every corner.

So this is our guide to stepping outside of your cultural heritage tourism comfort zone. Because changing things up leads to all kinds of new discoveries and experiences. If you like this, then try that…

Big Gigs vs Intimate Venues

Leeds is a regular stop-off on the touring schedules of some of the world’s biggest acts. The First Direct Arena hosts global chart-toppers, from Dua Lipa to Elton John; the mighty Leeds Festival draws the crowds and the biggest rock and pop acts around; and legendary bands play to a packed out O2 Academy.

If you’re partial to a big gig, then challenge yourself to seek out a more intimate experience at some of Leeds’ best independent venues. A soul singer at The Wardrobe, perhaps, performing amongst the candlelight. An up and coming band at Brudenell Social Club or Hyde Park Book Club, both located just a 10-minute drive away from the city centre in popular suburban area, Hyde Park. Upcoming gigs are easy to find in Leeds, and it’s always worth keeping an eye out on social media for gig news.

On Canvas vs Moving Picture

Art galleries are one of the world’s biggest cultural draws, and Leeds is lucky to have its fair share. Collections of masterful paintings and sculptures can be found at Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute, and gracing the private collections on show at stately homes like Harewood House.

The real challenge is to embrace the moving picture. The first film was shot in Leeds, after all, thanks to Louis le Prince and his camera in 1888. Independent gem Hyde Park Picture House might be closed for refurbishment at the moment, but their programme is currently on tour at quirky venues across the city. Or, there’s open air cinema to be found in unique outdoor locations like Kirkstall Abbey. If the time is right, you might even catch the Leeds International Film Festival taking over auditoriums across the city every Autumn.

Ancient History vs Pop Culture

Alright, Leeds’ historic visitor attractions might not all be ancient. We’ve got a whole lot of chronology to cover, and Leeds Museums and Galleries are here to tell the story. From the working heritage of Leeds Industrial Museum and one of the last remaining examples of a water powered mill, Thwaite Watermill, to the Victorian life of Abbey House Museum. Not to mention the Jacobean splendour of Tudor house Temple Newsam and country house Lotherton, as well as the medieval ruins of one of the UKs best preserved historic sites, Kirkstall Abbey. All great family experiences.

On the flipside, why not seek out a little 21st century life? Get down to multifunctional event and cafe & bar space, Sheaf St., in the Southbank of Leeds for a night of bass and beats from the best underground house DJs. Plus, Wharf Chambers is a multi-use venue in the centre of Leeds that celebrates all things music, art, film, politics and discussion. Or, head to an evening of up and coming comedy at independent arts venue Seven Arts, nestled in the buzzing neighbourhood of Chapel Allerton, only 15 minutes from the city.

Treading the Boards vs Pounding Pavements

Theatre is something Leeds has in spades. Leeds Heritage Theatres put on show stopping productions in some seriously historic settings like Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties Music Hall, and nationally renowned Northern Ballet and Opera North have been wowing crowds for decades. More than a few famous thespians, from Ian Mckellan to Judi Dench, have plied their trade at Leeds Playhouse too, which is one of the biggest producing theatres in the UK.

But who needs red velvet seats? It’s time to switch up that theatre trip and hit the road. Hidden in the streets of Leeds from the corners of Leeds Dock to the areas outside Kirkgate Market and Leeds Corn Exchange, is a magnificent street art trial. Telling the story of Leeds’ communities, shows artistic talent in all of its cultural glory. In your mission to complete Leeds’ street art trial, why not try an original performance by innovative theatre company Slung Low, who’ve sunk Moby Dick’s raft in Leeds Dock, and told a post-apocalyptic tale on the steps of Leeds Town Hall. How about an open-air gig in Millennium Square, fuelled by sunshine and street food, or a meal from the best restaurants around? You could even catch a performance by South Asian Arts, or drop in on Leeds’ famed West Indian Carnival – the oldest in Europe.

So there you have it! Leeds isn’t just a city that has culture around every corner, but it’s a city that encourages you – our reader, our resident, our visitor – to immerse yourself in the culture that calls Leeds its home. After all, here in Leeds, we thrive on culture and celebrate the diversity that it brings to the heart of the North. Whether you’re looking to expand your cultural knowledge or are a cultural enthusiast, Leeds is the place to challenge yourself and experience something new. Are you up for the challenge? We can’t wait to welcome you.

Find out more about Leeds’ cultural offering and start planning your visit at