Culture Around Every Corner: What makes Leeds’ culture unique?
19th April 2022
What makes Leeds’ culture unique?
Have you ever thought about what makes a city unique? With 70 UK cities to choose from for your next staycation, we know that it’s no easy decision to pick where you’re going to jet off to next. Now, we’re not telling you to visit Leeds…but we’re telling you that you should visit Leeds. Why? Besides from the fact that we’re named as the UK’s most vibrant city, we don’t just have one unique selling point to shout about.
Following the launch of our #CultureAroundEveryCorner campaign, we’re putting the very best that Leeds has to offer on a stage, to help you build your Leeds bucket list ahead of visiting and ensure you’re able to tick off the unique and cultural highlights that attract over 30 million visitors every year.
Mlindi Kulashe as Drosselmeyer with Northern Ballet dancers in Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Photo Emma Kauldhar
We’re not spreading fiction, we’re spreading facts…
Speaking of stages, you might have been able to tell from the illustrious stories that come out of Emmerdale, Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders and the upcoming Disney+ Marvel series which have been filmed across the city, that we’re fans of the dramatics in Leeds. Boasting theatres, plays, exhibitions and live performances, the heart of the North goes some way to help you experience culture, the arts and pack even more punch than the big screen.
The first ever British dance company to be based outside of London, Northern Ballet translates its passion for storytelling through accessible classical dance and live music for the masses. The inclusivity of its performances is illustrated through its line-up, from Pinocchio for the kids to The Great Gatsby for the adults, and even The Nutcracker for the whole family. Their neighbour, Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre have a dedication to bringing quality dance to audiences in Leeds, with seasonal line-ups that feature a diverse selection of dance styles, from ballet to contemporary. Leeds Playhouse, which is a colourful addition to the city’s skyline that physically can’t be missed, works with communities and local writers to deliver ground-breaking, original performances as well as hosting hit national and international plays.
Opera North is one of the most exciting and innovative producing arts organisations in the UK, delighting audiences with accessible classical operatic performances with a twist. Together, these three dramatic heavyweights along with venues such as Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds Town Hall, The Carriageworks, City Varieties and Howard Assembly Room have taken the pretension out of performance, focusing on a line-up of locally reared talent to deliver stories and experiences that can be enjoyed by all.
Leeds Art Gallery, Youth Collective. Photography by Joanne Crawford
Seeing is believing
A passion for the arts runs through the city. The Henry Moore Institute was formed in Leeds and welcomes visits to its Galleries, Research Library and Archive of Sculptors Papers to experience, study and enjoy sculpture from around the world, whilst just a stone’s throw away Leeds Art Gallery hosts an eclectic collection of both modern and contemporary British art. Encouraging appreciation for the visual arts has flowed through to The Tetley, a pioneering centre for contemporary art located in the stunning art deco headquarters of the former Tetley Brewery and through to the young minds and talents of those at the University of Leeds, which holds The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery and The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.
The Galleries are dedicated to hosting exhibitions which champion art, poetry and storytelling with everything from original material from the Brontë sisters and medieval manuscripts to paintings, drawings and prints from the 17th century to the present day and even activities to inspire like their free pen to paper creative writing activity on Wednesday afternoons.
Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery. Image © University of Leeds
Continue the Leeds story and explore what is uniquely Leeds
If you’re not one for sitting, we’ve got plenty for you too. Stand tall with the sites at Yorkshire Sculpture Park or be awash with colour and flavour at the West Indian Carnival, the oldest festival of its kind which takes place in Potternewton Park and journeys through the streets of Chapeltown. Step aboard the Water Taxi and explore the largest collection of arms and armour at the Royal Armouries, or journey to the outer suburbs like Headingley where film fanatics can see the roots of Middle-Earth at the Tolkien House.
Speaking of roots, did you know that M&S started right here in Leeds’ own Kirkgate Market? Now acknowledged as the biggest indoor Market in Europe, Kirkgate offers everything from bouquets to take-aways – with some of the biggest indie food brands in the city coming from humble beginnings at the market. Continue to discover Victorian Leeds at two of the many museums in Leeds, Abbey House and Thackray Medical Museum, a sure hit for history lovers that can immerse themselves in imaginative and exciting galleries and explore the history of healthcare through to today’s modern advances.
Thackray Museum of Medicine – credit David Lindsay
With so much on offer, there’s only one answer as to whether you should ‘make a day of it’. We’ve got the annual Leeds Indie Food Festival to celebrate our thriving independent scene, the Leeds International Beer Festival and critically acclaimed fine dining. With dining deals aplenty, special menus, pop-ups, tasters and tours, farmers markets, cookery classes, celebrations and demonstrations across the city to suit every palette, you’re sure to never go hungry so you can enjoy a day in Leeds that invigorates all the senses. How could you choose a night in front of the gogglebox over this?
Take to the city’s natural beauty
Another claim to fame for Leeds is Roundhay Park which sits amongst some of the biggest Parks in Europe. Host to this year’s Mardi Gras Festival, as well as yearly favourites including Beer and Food Festivals. To put a little more distance between you and our thriving City Centre, Kirkstall Abbey is set in wonderful parkland along the banks of the River Aire and is one of the most complete examples of a Medieval Cistercian Abbey in Britain. Harewood House is another perfect place to enjoy Leeds in the spectacular countryside on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. One of the Treasure Houses of England, you can experience living history within its regal and rare interiors or explore the extensive Capability Brown landscaped grounds.
The Terrace at Harewood, credit Visit England and Thomas Heaton
Jumping back into the sporty side of the city, Leeds is set to host the Rugby League World Cup at Elland Road and Headingley Stadium, the latter home to Rugby and Cricket. Leeds is the host city for the opening game of the women’s tournament and will be the team base for Jamaica and Ireland’s Men’s teams and England, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and Canada’s Women’s teams, with spectators gathering in the city to enjoy a summer of sport.
Emerald Headingley Stadium – credit Alex Whitehead SWPix.com
Let Culture Loose
Culture Around Every Corner precedes Leeds’ Year of Culture: Leeds 2023. Designed to ‘let culture loose’, Leeds 2023 will see 12 signature events alongside a multitude of creative experiences take place across the city in a celebration of all things culture. Made for everyone, local, national, and international artists and communities will be coming together to create a year-long celebration unique to Leeds. Gearing up to the Year of Culture, the Culture Around Every Corner campaign is just the start of what’s to come. Stay tuned for the full Leeds 2023 events programme which is due to be announced on the 23rd of September.
Which ever way you’re looking to spend your time in Leeds, you can ensure you don’t leave a stone unturned with the help of #CultureAroundEveryCorner. Find out more about Leeds’ cultural offering, by visiting: visitleeds.co.uk/culture-around-every-corner/