Culture with a difference – discover smaller venues that help make Leeds’ so vibrant

28th April 2022

So, you’ve heard that Leeds has been named as the UK’s most vibrant city and you’ve ended up here…the curious researcher. We can tell you all about what makes us the most vibrant city in the United Kingdom, in fact, we do so in our other blog that reveals what is unique to Leeds. But, what is it that sets Leeds apart from other large cities in the UK? Yes, we’re known for being the only UK city outside of London to have its own resident Opera and Ballet companies, for being home to the sister museum to the Tower of London, The Royal Armouries, and boasting the largest indoor market in Europe. But what about our smaller, quirkier venues that delight the streets of Leeds with their charismatic independent charm?

It’s not just amazing cultural giants that make Leeds’ such a vibrant place, but the abundance of smaller, grassroots venues and organisations across the city that bring it all to life. We’re here to tell you all about Leeds venues with a difference that deserve recognition…and a visit, by you!

New to Leeds in 2022 and located less than a 10 minute walk to the city centre and Leeds Dock, Art Hostel provides accommodation with a twist. The first of its kind in the UK, the overnight accommodation embraces art in all its glory. Designed and decorated by artists, guests can expect to sleep in a room like no other as their place of rest doubles up as a display of contemporary art. From the embrace of delicate nature to the execution of industrial settings, each room is unlike any other room in the world. While you might find it difficult to leave the awe-inspiring rooms of the Art Hostel thanks to its eye-catching designs, Leeds’ quirky offering goes beyond overnight accommodation. In fact, the Art Hostel helps you uncover the mysteries of Leeds with their modern method of hosting as they help visitors to the city to interact with grassroots art, music and events.

Just a 10 minute drive away is Chapel FM Arts Centre is located in a converted chapel that the community radio station rescued back in 2014. Founded in 2003 as East Leeds FM, the radio station changed their name when they moved location to reflect and celebrate the nature of their new venue. Broadcasting on Tuesday and Friday evenings, in addition to the second and fourth Sunday of the month, the local radio station encourages the Leeds community to get involved and express themselves through conversation, scripts, comedy, music, and more. In addition to tuning into its radio station, Chapel FM Arts Centre also hosts a variety of events that celebrate culture. From performances that embrace cultural diversity to forums that recognise climate change, the Leeds based centre is uniquely Leeds and visitors couldn’t get closer to hearing about local stories if they tried. Chapel FM Arts Centre is just one example of many amazing grassroots arts organisations committed to creating art with communities across the city which also include Heart in Headingley, Seven in Chapel Allerton and the infamous Pyramid of Arts.

Taking the celebration of culture to the stage is Phoenix Dance Theatre, which has been celebrating the diverse spirit of multicultural Britain for over four decades. Founded in 1981, Phoenix Dance Theatre is the longest standing contemporary dance theatre outside of London and pays homage to Leeds, which is continually being recognised as a City of Dance. Embarking on annual national tours, Phoenix reaches audiences of up 20,000 per year with their artistic programme of performances and visitors to Leeds can find out more about their programme of events in Leeds here. Celebrating culture in all its glory, Phoenix Dance Theatre isn’t the only dance company in Leeds and is accompanied by an array of other cultural dance companies, including; Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Yorkshire Dance, Dazzle, South Asian Arts and many more.

Celebration of local art and culture doesn’t stop there; located in the up and coming neighbourhood of Farsley in Pudsey (where Pudsey the Bear was born!) is Sunny Bank Mills. Dating back to 1829, the Mill houses over 60,000 lengths of cloth and visitors can uncover more about the history of the Mill on one of its tours. Stepping into the future, the Mill goes beyond its own heritage and shares the stories of contemporary art through its gallery and workshops. Also located on site are interior specialists, bespoke tailoring, jewellery making, and gifts for everyone which makes for a holistic experience when visiting the converted Mill.

Once you’ve immersed yourself into the heritage culture of Leeds, you might find yourself craving a splash of entertainment, and a lot can be said about music in the city. Whilst there are plenty of venues in the city centre, just ten minutes outside in the Hyde Park area, include; Brudenell Social Club, and Hyde Park Book Club. Dating back to 1913, Brudenell Social Club has been celebrating music for over 100 years and was once known as the place to be for secret gigs for the likes of Franz Ferdinand. Now, they celebrate music almost every day with a new act taking to the stage to entertain its guests. Located just a 15 minute walk away is Hyde Park Book Club, which does more than the name suggests. A space where you can grab coffee and a bite to eat whilst reading your favourite book, is also a space where you can play games with friends, immerse yourself in contemporary art, and enjoy the sounds of a mix of music. Going beyond a hybrid venue, Hyde Park Book Club is a hotbed of cultural diversity in all its glory.

These highly recognised grassroots organisations are just to name a few and there are plenty more venues in Leeds that are bursting with culture. Culture really is around every corner in Leeds and there are hundreds of venues waiting for you to arrive with open arms.

If a cultural experience like no other is what you’re after, then Leeds is the place for you. After all, what other city allows you to celebrate culture while awake and asleep? Find out more at