A Southerner in the North: A glance at the ever-growing arts scene in Leeds.
When you put arts and England together the result of that equation is usually London and the West End.
However, as someone who’s followed the compass north and settled just outside Leeds, the city starkly differs to the capital. Sure London may have “Phantom” and “Les Mis” but for me Leeds has a different vibe altogether by being the pot forever bubbling with new talent.
Regarding theatre, the first venue that comes to mind is the West Yorkshire Playhouse, particularly because I’ve seen famous plays told in new and refreshing ways.
Examples? Try a production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot” by Talawa Theatre that was set in the West Indies, and an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” with a giant overhead screen providing the Forest of Arden’s greenery (I’m pretty sure the trees were real – they were massive.)
[Waiting For Godot: Photo courtesy of Talawa Theatre]
Another aspect of the arts scene in the city which is hugely beneficial if you’re an actor, visual artist, dancer, musician or director is that it’s completely immersive. You don’t just have opportunities to watch work but you have the chance to bring your own work before audiences. I got the chance to see friends from University perform at the Carriageworks Theatre, another wonderful venue which showcases everything from musical theatre to community projects and even managed to squeeze in classes at Northern Ballet.
Actually speaking of Northern Ballet, Leeds is the only city outside London to have its own resident ballet company along with touring shows and an academy training new dancers. Productions are forever filtering onto the stage but they’re not just the classics such as “Swan Lake” and “Giselle”, we’ve been transported to the roaring 20’s with “The Great Gatsby” and from the 5th till the 12th of this month we’ll be trying to evade Big Brother with Jonathan Watkins’ adaptation of “1984.”
[Dancer Tobias Batley, Image credited to Guy Farrow]
The arts can be found almost anywhere in Leeds, be it the city’s Art Gallery on The Headrow dedicated to 20th century British Art or The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen which holds music performances as well as hosts The Belgrave Feast every second Saturday of the month – street food + art + music and their rooftop terrace = a great experience. Seriously.
Then we have the big one, the weekend which sees Bramham Park play host to thousands and thousands of pairs of wellies. Leeds Fest 2015 differed majorly from the last time I attended in 2013, not only due to the fact that it was actually sunny the whole day but also the truly pic n mix line-up. Whether it was re-living childhood days with Simple Plan at the Locked in Stage, hearing Panic! at the Disco perform quite possibly the best cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” I’ve ever heard or happy dancing to Mumford and Sons with my best friend as they blasted out “I Will Wait” there was something to suit every ear.
[Leeds Fest 2015. I’m on the right rocking the denim]
Although the tents have been folded away and the stages packed up for another year, that doesn’t leave the city in a state of wanting in the slightest. For me, it’s a place that artistically caters to all the senses and shows no signs of slowing down whatsoever.
Keep bubbling Leeds, keep bubbling.