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TSOTA Recommends: Cultural Christmas Alternatives

By December 7, 2023

General. Leeds.

Picture of Manchester's Northern Quarter, which hosts Chanel in December

mangopearcreative via Unsplash

For many people, the festive period is a time to celebrate with friends and family, a time of great fun and guilt-free consumption. It is also a time when a homogenous aesthetic takes over every commercial and cultural space – for one month, everyone seems to let go of their unique identity in favour of Christmas themed branding, playlists and experiences. But there are still some arts and culture alternatives out there for those who’ve done enough Christmas markets or seen enough pantomimes… a few of which have been picked out by writers and editors at The State of the Arts.

If you’re looking for a break from the fatigue of the mainstream Christmas, check out some of these events taking place in the North this December:


A Taste of Chanel @ Northern Quarter, Manchester

7th Dec

Manchester has a very special guest on the 7/12/23. Iconic fashion giant Chanel is venturing out of their usual grand Parisian building finding themselves in the heart of The North for their jaw-dropping Métiers d’Art show. Held on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter, it is invite-only. However with all luxury fashion shows, the buzz spills out to the surrounding area. Catch some street-fashion or even get in front of the street style photographers yourself! If you’re in the Northern Quarter, it’s definitely worth checking out. Who knows, you may even spot Anna Wintour…


The Gifting @ Versa Studios, Leeds

26-31st December

Leeds’ Year of Culture is coming to a close, but not without spectacle. ‘The Gifting’ is the theatrical finale from LEEDS 2023 and co-produced with indie theatre company Slung Low, promising an immersive & unique experience within the immense space of Versa Studios. For anyone in search of something different to do during the Christmas-to-New Year break, this will be the perfect cultural way to end the year. 

Tickets, access info and trailers can be found here.


Music @ Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds

Various Dates

A mad range of musical genres from aspiring talent has been on display in the Book Club throughout the year. December is no different, with everything from punk to folk-jazz, from the likes of Amy Thatcher &Francesca Knowles, The Altered Hours and Andy Crofts on show in Hyde Park’s beloved venue.

Check out all the HPBC events here.


Intermission @ 72 Merrion Street, Leeds

Until 23rd Dec

Theatre company Riptide have collaborated with mental health professionals, trained masseuses and life coaches to create interactive show “Intermission”. Exploring mindfulness through sensory experience combined with the immersive performance creates a spa-like space for relaxation. The innovative show aims to ensure that every audience member’s well-being is at the forefront of their holistic journey. This season can be rough on our mental health, treat yourself to self-care. Intermission is now open and will run until 23rd of December in Leeds at 72 Merrion Street.


Light Organ @ Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

Open until 21st Jan

YSP is a must-visit every winter, and if you find yourself there this December, there’s a striking one-off installation to check out in their Chapel. ‘Light Organ’ is not just visually impressive, but interactive – the light displays respond to sounds made by attendees, creating something personalised, mesmerising and fun.

There’ll be a range of events in the Chapel, from live music to workshops for families, with some taking place after hours – the full list is here!


Exhibitions @ Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead

Various Dates

There is an eclectic mix of exhibitions at The Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead – light-hearted to thought provoking. ‘Outsiders’ is a project about homelessness in Britain by the Documentary Photographer, Marc Davenant. The black & white images were made over a period of six years in association with the homeless charity, Shelter.

In contrast, The Worst Record Covers features some from Steve Goldman’s huge collection.  The main criteria for inclusion in his archive was that the covers had to make him laugh or just be totally bizarre.  This is a fun exhibition for the whole family – including an opportunity to design your own worst record cover.


The Palm House, Liverpool

14th Dec

The Palm House in Sefton Park is a stunning masterpiece of Victorian engineering that houses an extraordinary collection of exotic plants from all over the world. It is also a terrific venue for art and music. This month’s events include the all female jazz band, Bear Cat Gumbo and the Birdcage Winter Exhibition, which features a golden, gilded birdcage for pop-up performances inspired by the changing seasons.


The Reader @ Calderstones Park, Liverpool

The historic Calderstones Park is the home of international organisation, The Reader, dedicated to bringing the joy of reading to everyone everywhere.  There is a continuous programme of shared reading events and this month several winter themed walks, including one combined with poetry that celebrates the work of Emily Dickinson – a Winter Wellbeing Workshop that begins with her poetry and is followed by a guided walk through the park that will take in the 1,000-year-old Allerton oak tree.

Do you know some other cultural Christmas alternatives to promote? Let us know!

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