I was amazed by the cafe owners; many deliver to the infirm and they understood their role in the community. Most of their clientele were regulars, on first name terms. The proprietors knew they could offer something different, something more personal. No fancy lattes here, just tea or instant coffee in mugs not cups.
As a concept, some might not see the glamour in such a project, but as a juxtaposition to the Leeds City Centre Chic, it praises the mundane, the bland, and the sheer ordinariness of a still existent suburban working class and their local eatery.
Leeds centre’s cafe culture has a vibe; sumptuous food, coffee and booze in beautiful independent boho city hangouts. They’re great places. But there is another cafe society in the suburbs of Leeds, anywhere within the LS postcode: Garforth, Osmanthorpe, Middleton, Meanwood, Horsforth, Chapletown, where tradesmen grab a bite and mums meet to chat.
I’m interested in showing the classic Greasy Spoons run by a Marg and a Geoff serving cheap bacon sarnies to an Ethel who’s been going there for 20 years. As an ex-postman I know them all. Small two-table joints stuck at the end of rows of terraces that were once the corner shops in Holbeck and Beeston, Harehills and Bramley, Pudsey and Yeadon. I wanted to capture the essence of these local hubs in candid moments of black and white.
It was fascinating to be in them. Virtually all were playing local radio stations; in quiet periods conversations would spring up about local issues. I was struck by how similar all these places were, the same vibe, the same friendly welcome, the same chalkboard home-cooked menu and the same low prices!