As the city began to reopen unrestricted, Heather Nelson took us on a tour around the rejuvenation of Leeds’ grassroots culture.

The buzz around the city of Leeds is palpable. Yes, the city, as with the rest of England, is open. You can feel the energy of the creatives getting on with what they do best. Create.

We know the pubs and clubs are open, but the creative hubs such as Headrow House, Left Bank and Seven Arts (to name but three) are showcasing events by independent artistes who are bringing their vibrancy and thought-provoking works, both in the city centre of Leeds and within the hidden treasures of the diverse communities in our rich city of culture. A title which doesn’t have to be bestowed on us, it just is.

Young poets sharing their mental health journey at Headrow House was both deep rooted and impactful. Listening to how the pandemic has affected them, their anxieties. Not all rushing to have a drink but wondering how the world around them has changed, how do they fit into this new world; there is no new normal, just NEW. The way that many adapted to the lockdown was both extraordinary and inclusive. So much so that it continues with dynamic theatrical performances such as ‘White Walls’ by Speak Woman Speak, which was both dark and captivating. Leading into a debate about black women being sectioned again tackling mental health.

When sitting on the bus coming down Harrogate Road you would hear surreal Jazz Sounds winding its way through Chapel Allerton with individuals soaking up the sun at Seven Arts, featuring Jon Scully with Jazz Leeds Trio. A PAYF event which was over-subscribed.

During the Summer period we have Left Bank holding a number of creative workshops within their programmes, from Weaving to Speak Your Mind, to Creative Epic events. KUFFDEM Arts produced a phenomenal panto. A theatre production company returning with energy and a strong cultural flavour. One to watch for this coming year.

SAA-UK have been sharing their authentic South Asian Music and Dance for all to enjoy or take part in. Sharing and embracing all to and on their programme.

Whilst huge events such as Leeds City Council Summer Programmes in Millennium Square were being cancelled, venues are full to capacity trying to accommodate the demands of previous bookings and those wishing to book their venues for this year’s events.

Did you know that Eiger Studios has an amazing outdoor space? They are so much more than just a studio, a good studio it is but a little known excellent venue to hire too. Mini Festivals of varying kinds can be held in this gem at really affordable prices.

Eiger are not the only ones preparing themselves to be alternative venues: Polish Centre, Austin Burke Centre (ABC), Tiger 11; just a few hidden venue treasures where you will find independent events being held. Drawing the visitors and citizens of Leeds out of the city centre and into the communities that produce great innovative cultural events leaving you spoilt for choice.

Churches which are now becoming venues to hold concerts is a way of enjoying spiritual uplifting whilst listening to the gospel choirs within. Bridge Street Church has a purpose built concert hall with all the AV any artists could and would ask for. Costs are a fraction of most others you could compare with.

What is now exciting is the emerging talent that are nurtured and supported by organisations like BHI who mentor and coach and have the ability to provide a platform on which these young adults from reflecting communities can showcase their art and culture.

Now that I have shared a little of what our wonderful city holds in events, venues, arts and culture I hear a murmur of how do you find out what is going on? Local newsletters are excellent. E-listings such as Leeds Inspired and Doing Good Leeds are great to find events that are not featured on your mainstream listings, and not forgetting what you are reading now – the Little Black Book!

All are great places to promote your events without paying a fortune to market and promote. Reaching those who enjoy Theatre; Music; Poetry/ Spoken Word; Dance and more that is expressive and identifies with the cultural richness Leeds holds.

I for one enjoy finding these events and venues. We know about the larger well known places, let’s support those less discovered, to widen our knowledge, experience the cultures and appreciate the fusion of talents we hold. Be led into the communities that are holding these events, sharing and showcasing their talents, supporting and encouraging the independents who will satisfy your healthy curiosity of ‘what’s next and where now’. Thank me later.

Images: The Sunday Practice, SAA-UK, Bridge Street Church, Left Bank Leeds