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Hidden Leeds

Hidden Leeds

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Chapter 81
C.L.A.Y (Centre for Live Art Yorkshire)

CLAY (formerly known as Live Art Bistro can be found just out of town on Regent Street. An experimental space, CLAY is a home for interdisciplinary artists and functions as a venue, a bar, and a social space. It’s a hub for live art in the North, and it’s a space for the artists too - an affordable place for professional and artistic development. CLAY presents a roster of intriguing and transgressive work, mixing public events, workshops, private hires and social events in the space, alongside the ongoing Arts Programme. It’s the sort of place where you always need to keep an eye on their “what’s on” page, to make sure you don’t miss out on something spectacular.
Leeds City Library

This library, nestled unobtrusively on top of the shops in Commercial Street, is the oldest surviving subscription library of its kind in the UK. Their collection of more than 150,000 books and periodicals (as well as audio books, CDs and DVDs) have been collected to cater to the tastes of its members, past and present. The welcoming, beautiful, quiet space can be visited - just contact them to book a slot, go on one of their tours, or attend an event. The beautiful space is a great place for a wander, and some of the historical books (which the knowledgeable library staff can point out to you) are a sight to behold. What’s more, the library has always allowed non-members access to its collections for research. If you fall in love, membership costs from £66 per year (for a full-time student, or young person 16-25) and goes up to £132 normal membership. With wifi available throughout the library, it’s the perfect environment to escape from the hustle and bustle of Leeds, and is also a great call as a work space if you’re self-employed.
Water Taxi

This amazing little transport link connects the South entrance of the Leeds train station to the Leeds Dock - by way of a fabulous yellow water taxi. For just £1 per journey, hop on Twee or Drie (the boats have come over all the way from Amsterdam) and enjoy cruising on the water. Running Monday - Friday 7am - 7pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am - 6pm, they’re a really enjoyable way (as well as the quickest route!) to mosey on down to Leeds Dock. Under 5s travel free, too.
Hyde Park Picture House Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hyde Park Picture House is a beautiful Grade II-listed building - and the only remaining gaslit cinema in the UK. It opened in November 1914, and still houses many of the original features - plus, it’s just won a National Lottery grant to pay for a mammoth renovation project to make sure it’s a great place to visit for years to come. Draped in the reds and golds of the golden age of theatre and cinema, this is an amazing place to catch a film - and they also show a varied programme, with the big blockbusters screening alongside arthouse movies.

Tucked away just off Briggate, Leeds City Varieties is another classic proscenium arch-style, old school music hall venue of red and gold. Hosting some great gigs, from comedy to burlesque to intimate chats to bands on the road...and all the names are here, large and small. It’s an intimate venue where you can really feel up-close-and-personal with the performers onstage, and they also support City Varieties Youth Theatre, a thriving centre for young people ages 8-17, run from the Leeds Grand Theatre Studio.
Below Stairs

A cocktail bar below the radar! Come in, and enjoy your complimentary welcome cocktail. Yup, you heard that right! The first one’s free. Then choose from a run of really special, storytelling cocktails. And this isn’t exclusionary and just for the ‘cocktail connoisseur’ - the cocktails are supposed to connect you to emotions and your senses, not get you to identify all the ingredients or how old the scotch is! If you don’t fancy a ‘109 miles to Filey’ (Seaweed distilled gin, wild flower eau de vie, ‘seafoam’ and a (chocolate) pebble), you can always play safe and choose a cocktail classic, or even a beer from their 6 draught lines or wine from their small vineyard-produced wines.

The Brotherton Library is an imposing, enormous rotunda set inside Leeds University’s Parkinson Building. All warm woods and marble, this is a library in which every student can almost feel the history of centuries of students coming into this space for the same goal - to check out that book, to do that research and to get that essay written. Their Special Collections department is an extra special asset in the library though - found on the upper balcony of the Brotherton rotunda room, on floor 4. Special Collections is open to all - uni staff and students need their ID, but as an external visitor you’ll need to register before you get to come in - with your signature and present address, alongside photo ID. Then you get access to all the amazing treasures the department holds - from Incunabula (books printed before 1501 - the library has more than 300 of these) to the Feminist North Archive (which holds collections on women’s movemens, organisations and campaigns with initial focus on the North of England) to Shakespeare’s First Folio, to the Medieval Manuscripts section (holding manuscripts from the 12th - 15th centuries), as well as plenty of other journals, books and manuscripts from famous names and names lost, alike.

Whitelock’s’ claim to fame is that it is Leeds’ oldest surviving pub! Sited in a quiet alley just off Briggate since 1715 (when it was called The Turk’s Head - a name which Whitelock’s have put to good use since by renovating the building next door as a modern cocktail bar under that title), the pub serves up proper pub grub (with a few less usual options too), and has a fine nose for sniffing down good beers for the lines. With something to suit everyone (from a nice cold lager to tap takeovers from lauded breweries such as Gamma, Five Points Brewing Co, Mikkeler and beyond. Those copper bar taps and decorative stained glass windows make this a go-to pub for any Leeds visitor - and a regular haunt for any Leeds beerhead who needs somewhere to have a great pint after work on a Friday night!
Leeds Town Hall cells Image credit: @nualabugeye Flickr

The Town Hall opened in 1858, and housed police offices, accommodation for the gaoler and his wife, and thirteen cells. Each of these cells had just a wooden bench and shackles. These small, dark rooms, stone-flagged and with no windows, give a glimpse into the justice system - sometimes four prisoners would be held together in these small, cold cells. The ‘Bridewell’, as the set of cells were known, was modernised in 1937, to add new toilets, windows in outside walls and more cells. Staggeringly, the cells remained in use until 1993! Rather than covering up the past, the Town Hall opens up to visitors on the last Saturday, and Monday, of every month, so you can experience a flavour of the past. Well worth a visit.

Headrow House is a former textile mill tucked away just off the Headrow. The multi-use venue set across four floors houses amazing Michelin-recommended restaurant Ox Club, as well as pilsner bar, cocktail bar and events space. On a warm afternoon, check out the rooftop terrace Kennedy Meadows to while away a summer day in the sun.
Colours May Vary

This great independent gallery in Munro House, just south of the bus station, sells art prints, journals, homeware and all sorts of coveted bits-and-bobs you did not know you needed. An amazing choice for a really thoughtful gift, it’s a great shop to check out some art, support some artists and generally have an enjoyable browse (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s just next to Cafe 164 either).


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