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Karen Butler

Karen Butler

Place Maker
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Architecture

Victoria Quarter Queen, Victoria St, Leeds LS1 6BE, UK

I continue to be amazed that people are still surprised by the amount and quality of inspirational architecture in Leeds- only rivalled by London! I could ramble on here for some time, forgive me! The Gilbert Scott designs at the LGI, the first Nightingale wards to be built, the Edwardian buildings of the Victoria Quarter- separated by a 4-lane highway until Briggate was pedestrianised in the mid-1990’s, the arcades- Queens, Thorntons, the Georgian Squares- Queens Square and Park Square, the former auction rooms- now Iberica on East Parade, the majesty of City Square- the Queens Hotel, the old Post Office… and those are just the obvious ones!

Leeds is littered with amazing buildings; I confess, I have a weakness for the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian- in abundance in Leeds, often providing a training ground for young architects who later found fame in London and across the world; Gilbert Scott in London (St Pancras), Blomfield (Eastgate/Regent Street).

My first job in Leeds allowed me access to some of the most amazing spaces including the old Electric Press Building (with original machines), best views in Leeds from the helipad and a poke around the mortuary at the LGI, don’t ask! However, for lots of reasons, my personal favourite must be the Edwardian pink brick, Burmuntofts terracotta and glazed roofs of the Victoria Quarter. One of the first things I was privileged to work on as a young town planner, with the dedicated John Bade (then GM) and owners Prudential who showed such amazing foresight and determination; we continued that relationship for years, and beautiful as it was, the terracotta and pink brick proved a beast to match in schemes such as the Harvey Nichols façade.

In the early years, the stained-glass roof caused huge controversy and much debate around the privatisation of pubic space; would we be without it now? Ironically, years later, I now find myself working in the upper floors amongst the domes and inside the terracotta walls of this Grade II* Matcham masterpiece. Karma!

Kirkstall Abbey

Abbey Rd, Leeds LS5 3EH, UK

A place to escape, opposite the first house I ever bought in Leeds- a back to back, so posh it had a front garden (where I developed my green fingers), deceptively large on the inside where even the constant roar of Kirkstall Road became my friend. The Abbey then, just over the road, was a world away from my indoor life- vast, majestic, anonymous and just the place to enjoy a picnic in the summer or a brisk walk in the winter and maybe call for a jar or two at the West End House or Vesper Gate to warm up. My old friend.

Food (and Drink!)

Leeds, UK

Living and working in Leeds, you can’t fail to be impressed by the sheer number of great restaurants and bars to try. Every cuisine, every style, for every part of the day. It’s one of our best offers as a city. Food is a bit of thing of mine. I’ve always loved it, toyed with re-training to be a chef, dreamed of running a B&B with home grown food and, of course I eat (lots of it!). I’m probably paying more attention to what I eat more than at any other time in my life and enjoy great quality food. I love the availability of great produce nearby, in the city centre I’m a weekly visitor to Kirkgate Market and love a Saturday morning walk down my local high street. Local independents are what I really love, the unique atmosphere they create and sense of community and I’m passionate about supporting them. So I don’t give all my secrets away, here are some that are more local to me.

Pride & Produce, Main Street, Garforth - a cosy, family run place I like to have breakfast (vegan here for me) with friends at the weekend, or a coffee or two; Jigger & Jar, Main Street, Garforth- a new cocktail bar that Main Street has been crying out for, cosy, filled with palm trees and familiar chatter; and Quirky Ales, Ash Lane, Garforth- a micro-brewery, perfect after a long (or sometimes short) dog walk for a pint and a Cryer and Stott pie. Food again!

Performance

46 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU, UK

I’m hooked on performance, though I have a special weakness for musical theatre and any kind of dance; I guess that comes from my many years of dance lessons as a child/teen and loving anything that creates that generates that internal optimism and happiness. I’ll never forget a visit to the old Mark Altman Ballroom on Great George Street in the early 1990’s, long after it’s heyday, when I got the opportunity to test the sprung floor just one last time before it’s demolition! These days, my favourite theatres include The Grand Theatre, New Briggate and The City Varieties, Swan St- first visited annually for Panto with 40+ colleagues and last visited for the launch of LeedsBID’s business plan- not how I’m used to seeing it, at 8am, opened by a Brass Band! It was quite a wake up! The 19th century architecture, of course, is stunning in both venues- and not to be missed!

Loiners

Leeds, UK

Last but not least! You’ve got to love ‘em! Although not quite from this part of the world (but not too far away), Leeds is now the longest place I’ve lived in, and I love it! Whether you’re from Leeds or not there’s a special friendliness here, a familiarity and warmth generated by the people who call Leeds their home which creates a quite a welcome. Whether you’re arriving in Leeds for a day, a term or a lifetime, it’s impossible not to feel it or get hooked!

Leeds has been my home, workplace and playground on and off since the mid 1980’s.  In that time, I’ve seen a massive transformation, physically and socially in the city.  I’ve also grown from teen to adult, maybe not grown up yet though!  It’s a city I’ve come to love, and become hooked on, returning numerous times from jobs elsewhere to settle.  It’s my happy place!

Architecture

I continue to be amazed that people are still surprised by the amount and quality of inspirational architecture in Leeds- only rivalled by London! I could ramble on here for some time, forgive me! The Gilbert Scott designs at the LGI, the first Nightingale wards to be built, the Edwardian buildings of the Victoria Quarter- separated by a 4-lane highway until Briggate was pedestrianised in the mid-1990’s, the arcades- Queens, Thorntons, the Georgian Squares- Queens Square and Park Square, the former auction rooms- now Iberica on East Parade, the majesty of City Square- the Queens Hotel, the old Post Office… and those are just the obvious ones!

Leeds is littered with amazing buildings; I confess, I have a weakness for the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian- in abundance in Leeds, often providing a training ground for young architects who later found fame in London and across the world; Gilbert Scott in London (St Pancras), Blomfield (Eastgate/Regent Street).

My first job in Leeds allowed me access to some of the most amazing spaces including the old Electric Press Building (with original machines), best views in Leeds from the helipad and a poke around the mortuary at the LGI, don’t ask! However, for lots of reasons, my personal favourite must be the Edwardian pink brick, Burmuntofts terracotta and glazed roofs of the Victoria Quarter. One of the first things I was privileged to work on as a young town planner, with the dedicated John Bade (then GM) and owners Prudential who showed such amazing foresight and determination; we continued that relationship for years, and beautiful as it was, the terracotta and pink brick proved a beast to match in schemes such as the Harvey Nichols façade.

In the early years, the stained-glass roof caused huge controversy and much debate around the privatisation of pubic space; would we be without it now? Ironically, years later, I now find myself working in the upper floors amongst the domes and inside the terracotta walls of this Grade II* Matcham masterpiece. Karma!

Kirkstall Abbey

A place to escape, opposite the first house I ever bought in Leeds- a back to back, so posh it had a front garden (where I developed my green fingers), deceptively large on the inside where even the constant roar of Kirkstall Road became my friend. The Abbey then, just over the road, was a world away from my indoor life- vast, majestic, anonymous and just the place to enjoy a picnic in the summer or a brisk walk in the winter and maybe call for a jar or two at the West End House or Vesper Gate to warm up. My old friend.

Address: Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH
Food (and Drink!)

Living and working in Leeds, you can’t fail to be impressed by the sheer number of great restaurants and bars to try. Every cuisine, every style, for every part of the day. It’s one of our best offers as a city. Food is a bit of thing of mine. I’ve always loved it, toyed with re-training to be a chef, dreamed of running a B&B with home grown food and, of course I eat (lots of it!). I’m probably paying more attention to what I eat more than at any other time in my life and enjoy great quality food. I love the availability of great produce nearby, in the city centre I’m a weekly visitor to Kirkgate Market and love a Saturday morning walk down my local high street. Local independents are what I really love, the unique atmosphere they create and sense of community and I’m passionate about supporting them. So I don’t give all my secrets away, here are some that are more local to me.

Pride & Produce, Main Street, Garforth - a cosy, family run place I like to have breakfast (vegan here for me) with friends at the weekend, or a coffee or two; Jigger & Jar, Main Street, Garforth- a new cocktail bar that Main Street has been crying out for, cosy, filled with palm trees and familiar chatter; and Quirky Ales, Ash Lane, Garforth- a micro-brewery, perfect after a long (or sometimes short) dog walk for a pint and a Cryer and Stott pie. Food again!

Performance

I’m hooked on performance, though I have a special weakness for musical theatre and any kind of dance; I guess that comes from my many years of dance lessons as a child/teen and loving anything that creates that generates that internal optimism and happiness. I’ll never forget a visit to the old Mark Altman Ballroom on Great George Street in the early 1990’s, long after it’s heyday, when I got the opportunity to test the sprung floor just one last time before it’s demolition! These days, my favourite theatres include The Grand Theatre, New Briggate and The City Varieties, Swan St- first visited annually for Panto with 40+ colleagues and last visited for the launch of LeedsBID’s business plan- not how I’m used to seeing it, at 8am, opened by a Brass Band! It was quite a wake up! The 19th century architecture, of course, is stunning in both venues- and not to be missed!

Loiners

Last but not least! You’ve got to love ‘em! Although not quite from this part of the world (but not too far away), Leeds is now the longest place I’ve lived in, and I love it! Whether you’re from Leeds or not there’s a special friendliness here, a familiarity and warmth generated by the people who call Leeds their home which creates a quite a welcome. Whether you’re arriving in Leeds for a day, a term or a lifetime, it’s impossible not to feel it or get hooked!

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