Culture of Leeds

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Leeds is known for its culture in the fields of art, architecture, music, sport, film and television. As the largest city in Yorkshire, Leeds is a centre of Yorkshire's contemporary culture and is the base for Yorkshire's television (BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 to come)[1] and regional newspapers.



Leeds Art Gallery, which opened in 1888, houses the best twentieth century collection outside London and a colourful wall painting for the Victorian staircase by Lothar Götz. The gallery is owned and operated by Leeds City Council and is free to members of the public. Just next door, The Henry Moore Institute hosts a year-round programme of historical, modern and contemporary exhibitions presenting sculpture from across the world.

Located in the striking art deco headquarters of the former brewery, The Tetley is a centre for contemporary art, centred on creativity, innovation and experimentation. The Gallery at 164 is an independent art gallery exhibiting artists, illustrators, photographers and designers working in all types of media.

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery offers innovative art exhibitions from the University Art Collection and Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery displays the finest rare books, manuscripts, art and archives from the world renowned Special Collections.

Art is taught in Leeds at Leeds College of Art which has alumni including Henry Moore and Damien Hirst.

Leeds city centre has a variety of statues and sculptures on public display. The city also features and ever-growing host of street art and urban murals, including the UK's tallest mural 'Athena Rising'.[3]This mural is part of a city-wide project 'A City Less Grey', initiated by East Street Arts, which won a national award at the Planning Awards 2018.[4]


Leeds has a variety of architectural styles, including a great deal of Victorian architecture, which developed during Leeds' rapid growth through the industrial revolution. Notable architecture from this era includes the Leeds Town Hall and the Corn Exchange. Leeds has little in the way of architecture that predates this era; however, examples include St John the Evangelist's church and the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey.

Leeds is famous for its spectacular Victorian arcades – Queens Arcade, Thornton’s Arcade, Grand Arcade and the magnificent Victoria Quarter. The centre is also home to a number of iconic buildings: Leeds Civic Hall and Leeds Central Library; a gothic masterpiece with spectacular staircases and archways.

Other notable architectural gems include Europe’s largest indoor market: Kirkgate Market, Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties.

Leeds also has several examples of notable twentieth-century architecture. This includes the art-deco Queens Hotel and the brutalist Roger Stevens Building at the University of Leeds and formerly the Leeds International Swimming Pool.


Leeds hosts the Leeds West Indian Carnival in its Chapeltown district, which is home to a sizable West Indian community. This takes place each August and is the longest running West Indian carnival in Europe, having taken place since 1967.[5] The 2017 event attracted an estimated 250,000 visitors.


Several notable writers and poets have hailed from Leeds, most notably author and screenwriter Alan Bennett. These also included poets Alfred Austin, Tony Harrison and Barry Tebb. Writers from Leeds include Helen Fielding, famous for Bridget Jones's Diary, and Keith Waterhouse, famous for the novel Billy Liar. Tony Harrison described his relationship with the city in his infamous poem "V".


Leeds has several museums, including one national museum, the Royal Armouries.[6] Other museums include the Leeds City Museum, the Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds Industrial Museum and the Abbey House Museum. Leeds also features the oldest working railway in the world: Middleton Railway.

There are also local museums in Horsforth and Otley displaying exhibits of local historical interest.

Historic Houses[edit]

There are number of nearby historical houses within Leeds' boundaries, including Harewood House, Lotherton Hall and Temple Newsam. Only 3 miles out of the city centre you can also find Kirkstall Abbey, one of the most complete medieval 12th century Cistercian Abbeys in Britain.


A busker on Briggate

Leeds is home to Opera North, Northern Ballet and The Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD).

The Leeds International Pianoforte Competition is held every year at Leeds Town Hall and the Great Hall at the University of Leeds.

Leeds also has a symphony orchestra.

Leeds has a notable musical scene, and has produced many bands and artists. Bands from Leeds include Chumbawumba, Kaiser Chiefs, the Pigeon Detectives and Soft Cell. Musical artists from Leeds include Corrine Bailey Rae and Mel B.

Leeds has several music venues, including the O2 Academy, the City Varieties, and the 13,500 capacity, entertainment focused Leeds Arena. Leeds Town Hall and the Leeds University Students' Union host concerts, and a smaller venue is also in operation at Leeds Met Students' Union.

Music festivals[edit]

Leeds has been home to several music festivals throughout the years; these include Party in the Park and Leeds Festival. Leeds Festival has run at Temple Newsam and Bramham Park since 1999. The Leeds Classical Music Festival ran from 1858 until 1985.

Theatre and performances[edit]

Leeds is one of the only English cities outside London to have its own repertory theatre, opera and ballet companies. Leeds has some of the finest theatres in the UK and offers a wide range of entertainment, from music hall evenings and pantos at the City Varieties, to West End plays and musicals at Leeds Playhouse and Leeds Grand Theatre. Leeds is also home to the internationally renowned and award-winning Opera North and Northern Ballet.

During the summer, open air performances take place at stunning locations such as Harewood House and Kirkstall Abbey and the Summer Series on Millennium Square.[7]

Playwright Alan Bennett hails from the city and many of his plays including his televised Talking Heads were set in Leeds or areas surrounding the city.

For film, there is the historic Cottage Road Cinema, one of the oldest cinemas in the country, or Grade II listed Hyde Park Picture House: believed to be the only one in the world still lit by gas.


Leeds has teams representing all the major national sports. Leeds United A.F.C. is the city's main football club. Leeds Rhinos (Rugby league), Leeds Carnegie (Rugby Union) and Yorkshire County Cricket Club are also based in the city.

Leeds is well-known for hosting world-class sporting events, with unforgettable, international competitions being held in the city, including the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2014, Rugby World Cup 2015 and the ITU World Triathlon Series Leeds in 2016, 2017, 2018.[8]


Elland Road, the city's main football stadium

Leeds United are the only professional side in the city since Farsley Celtic folded in 2010. Formed in 1919 they play at Elland Road and currently compete in the Championship.

Other smaller teams include Garforth Town and Guiseley A.F.C.

Rugby League[edit]

Leeds has two professional Rugby League teams. Leeds Rhinos play at the Emerald Headingley Stadium and compete in the Super League. In South Leeds there is also Hunslet R.L.F.C. There are many other professional Rugby League teams in areas surrounding Leeds.

Rugby Union[edit]

The main Rugby Union team in Leeds is Yorkshire Carnegie, who share a stadium with Leeds Rhinos. Lying just outside the city sprawl but within the Metropolitan District are Otley R.U.F.C..


Yorkshire County Cricket Club's main ground is the Headingley Carnegie Stadium in the city.


Leeds has a large Olympic swimming pool situated at the John Charles Centre for Sport, which replaced earlier facilities at the Leeds International Swimming Pool.

Film and television[edit]

Leeds is home to both BBC Yorkshire and ITV Yorkshire (formerly Yorkshire Television). Many television series have been set in Leeds, including At Home with the Braithwaites, The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Fat Friends and Married Single Other. Several films have also been set in the city, such as The Damned United and Mischief Night.


  1. ^ "Channel 4 is moving to Leeds". The Independent. 31 October 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Explore Art". Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Towering owl mural scoops national award". 9 June 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  4. ^ "National Recognition For Project To Make City Streets A Little Less Grey". Leeds Bid. 8 June 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  5. ^ "LEEDS CARNIVAL 50 HERITAGE". Leeds West Indian Carnival. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "What's On In Leeds". Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Sporting Leeds". Retrieved 11 March 2019.

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