Category Archives: Art

Digital Zoo at Trinity Leeds

If you’ve been to Trinity over the weekend, you might have noticed a few interesting additions to the usual shoppers fare. That’s because, until the 23rd February, the shopping centre is hosting an exhibition from London’s Furtherfield Gallery.

Digital Zoo: Life from the World Wide Web is a series of pieces that explore links between people and wildlife, and draw similarities between our online presence and a specimen in a zoo.

The piece that emphasised this the most was Kay’s Blog, by Essex based artist Liz Sterry. Sterry followed Canadian blogger Kay’s posts over a few months, printing out pictures and taking notes, and eventually she was able to perfectly recreate the girl’s bedroom. This physical manifestation of Kay’s online presence sits in a wooden box outside H&M, and the swarms of people stopping to stare through the window, peek in the door and gawp at the scruffy bedlinen resemble nothing more than daytrippers at Chester Zoo.

Just down the nearby escalator is another physical representation of human life to be examined, in the form of Leeds Wall. Thompson and Craighead have amassed two weeks’ worth of social networking traffic from within a 2 mile radius of Trinity. The wall must be 15 feet high, but you almost don’t notice it. Yet, once you do see it, you can’t stop looking! Each tweet or status or comment is a tiny snapshot of human thought, activity or behaviour. The life and vibrancy of Leeds bursts off the wall in all its highs and lows

Animacules, by Genetic Moo, is the last thing you’d expect to see in the middle of a shopping centre. Five people at a time are handed torches and ushered into a dark tent, where a dark blue circle is projected onto the floor. Shine your torch into this circle, and suddenly it’s transformed into a deep pool crammed with sealife. The animations are based on real sea creatures, but made up of human body parts, so a starfish is five beckoning fingers. It’s a little creepy but incredibly absorbing, and you could watch it for ages.

The last two pieces are living in the Customer Service Lounge. Mary Flanagan’s [borders] is inspired by Henry Thoreau’s theory that walking around is the best way to really get to know your environment. Flanagan has applied that theory to Second Life, and has spent hours walking around real places in a digital environment. Flanagan is interested in the edges of this world, where the coding falls short or the illusion collapses, so her film stutters around looking into gaps where you can almost see the strings holding the experience up.

Finally, we have Crow_sourcing. This fun, interactive piece looks at the way nature has influenced human language. Scan the barcode on one of the many animals hung on the board, and on the screen a list of idioms associated with that animal flashes up. These idioms have been crowd sourced via social media. It gets even more exciting behind the installation, where you’ll find a blank wall, a handful of black markers and some stickers. No-one’s ever asked me to draw on an artwork before, and I doubt it’ll happen again, so I got involved despite my furious lack of skill!

Along with CultureCode, Furtherfield are hoping to challenge the idea that art belongs in galleries by bringing their pieces to shopping centres around the country, including the White Rose Centre and the Bridges in Sunderland. But if you’re in Leeds then don’t forget to catch this at Trinity before it leaves on the 23rd!

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In other news…

After checking out the exhibition, we hopped over to Trinity Kitchen for some lunch. I had Pizzaluxe for the second time which confirmed that I love their pizza! The wedges are equally droolworthy.

I’ve been doing the 100 Happy Days challenge! Learn more about it here and follow me on instagram to see my posts.

I love this Cracked article about the roles men never play in movies.

 

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Leeds&me on tour: London

A couple of weekends ago I finally made it down to London to see my bestie Amy who’s at medical school there. It’s been a while since I saw her, and even longer since I’ve been to the Big Smoke, so we had a lot to do in two short days! We lazed on Clapham Common, ate great food at Bodean’s, avoided Wimbledon which was just down the road, gobbled crepes, walked along the Thames and even got a quick glimpse of Big Ben.

Ever since I saw this post on For Books’ Sake I’ve been dying to visit the Persephone bookshop in London. Persephone publish unloved, forgotten titles of the twentieth century, mainly written by women, and they sell them almost exclusively in their own shop. Each book has a matte silvery blue cover, lined with a different vintage print for each title, and you get a matching bookmark, too. Seriously, this place is like my spiritual home!

The books are £12 each and we’d just narrowed our selections down to 2 each when we spotted a small sign saying they were 3 for £30. Another book for half the price…rude not to! Then we’d finally picked a third one when the sales lady told us because we’d bought two or more books we could have a free cookbook! I picked one called Plats du Jour, which claimed to offer simple French and Italian dishes, and it’s already provided us with much hilarity. About the section on fungi: “This chapter has been written for people who combine an experimental approach to cooking with an interest in natural history.” For a salsa verde recipe: “Reduce the following ingredients to a molecular state using a heavy chopping knife or mezzaluna.” On poultry: “It should not be forgotten that a platter of oysters is the best prelude to roast goose.”

Next up was Covent Garden for crepes and gelato (from the amazing Venchi, which we fell in love with in Italy last year), a short break in St James’ Park then off to the Tate Modern, where I remembered how much I like Magritte and Picasso, and how much fun it is to flick my eyes across a row of masterpieces and instantly dismiss three of them because I don’t like the colours. You can do things like that in a place like the Tate Modern: there are so many incredible paintings, you can pretend they’re ten a penny and look down your nose at a few!

The gallery shop is always a bump back to earth, though, when I realise I can’t even afford the reproductions 🙂

Looking at the pictures I took, I was really drawn to steampunky cogs and wheels and interlocking geometrics.  Perhaps this means I like a sense of order and tidiness? (If this is true, it’s in my mind only, and definitely not in my house!)

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This lady is an opera singer who was performing in the lower courtyard at Covent Garden when we were there. She was amazing, and the acoustics were surprisingly good! The only downside was the man collecting donations for her – I assume he was on some kind of commission because he was very pushy and quite rude to some people who were just walking past and really not listening to her at all! I understand that the lady was there to make a living but as someone who also gets by thanks to tips, I accept that not everyone can afford to tip or feels comfortable doing so. Anyway the music was gorgeous, have a look at the singer’s website here.

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Joan Miro at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

As I’m sure you’re aware thanks to my enthusiastic tweets, a couple of nights ago a whole bunch of lovely Leeds bloggers and tweeters were invited to Yorkshire Sculpture Parkto see their latest exhibition: a collection of Jean Miró’s sculpture.

I’ve never been to the Park in the dark before, largely because my main purpose for visiting is generally a lot more picnic related than not. In fact, until a year or so ago I genuinely believed that there were about 30 sculptures in the Park, that never changed, and that was it. But, I live and learn, and I won’t make that mistake again!

After a little welcome chat, we were led through to the Underground Gallery, where most of the collection is housed. We were lucky enough to be given a general overview of the works by Clare, the head curator, who gave us a fascinating insight into Miró’s life and work.

The pieces are as varied as they are surreal; according to Clare, he worked with two different foundries simultaneously, leading to two very distinct types of sculpture. One type is huge, inky black, smooth and so shiny you can see your own, dull reflection within it. The pieces are like cartoonish, obese versions of their subjects: men, women, birds. A few have violent lines gouged into them which look as if they’re done on the spur of the moment, in a sudden, quickly forgotten moment of rage.

In stark contrast are a number of pieces splashed with the brightest of reds, yellows, blues and greens. They are found objects and pieces of junk, brought together into totems resembling an approximate human form – so much taller and spindlier than their shiny black counterparts. One of the galleries had a quote on the wall from Miró, saying: “For me an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings.” I could easily see this in his work as he plastered together objects like taps, sponges and cans to make sculptures of the female form.

Finally are a series of raw bronze works, which are smaller and distinctly overpowered by the others. Like the totems they are made from various objects cobbled together, and despite the lack of much finishing, a few of the pieces struck me as remarkable tactile. One had strips of bronze at the back that looked so much like soft, malleable strips of leather in the way they hung that I had to clasp my hands together to keep from touching it.

The curator told us that Miró wanted art to be part of people’s everyday life. Many of his pieces are in major cities, and he lived in the country for most of his life. His work reflects his love of the land, so it was odd really to see so many pieces all in this industrial warehouse style gallery. It felt like the pieces were too big for the rooms; there was too much vitality in them for them all to be cooped up together. I really wanted to see the pieces that were outside, where I felt the setting would be more fitting for the majesty of the larger pieces. Unfortunately, by that point it was far too dark to see them; all I could see were dark shadowy shapes. I can’t wait to get back there to have a good look!

I was left feeling curious about Miró, a man who saved his most ambitious ideas for his latest years. Who wouldn’t want to know more about a man who refused to identify as a Surrealist, so he was free to experiment as much as he wanted with other styles, who wanted to find a way to make four dimensional paintings, and who wrote about the possibility of gas sculpture? His work is colourful, playful and fun, but in the gouged grooves and garish faces is a hint of the depression that he suffered throughout his life.

If you want to find out more about that man, the exhibition is on from 17th March 2012 until 6th January 2013. More info is here.

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Five Truths at the Howard Assembly Rooms

Sometimes, when at the theatre, I can get a little distracted. You see, I find the concept of acting endlessly fascinating, and there are times when I’m just staring at the person on the stage, wondering what they’re thinking, why they chose to use that tone of voice, whose idea it was to add the pause before that word, and how long it took them to perfect that twitch. When I see the understudy in a role, I wonder whether I’m getting the same experience as I would have the night before, and find myself inwardly cheering them on as they enjoy their moment in the spotlight.

Last night, the BAFTAs were on TV, and Viola Davis presented the award for Production Design. (Yes, I know, I’m getting to Five Truths, I promise.) She said something along the lines of, creating the overall look and feel of a film is an enormously difficult task and those who do it are incredibly talented and deserve recognition. And I thought, yes! Yes, they do! The mood of a film is vitally important, and as well as production design, there’s lighting designers, costume designers, make up artists, location scouts, set designers, special effects…they all contribute to that. It just hit me how many different elements are involved in my experience of watching something, and that a few little decisions here and there can hugely affect the end product.

The thing is, you’ll very rarely know how, will you? Because they don’t make two versions of films, one with an easy listening soundtrack and one set to heavy metal, or one filmed entirely in the rain and one on a summer’s day. The closest you’ll get is remakes, or seeing two productions of the same play, or going to see the same production several times. Nine times out of ten, it’s not going to happen.

And this is where Five Truths comes in.

It’s an installation. A large box, essentially, you can get thirty or so people in there comfortably. On the walls are five pairs of screens of varying sizes, and each pair is showing a version of Shakespeare’s Ophelia, going mad and then drowning. Each version is in the style of a great theatre director of the twentieth century; there’s Brook, Artaud, Stanislavski, Brecht and Grotowski. I was a bit reticent to blog about this, because I knew I would have to admit that I’ve never seen, read or studied Hamlet, and I’m a bit defensive about that sort of thing. I’ll get to it, I’ve read loads of good stuff and tons of Shakespeare, I just don’t happen to have got to that particular one just yet, okay? I considered reading it at the weekend to get up to speed, but on reflection I decided to go in to the experience with only my basic knowledge, and experience Ophelia as a performance rather than words on a page.

Anyway, the screens play on a ten minute loop, and as luck would have it, we walked in just at the beginning of a loop. It was disorientating at first; with so many screens and so many different things happening, I didn’t know where to look. At first I decided to take the screens one at a time, but I soon realised it wasn’t going to work like that. At different moments, different Ophelias grab your attention. It’s fascinating: the same actress, following the same script, but creating a vastly different experience.

The most believable to me was Grotowski’s; a broken, grieving woman huddled under a table, whose words are little more than guttural cries. The Brechtian interpretation, though, was arresting; she stared coolly into the camera, and sang her sorrow in a creepily catchy ditty that I found myself humming whilst doing the washing up later. Honestly, eeriest ear worm ever. In the corner is Artaud’s Ophelia; she wears her fathers glasses and pulls faces at an indifferent goldfish.

It’s what you might call an immersive experience, and several hours later the images are still echoing around in my head. The performances from Michelle Terry are absorbing and enchanting, and left me with so many questions. How did Shakespeare intend us to see Ophelia? Does it matter? Are there five truths on display here? Which performance is the most true? Why? Which Ophelia do I identify with the most? What does that say about me? What do the interpretations tell us about the directors?

I can’t recommend this enough. It’s free, so you’re not losing anything, and you can walk in, try it for five minutes and leave if you don’t like it. It’s running from 2pm to 8pm daily until Saturday 25th February (closed Sundays) at the Howard Assembly Rooms.

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Coming Soon in Leeds: December Roundup

If the crowds at Millennium Square’s Christkindelmarkt are anything to go by, it’s certainly going strong after ten years here. Although it’s horrendously busy and drastically overpriced, it’s also the only place in Leeds you can buy honey, a metal wine bottle holder and a snow globe at 9pm, so you’ll just have to suck it up! Seriously though, the chalets and fairy lights and busy-ness all combine for a kitsch and cheesy but super Christmassy atmosphere. It’s worth a stroll through in the early evening for a pretzel and a mulled wine in a vile seventies ‘Christmas’ mug.

For a slightly more local experience, don’t forget our very own Kirkgate Market, which will be staying open until 8pm every Thursday in the run up for Christmas.

Of course it’s pantomime season, and this year Denise Nolan is starring as the villain in Beauty and the Beast over at the Carriageworks (Oh no she isn’t, etc etc). It’s on from 2nd December until 7th January and is fun for all the family. Personally, though, I’ll be holding out for Northern Ballet’s version of Beauty and the Beast, on at Leeds Grand Theatre from the 17th to the 31st December. It’s the world premiere, don’tcha know?

Voluntary Action Leeds is a charity that matches volunteers with third sector organisations in Leeds. They also offer training and advice for both organisations and volunteers. You can support them this month by going to the Lord Mayor’s Carol Concert on the 15th December at the Town Hall.

If you’ve had your fill of festive fun, though, then why not take a stroll down to the Henry Moore Institute? From the 1st December right through until March they have United Enemies – an exhibition dedicated to the sculpture of the 1960s and 1970s, described as a defining period in sculpture’s history. It’s there 7 days a week but on Wednesdays they’re open until 9pm. It looks to be the perfect antidote to frenzied Christmas shoppers.

Alternatively, Adam Ant at the O2 Academy with his new act The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse on the 10th December should be pretty season neutral. Likewise if you need some laughs, the Courtyard Comedy Club at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on the 18th December is a steal at just £11.

And if all that isn’t enough, perhaps you need a stiff drink inside you. Headingley Ale Festival is running on the 9th, 10th and 11th of December, with your £4.50 ticket (available on the door only) getting you a free pint. There’s a vegan ale among the 45+ on offer, and award winning Yorkshire business I’s Pies will be serving their gourmet handmade pies.

Also – it’s Christmas, so do enjoy that, chaps, if it’s up your street.

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The Northern Art Prize Exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery

Art.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, is it?

And that’s fine; if you’ve genuinely given it a go and you just don’t enjoy looking at it then don’t force yourself. But on the other hand, if you’ve never tried it, then don’t deny yourself a great experience and a chance to try something a bit different at lunchtime, or on a Saturday afternoon.

Last night I went to the opening night of the Northern Art Prize exhibition atLeedsArtGallery. It was a lovely night and a great chance to see some works by the nominated artists.

One of the pieces I spent the most time looking at was this one by one of the nominees James Hugonin:

Binary Rhythm (III) 2009-2011, James Hugonin

This work is one of 4 that each took Hugonin a year to prepare. If you look at this close up, you can see that it’s made up of tiny little rectangles, done on a meticulously measured pencil grid.

A close up of a reproduction

Although it’s very intricate in design – the artist planned in impressive detail where each colour would go – the initial impression is that of bathroom tiles. But spend a few minutes looking at it and it’s so soothing. It rests your mind and clears it in a really delightful way.

My favourite piece of the bunch was Horizon (Leeds) by Leo Fitzmaurice. It’s made up of a collection of 19th and early 20th century pieces that were already held by Leeds Art Gallery, that have been lined up so that they look like one long picture, moving across the room from day to night. It looks beautiful, and was really refreshing compared to some of the more modern, abstract contributions to the exhibition. It was like a fresh take on some classic images, and was my absolute highlight of the night.

Horizon (Leeds) 2011, Leo Fitzmaurice

A closer look at the first three pictures

The other two finalists were Richard Rigg, whose work is almost funny in its quirkiness, and Liadin Cooke, who I would say was the least accessible but the most intriguing.

Miserable Object, 2011, Liadin Cooke

The exhibition is on at Leeds Art Galleryuntil February 19th so do go have a look at the artists’ work and let me know what you think!

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Coming Soon in Leeds: November Roundup

Art

Golau Glau (pronounced Goll-eye Gl-eye) is an anonymous collective who met in Wales but are now based around Leeds. They bill themselves as musicians, photographers and artists, and their first art exhibition is at Test Space Leeds from the 10th to the 13th November. The opening night on Thursday the 10th, kicking off at 7.30pm, involves a free gig with a live performance from Hookworms and some DJ sets. There’s another event on Saturday 12th at 2.30pm, with another DJ set and a talk from Lauren Smith of Voices for the Library about library closures (Golau Glau are particularly interested in environments under threat). All events, and the exhibition, are free.

From the 25th November, the Northern Art Prize exhibition opens at Leeds Art Gallery. The four shortlisted artists will have their work displayed there until 19th February, and the winner will be announced on 19th January. There are also talks with each artist and their nominator throughout November and December, priced at £5/£3 concessions. Contact the gallery to book.

Theatre

Practically the whole of November at the Leeds Grand is devoted to We Will Rock You, which is here for four weeks and selling incredibly well. Are you ready to be transported to the future, to a world where the Bohemians are searching for a hero to lead them back to that golden age – known as the Rhapsody – when kids had instruments, formed their own bands and wrote their own songs? Then book tickets here. They’re pricey, but by all accounts it’s an incredible show.

This Christmas the West Yorkshire Playhouse is taking on the orphan of all orphans, Annie. It runs from 25th November to 15th January and promises to be a lovely family treat for Christmas.

If you’re looking for belly laughs, try One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, or if you want something to get you thinking, it’s got to be Can We Talk About This. For work with a Yorkshire flavour, the Lawrence Batley Theatre has We Are Three Sisters, about the Brontes.

Digital

The Leeds Digital Festival official launch is on the 1st November. There are tons of events happening: I’m at the Girl Geek Dinner so say hi! Write-Publish-Read, Culture Hack North and Snapshot Leeds all look fab.

The Chol Generation Event is a day of talks and workshops for emerging artistic producers who need help in getting their work up and running. Culture Vultures’ Emma Bearman will teach you Twitter tricks, Sara Robinson does 1 on 1 coaching sessions and Jenny Wilson helps you define and refine your ideas.

Bonfire Night

For some reason, the council seems to be embracing Friday 4th November as Bonfire Night, and that’s when all the bigger bonfires are being held. There’s a list of what’s going on here: as always,RoundhayPark is looking like the main event (and the most difficult to get to).

For a twist on Bonfire Night, try Mike Hoyland’s Pre-Bonfire Night Spectacular, which is an annual event in the style of a chemistry lecture, featuring explosions galore. This year it’s moved to Leeds City Museum from its usual venue at the University. It’s on Thursday 3rd November at 7pm.

Film Festival

This is what everyone’s talking about! The Leeds International Film Festival turns 25 this year and they’re pulling out all the stops. The big buzz is around festival opener Wuthering Heights, controversially grotesque horror The Human Centipede 2 and Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns. For hints and tips, see the festival’s Communications Manager Kay Brown’s picks, Kirsty Ware’s organisational tactics and this preview post from My Life in Leeds.

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Coming Soon in Leeds: October Round Up

This unseasonable good weather has certainly been a boon to our ailing spirits this past week, but alas – it is not to last. Soon, the nights will grow colder and darker, and come 5pm we’ll all be hurrying home to eat comforting stews and warming pies. At the weekend we’ll venture out for only necessities, clad in cardigans and cagoules.

Lovely as that sounds, the spanner in the works, of course, is that October in Leeds is going to be an extremely exciting month! Everywhere you turn there’s an event or an exhibition, a festival or a fair. Here are the highlights.

Of course the one that everyone’s talking about this month is Light Night Leeds, which is on Friday 7th October at various venues around Leeds city centre. This is a multi-artform festival with 75 different events across 40+ venues. Almost all the events are free, but you do need to book in advance for some of them, which could be in smaller venues or be exceptionally popular. Check the downloadable programme for the full list of events and get planning your evening. My picks include number 23: The Leeds Festival Chorus performing short, haunting pieces at 3 different venues across the evening; 64: a burger-style van serving up free, personalised poems made to order and 54: a tour of the clocktower at Leeds Town Hall. If you find you haven’t left any time in your schedule for dinner, don’t worry: you can swing by Millenium Square where vendors including @nofishybusiness and @manjitskitchen will be selling quality hot food to eat on the go.

October is also Black History Month, and Leeds City Museum have put together a special trail around the museum. Pick up a leaflet from reception and follow the trail to learn more about this special month.

Temple Newsam have got two interesting weekends coming up this month. On both the 15th and 16th October, they are holding an event called Fungus Foray and Mushroom Medley. There’ll be a short talk to teach some of the basics: what’s edible and what’s not, what will kill you instantly, etc. Then a walk around the grounds, to forage for mushrooms. It’s £5/£3 concessions and starts at the Stable Courtyard, Temple Newsam at 2pm on both the Saturday and the Sunday. Call 0113 264 5535 to book your place. Meanwhile on the 22nd and 23rd October, discover Temple Newsam at night on a ghost walk for ages 8+ only. The Woman in Black and her loyal servant will take you through the House and grounds, all the while telling chilling tales of murder and mystery. £7.50/£4 concession.

Bookworms are spoilt for choice this month as the region hosts not one but two literature festivals. The one in Ilkley is running from 30th September to the 16th October while Morley is a bit shorter, running from 8th to 16th October. A couple of authors are attending both events, so if you can’t make their date at one, check the other. Headliners include Ranulph Fiennes, Alan Hollinghurst, Jon Ronson, Ian Rankin, Emma Henderson and Janet Street-Porter, whilst there will be expert talks on the Brontes, Dickens and the Bible. There’s also writing workshops, poetry recitals, academic lectures and a healthy dose of Doctor Who. Something for everyone!

If you’re a foodie, as well as the usual farmer’s markets we have a special new event at the Corn Exchange this month. Cornucopia Leeds is a two day extravaganza with stalls from local, independent food retailers and producers. Some great names have signed up already including @doughleeds, @theyummyyank and @indieices. It’s free entry and happening from 10am to 5pm on the 22nd and 23rd October.

There are tons more events that I don’t have the time or space to give them the attention they deserve. They include Ways of Looking, a photography festival in Bradford for the whole month, this fantastic Abolition exhibition, secret Bettakultcha and all. The. Amazing. Theatre. Happening in the region. Ignore the gloomy weather, get out there and make the most of Leeds this month!

You can stay at home in November, that’ll probably be crap. Nothing happens in November.

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This Weekend in Leeds: 23rd to 25th September

Stuck for something to do this weekend? Fear not: as per usual the calendar is jam packed with fabulous events.

If you’re a fashionista on a budget, or you like your threads to be one of a kind, check out The UK’s Big Vintage and Fashion Fair on Saturday and Sunday in The Light Leeds. In attendance will be Leeds staple Blue Rinse along with Laura Baker Vintage, Curious Cat and many more. 

There’s a foodie double whammy this weekend. The Headrow is hosting the World Curry Festival  from Friday to Sunday, so pop down for free samples, demonstrations and charity events. You can book free tickets online but it doesn’t seem to be necessary – a lot of people are just turning up. Meanwhile Saturday and Sunday sees the Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival which features brewery tours, arts and crafts, local produce and children’s entertainment.

If all this sounds a bit too much like hard work, why not spend a quiet hour or three in Leeds Art Gallery?  The most popular exhibition at the minute is Artist Rooms: Damien Hirst which features a good range of his work. It’s easy to miss the ‘Pharmacy’ section of the exhibition, which is on your right before you even go in the main entrance, so make sure you see it – it’s a recreation of the restaurant of the same name which was in Notting Hill from 1997 to 2003, and was decorated with various artworks by Hirst. While you’re in the gallery, have a sandwich and a cup of tea in the lovely café. 

 

The lovely Tiled Hall Cafe at Leeds Art Gallery. Picture by Karen V Bryan

 

King Lear opens at West Yorkshire Playhouse  tonight. Starring Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role, it’s bound to be a corker. Alternatively, Saturday is your next chance to see Madama Butterfly by Opera North at Leeds Grand Theatre. There’s a pre show talk too, which is free, but you do need to book your place.

Finally, there’s a citywide Zombie game taking over Leeds tonight, Kirkstall Deli Market  in Kirkstall Abbey grounds tomorrow and a poetry festival at the Carriageworks tomorrow night.

That should put you guys on for now…. If there’s anything I’ve missed, do let me know! Are you organising or attending something new and amazing? Let me know! Comment below or email me:cultureleeds@gmail.com.

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Day Trip: Sunny Sheffield

Because no-one criticises my blog (to my face) I imagine what people might say to me, in my head. I’ve been thinking about this Sheffield post since I found out I was going and talking myself out of doing a blog because I’ve only done about 6 posts and I was banging on about Bradford in one of them. It’s supposed to be about Leeds. Then I defended myself – just because you live in Leeds doesn’t mean you have to get all your culture in Leeds, right? In fact, that would be quite narrow minded and restrictive. Anyhow the argument escalated, it got pretty nasty, but I won in the end. So all you haterz out there: It’s my blog and I’ll write about what I want! If you don’t like it…do one.

So glad we cleared up that little imaginary problem there.

Up until Friday evening, I had a terribly bad opinion of Sheffield. I’d been a couple of times, but a long time ago and only at night, and I didn’t see much of it. The parts I did see were completely unrecognisable from the fantastic city centre I spent 6 hours in yesterday.

What I do remember of Sheffield is a lot of grey, bland concrete and littered, crowded streets. What I saw yesterday was innovative contemporary architecture sandwiched between well preserved older buildings, lining pedestrianised streets and beautifully designed public spaces.

I arrived pretty early, and there wasn’t a lot open so I bought a paper and wandered round to find somewhere for a drink. I wanted to find an independent place so when I strolled down Chapel Walk and spotted a little door with a ‘Cafe’ flag outside, I went on in. Instantly I realised it wasn’t what I was looking for, but since the place was practically deserted and a waiter in a shirt and tie had already come over to greet and seat me, I sort of felt like I had to stay! It was called Andrew’s and was a bit on the pricy side, but the carrot cake was divine.

Not really what I wanted to eat at 9am, but it wasn’t the sort of place where you could nurse an orange juice for 45 minutes.

Highly recommended to me by various Twitter folk were the Winter Garden and the Millenium Gallery. The Winter Garden is a huge arched glass structure, housing tropical foliage including trees that must be twenty feet high, along with butterflies, shops and exhibitions. I came across a display by a charity for dignity in old age which I looked at for ages – partly because I love learning about people’s lives and their histories. At first glance, it looked like a display of children’s work – it was handprints done in brightly coloured paint. Beneath each handprint was a sentence from the owner of the hand about why their hands were important. The sentences were short but so inspirational – they covered topics from the 2nd World War, to working as a midwife, to milking cows, to working the ground in the Himalayas. Thinking about what my sentence would be (“I use my hands to tweet”, maybe?) was extremely humbling.

Dot, “My hands helped me in the steel industry during the 2nd World War and gained me the Women of Steel award”

Also in the Winter Garden was an NCTJ photography exhibition which contained some incredible, shocking, beautiful images. It’s there until next weekend and is absolutely worth a look. Finally, on my way out I spotted a couple having their wedding photos done in there. What a beautiful idea! How romantic!

The permanent collection at the Millenium Gallery is the Ruskin Collection. It’s a gorgeous display, with a mixture of items from his collection and interactive pieces to teach you more about the man himself. There’s also an exhibition called ‘Kill Your Darlings’ from Kid Acne, the Sheffield based urban artist. (Overheard: 80+ year old woman walking with a stick saying, “I don’t think it’s because I’m old, it’s just not my cup of tea” whilst looking at a cartoon of 2 naked women tied up, and a third naked woman brandishing a whip.) Finally, it wouldn’t be a day in Sheffield without looking at some steel: there’s an entire gallery full of ornate and sometimes mysterious metalwork.

I finished off my day with a self navigated walking tour of contemporary architecture in Sheffield. It’s clear that Sheffield have really taken public spaces seriously and have invested in making the city centre both practically and visually a nice place to be. Opinion is divided on buildings such as the ‘Cheesegrater’ but I think it’s distinctive and a lot more attractive than any other multi storey car park I’ve ever seen.

And by far the nicest space in Sheffield is just outside the train station. With water features and plenty of seating, the area was packed not just with people waiting for a lift but people reading books, eating sandwiches or just people watching.

So I’ll stop banging on about Sheffield now – I’ll just say: it’s less than an hour’s drive away and it’s a delightful, cheap day out. GO!

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