Category Archives: Leeds History

>Guest Blogging @ The Culture Vulture

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….I’ve done a bit of moonlighting on the excellent Northern culture site, The Culture Vulture. Those of you who might want to read my love-letter to the art of conversation in pubs can do so here. I’m saying nothing new, but if I can get a few more people in Leeds into pubs and out of their living rooms then it’s job done.

Thanks!
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>Kirkgate Market and Free Beer…

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I don’t do this often, but I wanted to quickly draw your attention to a decent article by Rod McPhee on Leeds City Markets in yesterday’s Evening Post. The Post usually does a good job in promoting the market – not only in the variety of goods you can get there, but also in the way that the Market is bound to the people of Leeds.

I feel that there’s a little surge of support for the Market gathering pace right now. Friends of Kirkgate Market are doing a great job in raising it’s profile – something Leeds City Council should be doing but clearly have other things on their minds like making sure our journey home on the buses is as hellish as possible or setting up Leeds Arena so that we can all go see Kylie in a few years (not that I’m down on the Arena or anything. As long as Pearl Jam play there at some point then I’m happy). They organise events, guided tours and generally do a sterling job. See their permanent link on the right if you want to get involved.

I normally visit early on a Saturday morning to buy fresh Fish; whilst I’m picking what normally-still-moving treat I’m going to eat this weekend, I’m surrounded by young and old, and more than a fair share of chefs from the numerous restaurants, bars and pubs in Leeds. There’s still a stigma around the market that needs to be smashed; we, the patrons, could visit more and understand the place, and the council need to use this groundswell of support to really pump in a little money, make life easier for the traders and make it more attractive for new traders, embrace the diversity of Leeds Market and make it a destination. There’s absolutely no reason why, with a little vision and attention, Kirkgate Market can’t stand side by side with Borough and La Ramblas – seriously. The old market is a wonderful space, just needing some love. Finally, I’ve always thought that a Utobeer-style Beer stall is exactly what’s missing. If there’s anyone out there who’s feeling a little entrepreneurial, there’s your niche right there.

There’s also a diverting little tale from Oliver Cross in yesterday’s edition; the practise of giving away free beer at closing time in the 60’s. This really made me smile – can anyone out there shed any light on this practise? Does it still happen?

>John Betjeman in Leeds

>…Recently, the BBC announced that they were considering showing John Betjeman’s 1968 film A Poet Goes North. For some reason the BBC never showed it, despite commisioning the poet to create what looks to be a poem to a city he admired and the changes that were happening to it under his nose.
Why am I telling you this? Well, despite being full of bygone Leeds stuff (which it may surprise you to know is a bit of a passion of mine), Mr Betjeman visits Whitelocks – and we have a wonderful segment showing some of that wonderful interior work, most of which still exists today.
Whitelocks may have wobbled in terms of beer (both choice and quality) in my times, but you can’t deny that the interior is wonderful, and truly one of a kind in Leeds – only The Garden Gate in Hunslet comes close in my mind, in terms of preservation. Betjeman’s love of Whitelocks, along with the other ‘Alley pubs’ in Leeds was well documented: he declared it to be ‘The very heart of Leeds.’
Keep an eye out for the film: an excerpt can be seen here and the Whitelocks section is towards the end.

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