We're all off to ... Leeds

From beer to business, Yorkshire's unofficial capital has everything on tap, writes Brea Carter.

The former Tetley Brewery is now contemporary art and learning centre known as The Tetley
The former Tetley Brewery is now contemporary art and learning centre known as The Tetley

What's it known for?

Leeds is the UK's second-largest centre for financial and business services after London, and four of the country's most important National Health Service bodies - including NHS England - are headquartered in the city.

The Tetley Brewery was located in Leeds for nearly 200 years. It has now been transformed into a contemporary art and learning centre known as The Tetley, which offers space to hire for events.

A number of beer-brewing companies reside in the city, such as the eponymously named Leeds Brewery, which produces local varieties such as Leeds Pale and Yorkshire Gold.

Culture is at the heart of life in the city. Opera North, England's national opera company in the region, is based in Leeds, as is Northern Ballet. In addition, Leeds Grand Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Carriageworks Theatre and the City Varieties Music Hall host everything from musicals and ballet to comedy shows.

Leeds Beckett University is recognised by many as one of the UK's top institutions for events management courses, and is home to research body the UK Centre for Events Management.

Famous sights

On the banks of the River Aire, 12th-century Kirkstall Abbey is said to be one of the most complete medieval Cistercian abbeys in Britain. The Royal Armouries, meanwhile, showcases the UK's largest collection of arms, armour and artillery across six themed galleries.

Leeds is home to two of the four buildings that comprise the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle. The Henry Moore Institute features Europe's largest sculpture collection, and Leeds Art Gallery, which attracts nearly half a million visitors each year, showcases the work of 19thand 20th-century British painters.

Kirkgate Market is one of Europe's largest covered markets, with more than 200 stallholders selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to flowers, fashion items and jewellery.

The Leeds Owl Trail is a self-guided walking tour that offers visitors a chance to take in the city sights. It features 25 owls, each of which has been carved into a key attraction by a local artist.

A hotspot for brands

Google chose Leeds as the location for its first Digital Garage last year, an initiative that aims to educate small and medium-size businesses about all things digital. Uber brought activations, including its ice-cream delivery service and #BackSeatArt initiative, to the city, which was also visited by Tetley, Birra Moretti, BBC Radio and Coors Light in 2015.

Diageo teamed up with Dan Crowther, Bruce Lerman and Tom Finnon, the trio behind The Hedonist Project, on their first permanent site last November. The project is centred around Hedonist's flagship bar concept, whose theme changes every three months.

Crowther explains: "We've all lived and worked in Leeds for the best part of a decade. We love it here. Aside from being a remarkably friendly place, Leeds city centre has an incredible footfall. The train station is the third busiest in the UK outside London, and with a compact city centre around it, the opportunity for new business is fantastic."

Hendrick's included Leeds on its list of cities to visit for Burns Night 2016, which saw UK ambassador Ally Martin deliver poet Robert Burns' 'Address to a Haggis' ritual.


Creative communications and event agency Vista was founded in Leeds, and its director of operations, William Sutton, believes there are countless benefits associated with working in the city. "Having our head office in Leeds provides a fantastic central region position, ideal for national event delivery," he says.

"The city offers excellent transport links to our London office and London-based clients, and there is a large population fuelled by brilliant universities that bring a high calibre of creative talent to the region and our own recruiting process. Vista is lucky to have long-term relationships with Leeds education institutions, and as such we have had fantastic graduates work for us.

"Leeds provides a cost-effective setting for in-house facilities, so savings can be passed on at pitches. That is absolutely crucial in this competitive marketplace," Sutton adds.

Banana Kick operates in the city and counts brands such as Asda, cider brand Kingstone Press and obstacle race company Tough Mudder among its clients; experiential and staffing agency Imp has worked on campaigns for the likes of O2, Campbell's and Cadbury; and Executional has delivered experiential campaigns for brands such as Hungryhouse, Lego and Huggies.

Where to host an event

Voted Best New Venue in the World at the 2014 Stadium Business Awards, First Direct Arena offers a super-theatre-style configuration. The venue as a whole can host up to 12,000 people, but the main auditorium can seat up to 1,100 guests banquet-style.

Located seven miles from Leeds, 18th-century Harewood House offers a range of rooms to hire for private and corporate dinners, product launches and fundraisers. Its courtyard can host between five and 150 people, and there is bountiful outdoor space available - the building is situated on more than 100 acres of land.

The 250-person capacity White Cloth Gallery offers two gallery spaces, a cafe, bar and meeting room for hire, while football fans can head to Elland Road, home of Leeds United FC, for their corporate gatherings. Options include the Centenary Pavilion, which can host 1,200 people for a dinner, as well as the 500-person capacity Lorimer Suite.

And another thing ...

One for the epicureans, Leeds Indie Food Festival is poised to return in 2016, taking place from 12-30 May. Last year, the two-and-a-half-week event, a celebration of the city's independent food and drink culture, secured participation from local venues such as Bundobust, North Bar and Mrs Atha's.

Top tip

The Hedonist Project aside, Dan Crowther reveals his top venue picks in Leeds: "Fuji Hiro remains one of my favourite low-key restaurants on the planet - really simple surroundings, no pretence and massive portions of tasty food. Elsewhere, Headrow House is nicely hidden away, and aside from being ridiculously cool, the food and drink on offer is awesome."

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