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Posted on Apr 27th, 2011


(Soundtrack: Gene Ammons “Bad Bossa Nova”, The Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”)
One year ago we moved to Leeds, with the intention of getting away from London and being closer to my mother. It was great to be back here – I grew up near here, and I felt transported back to my days of coming into town as a teenager to go to gigs or record shops. Back then it had an addictive Red Riding grimness to it that is largely gone, but I still feel echoes of today. It was a perfectly bleak place to lose my teenage self in and to watch Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, The Bunnymen and the like as a kid.
Last time I lived outside London, it was also under a Conservative government. This can feel akin to at best “being ignored”, more often “talked down to” and at worst “insulted”. It reminds me how easy it is to hate London and its seemingly self-serving inhabitants once you are elsewhere in the country. Turn on the radio and hear token “regional” accents raving about the weather *in London,* or open a magazing and read national bar and restaurant reviews of places that are almost all *in London *. We used to love to listen to the Arts show on Radio 2, but there is no point at the moment. They should rename it “The London Arts Show”, or better still broadcast it on Radio London. Most of the culture in this country happens outside London, so why not reflect that?
Perhaps all the northern towns and cities and spaces in-between should bound ourselves together and call ourselves a city. A city called “The North”. After all, that is all London is – a random collection of disparate towns and villages separated by green spaces and bundled together under the name “London”. “The North” would be a much bigger and more impressive city than “London”. Eventually, the power would shift up here and folk in the old capital would learn how that feels.
I love this city, but it just hasn’t worked out for us here. Work is thin on the ground for a start and is getting worse with the government cuts. Additionally, “local jobs for local people” is followed as a mantra to an almost bigotted extreme that Tubbs and Edward would feel uncomfortable with. Some cities welcome talent from outside and that helps them move forward and ultimately create more jobs for locals, but not here. It seems folk are happy if the ship just sinks, as long as the ship is full of “locals”. So the town excels at staying pretty much the same while Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool charge forward.
I love this city, but who knows its identity, its famous landmarks? Most other cities have a building or bridge that you can immediately associate with them. I would say that Leeds Town Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world (see photo), so why not shout about it?
I love this city – it has an incredible array of other beautiful buildings, like The Corn Exchange, Kirkgate Market, The City Varieties, The Parkinson Building, The Grand Theatre, The City Museum, Kirkstal Abbey. Unfortunately they are masked by the most random selection of ugly modern structures you will find anywhere, as though nobody has had the strength or pride to keep the beauty of Leeds intact. The town sometimes seems like a boxer on the ropes, head down, taking punch after punch, preferring to carry on like this as long it is left alone as much as possible.
I love this city and its wonderful parks like Roundhay, Bramham, Temple Newsam, Meanwood and Golden Acre. The River Aire and the Leeds Liverpoool Canal provide some excellent walks. The Yorkshire Dales are easily accessible and are some of the most gorgeous places on earth: surely Ilkley Moor is *the *most wonderful place on the planet?
I love this city and it is a great place to come for a weekend: excellent bars, restaurants, and shopping. Perfect for a Hen party or ten – in fact you can seeing them lying on the pavements in the wee hours of Sunday morning; every Saturday night is like New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik.
I love this city and its marvellous film festival (the second largest in the country) and it is lucky to have a cinema like The Hyde Park Picture House. The National Film Museun in Bradford is a bus-ride away too, and is a genuinely great day out, as well as having fabulous programming.
I love this city and its thriving band scene that prefers to keep its lights under bushels. How many bands can you name from here compared to, say, Manchester? The town does not shout about the bands that do come from here – there is a whole area in the City Museum devoted to them, but the names you would probably associate with Leeds are not even mentioned. There are some great venues here: The Brudenell, The Hi-Fi, The New Roscoe, The Well, The Wardrobe, The Uni and a really good smallish O2 in a church.
I love this city and the way on each bit of spare grass you will find a horse or two tethered, keeping it trim. And yet, too many Gentlemen’s clubs, too many white meatheads stuffing substandard Greggs pasties into their mouths and being “harmlessly” abusive.
I love this city. That is why I worry for it and its contradictions. I happily made the new album here and, to me at least, it has a strong sense of this city about it. I will always come back to Leeds, but for now, we need to get out.

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