Leeds Music History Exhibition.

Guest blogger Richard Higgins previews an exhibition of Leeds’ musical history . . . he described it to me as a real labour of love. I can believe him!

When it comes to identifying music with cities, one thinks of Manchester and The Smiths/Joy Division/Oasis/New Order/Factory/Hacienda/The Hollies and Tony Wilson all trip off the tongue. For Liverpool read The Beatles (obviously)/Eric’s nightclub/The Cavern/Echo and The Bunnymen/Teardrop Explodes/Frankie Goes to Hollywood, OMD and so on. Even steel city Sheffield can muster up a Def Leppard, an Arctic Monkey, a Joe Cocker, a Jarvis Cocker/Human League/Abc etc

But the sound of Leeds…..well there’s those Kaiser Pigeon people….Corinne Bailey Rae…and The Who recorded a jolly good live album here but, er that’s it really?

Wrong. Leeds has always had a thriving, varied music and live band scene, it’s just not been as vociferous as other cities in blowing its own trumpet (or plucking it’s own a gee-tar). However a new exhibition at the Leeds Town Hall Crypt hopes to readdress this perceived lack of a musical heritage.

Named after a Mekons song, ‘Where Were You?’ is a celebration of the bands, the labels, the gigs and the venues that helped put Leeds on the musical map. Some may be wilfully obscure, others such as the aforementioned Kaiser Chiefs and Pigeon Detectives represent the current crop of local Leodis talent.

A wide range of memorabilia has been graciously donated including actual Q and Grammy awards for Corinne Bailey Rae, a guitar and amp representing the Sisters of Mercy from 1980 to the current day plus an amazing array of gold and silver discs, instruments, gig posters, flyers, photos and record sleeves that illustrate the DIY ethos, musical diversity and originality inherent in the Leeds music scene.

It’s a real memory jolt and offers up some fascinating insights into the past Leeds music scene- who would have guessed U2 once played the Merrion Centre?!

From the Three Johns to Cud, Bridewell Taxis to Jake Thackray, Age Of Chance to Spacehog the exhibition covers the whole gamut of styles and artists synonymous with Leeds including material dating back to the 1950’s when Leeds thriving jazz scene played hosts to the likes of Humphrey Lyttelton and the Glen Miller Band.

The exhibition is free, open daily from 9am- 5am Monday to Saturday until 27th August. Lunchtime performances and talks are scheduled with the likes of Boff from Chumbawamba and legendary Leeds promoter John Keenan (F-Club/Futurama Festivals/The Duchess/New Roscoe) due to appear.

The organisers (a bunch of music loving fans for whom this has been a labour of love) are also keen to stress that is an evolving exhibition, organically growing and developing so if you have any memorabilia, photos, posters, sleeves, programmes, tickets etc that you wish to share, please bring it along where it will be carefully catalogued before going on display. You too can help celebrate the city’s rich musical history.

For further information and updates regarding performances and talks, check the link


Some pics on Flickr

and some news.

One comment



    Date: 1st – 30th October 2011

    Venue: British Music Experience at The O2 Bubble, London, UK

    The British Music Experience presented by the Co-operative, in association with OOM Gallery will be showcasing an exclusive exhibition of 38 rare photographs celebrating legendary black musicians working in the UK.

    Using a simple camera photographer Pogus Caesar followed the musicians and singers around the famous venues producing a collection that celebrates a style of black music that brings together the UK, USA and the Caribbean.

    From Stevie Wonder in 1989, Grace Jones in 2009 and Big Youth in 2011, this unique exhibition documents how black music, in its Reggae, Soul, Jazz and R&B tributaries of sound, has changed and renewed itself over the decades.

    Journeying from Jimmy Cliff to Jay-Z via Mica Paris and Mary Wilson of The Supremes to David Bowie’s bass player Gail Ann Dorsey, these images conjure up an alphabet of the music of the Black Atlantic.

    The photographs selected from OOM Gallery Archive are also as much about the clubs and venues, as it is about the singers, producers and musicians. The Wailers at The Tower Ballroom, Sly Dunbar at The Hummingbird Club, Courtney Pine at Ronnie Scott’s, Cameo at the Odeon Cinema, Ben E. King at the Hippodrome and the at BBC Pebble Mill, many venues now lost to regeneration or renewal, and only recalled through memory and imagery.

    In their day such venues welcomed black music with open charms, giving safe havens to their audiences, and helping to shape the city’s own distinctive underground and mainstream sound.

    Author and historian Paul Gilroy remarks “Pogus Caesar’s emphatically analog art is rough and full of insight. He conveys the transition between generations, mentalities and economies. These images record a unique period in what would come to be called black British life.”

    In a 30-year career of taking pictures, Pogus Caesar has uniquely captured moments of everyday life with a simple Canon 35mm camera, spontaneously recording the unfamiliar, as well as the celebrated and the iconic. With reference to the title Caesar says ” In my teens, when listening to the latest records, if the song had a wicked rhythm and cool lyrics and we would nod our head and say yeah man, the Muzik Kinda Sweet!

Comments are closed.