Leeds, Devolution & Why I Hate Yorkshire

Leeds Crest

Leeds, Devolution & Why I Hate Yorkshire… Mick McCann, from Leeds writes

I hate ‘Yorkshire’ me. I don’t hate the physical place but the concept. I love Wakey, Bradford, Huddersfield, Hull, Halifax, Appletreewick et al but Yorkshire means NOTHING to me. Yorkshire is old and tired, whiling away it’s time, shitting it’s pants in a retirement home. And wtf is West Yorkshire? That’s even worse, a wishy-washy BBC term.

What is Yorkshire to the world? A quaint, gentle, vaguely middle-class, old county of tea and scones and cricket. It’s a James Herriot, Last Of The Summer Wine, Emmerdale theme park with no modernity, no edge, no ‘street’, no big, vibrant, exciting cities… ‘Will it have wi-fi?’

Look at the official video trailer for the Yorkshire TDF

Three minutes 50 of glossy footage of countryside, dry-stone walls, sleepy villages, sheep, tea and scones, with a few seconds of deserted cityscapes – yep that’s how we want t sell ourselves. Scones got more prominence than Leeds, Bradford, or Hull. Perfect example of quaint, sleepy, old Yorkshire and while Yorkshire represents, or more accurately, replaces Leeds, it can crawl into a deep mine-shaft and hit gas.

Take Yorkshire out of Leeds and it can only be good for Leeds, take Leeds out of Yorkshire and Yorkshire would be reeling, clinging on to it’s sad old stereotypes.

Actual capital of ‘the north’ Leeds, is a modern, vibrant, cutting-edge city, the Leeds City Region has an economy bigger than Wales, way bigger than Greater Manchester and accounts for 5% of the UK’s national economy – a quarter of that of London.

There’s sommat weird about Leeds. For the last 10-15 years I’ve met almost unanimous disbelief when I’ve stated the simple, unquestionable fact that Leeds is way bigger than Manchester… and that’s in Leeds. I’d argue that a major player in this Leeds lack of self belief or even knowledge is the horrible shadow of tired, old Yorkshire that’s always hung over us. Was Manchester or Liverpool ever in the shadow of Lancashire?

Just to quickly put the size argument to bed, here’s a graphic – ironically from a BBC programme (Mind The Gap) trying to persuade the nation that Manchester is the UK’s 2nd city – showing the population of the two cities.

MTGLeeds Pop

In part, Manchester is powerful because it has a specific name, a brand that people can tag onto, it’s not South Lancashire, it’s not a general, weak term like West Midlands, West Yorkshire, North Lanarkshire, it’s Greater Manchester, it’s an actual place.

I’d argue largely thanks to decades of national BBC and central government bias, brand Manchester is way more successful than brand Leeds. I’d also argue that another major factor in that is ‘Yorkshire’. Leeds is rarely credited, or even mentioned in the lazy national media and in the nations imagination Leeds becomes a none place.

The examples are endless. Upon his death Leeds writer Keith Waterhouse became ‘Yorkshire writer’ in the national press – as will Alan Bennet. Just last week I heard a couple on the Manchester Marketing Board (the BBC) that had me screaming at the telly. ‘Yorkshire lass Beryl Burton’ and a classic example, the immortal BBC words ‘In Beeston, West Yorkshire.’ Leeds appears to be a dirty word at the Manchester Marketing Board.

Now, yes, technically, Beeston is in Yorkshire but Liverpool and Manchester are in Lancashire. Can you imagine ever hearing the words ‘Lancashire bands The Beatles or Oasis’ or ‘I’m in Moss Side, Lancashire’?

‘God, stop banging on about Manchester’ I hear you shout. ‘No, I won’t,’ I shout back, ‘it matters.’

Why is it that Manchester is the only UK city (outside London) that could start an ‘International Festival’ and, from the off, gain large funding, immediate, blanket BBC (and therefore national media) coverage? BBC patronage makes the whole thing easy, you can attract big names when they know the Beeb are promoting. Newsnight, for example, ignore world news for a night and do a full arts night from Manchester. I wonder if there’s any connection to Peter Salmon being a board member of the Manchester International Festival and the director of BBC North?

Can you imagine even a curt, national BBC mention for Thought Bubble? Or Europe’s oldest Caribbean Festival in Leeds, or The Big Bookend or Ilkley Lit Fest? Never mind the national BBC setting up camp there.


Ooh, look what George Osborne announced in his last Autumn Statement with the Festival comes a new £110 million theatre and arts venue to add to ‘the largest arts complex outside London’ which opened earlier this year at a cost of £25 million. I’m sure you can argue the toss about where the money came from but government and BBC patronage helps.

Across the nation Leeds is a non-city, it’s a vague notion, somewhere in Yorkshire and, thanks to the BBC and government, Manchester is ‘the north’. I’d love to see comparative figures for government (and public) investment in Leeds and Manchester.

Obviously George Osborne gave devolution to Manchester first with even more money, as he dragged the Chinese President around Manchester flogging them the city for further investment and I doubt he’ll have even mentioned more viable, successful Leeds.

Forget ‘the arts’, look how being a ‘non-place’ plays out in transport. OK, they’ve invested in the new Southern entrance to Leeds train station but bear in mind that just the roof of the less used, revamped Manchester Victoria station is more expensive than the whole Leeds development – the whole Manc revamp is £44 million compared to Leeds’ £17 million.

There’s a reason Leeds is (by far) the most congested city in the UK and has the worst public transport of all the UK’s cities and it’s years of government bias and underinvestment.The UK’s third biggest city by population, second by area doesn’t even have trams ffs. We don’t exist, we’re somewhere up north, somewhere in Yorkshire.

Because of constant Westminster underinvestment, Leeds is Western Europe’s largest city without a modern transport system. Our very small tram system (which we even down-graded to a trolley-bus to try to keep alive) got moth-balled by Westminster ten years ago. And while London stashes OUR Leeds money and refuses to invest in that single trolley-bus line it invests a further £56 million in tarting up a system that already criss-crosses Manchester, our small Lancastrian neighbour. They get the extra luxury of using Oyster Cards on their extensive, modern system while we get nowt, why is that?

Leeds needs to stand up to the ignorant southern power mongers If those undemocratic, arrogant, ignorant twats at Westminster try to impose any devolution on us that doesn’t include the word Leeds, I will bitch and spit until my dying day.

Leeds constantly gets screwed over so, when it comes to devolution, anything we get HAS to include the word Leeds, it focuses the mind, makes it a specific place, gives us a tag, clear identity, a narrative, a personality, makes us human, gives us pride and determination and makes us harder to ignore for another 50 years…. Sorry, where exactly is West Yorkshire?


  1. Unfortunately, having spent a lot of time in both cities (lived in Leeds for 10 years, have worked in Manchester) I think the fundamental outlook of the cities is different. Leeds has a massive inferiority complex and spends a lot of time arguing with itself whereas Manchester just seems to get on and do stuff. I also think Leeds has hamstrung itself with its decade-long campaign to try and market itself as a “shopping destination” seemingly to the detriment of absolutely everything else.

    Although of course it’s not as simple as that.

  2. What Ash says is true. Ultimately, Liverpool and Manchester have long had cultural flagbearers – biggest bands in the world, for instance – whereas Leeds has had The Kaiser Chiefs. Liverpool had Gerrard and Torres, Manchester had Aguero, Tevez, Ronaldo. Leeds had: I don’t even know. Manchester Tony Wilson and the Hacienda, Liverpool Cream and The Everyman. Leeds: ? Manchester has a global airport, Liverpool The Tate, Leeds: ?

    Those cultural reference points go a long way in defining the way a nation sees a city. Leeds has, like you say, focused on retail to the detriment of all else. 10 years ago it had a good underground music scene; I’m not sure that exists any more.

    Also: comparing Leeds City Region with Manchester is disingenuous. Leeds City Region includes: Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Harrogate, Wakefield, York. Manchester exclude Salford. Still desperate to get out of Yorkshire?

    Leeds is a good city. But its a functional, reasonably unimaginative city that lacks a sense of identity that can be easily packaged and sold to people. Instead of blaming Manchester and conspiracy theories, blame the leadership of the wider Yorkshire region. And yes, I said Yorkshire. Unless you want to exclude: Hockney, the Hepworth, Michelin stars and more.

    1. Ash – inferiority complex is what I want to change, there’s no need for it, we’re beautiful and fabulous.

      Ian, I compare Leeds City Region to Greater Manc or Leeds to Manchester and there’s the irony that Greater Manc stats/info are CONSTANTLY used on BBC and in national media when they talk about the city.

      Time means I can’t respond to all y points but Leeds has loads of STONKING bands coming through right now, trust me, I tweet them out all the time. Unfortunately most will be ignored nationally as usually happens to Leeds bands, it’s a historical thing.

      PS Look out for glorious Leeds band Submotion Orchestra going global as I type.

  3. I’ve seen a few articles like this recently, and while I agree that Leeds suffers from brand Yorkshire, I think these types of articles are also part of the problem.

    As you say our economy is bigger than that of Wales, we’re one of the UK’s largest cities, successfully attracting people to live and work here. We have fantastic culture and arts and not just the glossy national variety, but the brilliant local home grown and still internationally renowned. Why then do we spend our time promoting Manchester and the great relationship that particular city has built with BBC and National Government? Why do we choose to position ourselves as sore losers?

    I’m sure the bias shown to Manchester annoys the people of Newcastle just as much but when I read about Newcastle, I read about Newcastle. When I read about Leeds I must also constantly read about Manchester, and increasingly Bristol.

    Yes the city focused too heavily on retail which needs redressing, but the days of ‘the city’ doing the marketing are gone – the people of Leeds promote the city now in blogs, events, campaigns, articles. The story they choose to tell always seems to be someone else’s, at least the retail story was ours.

    It’s a shame that the people of Leeds have pride in their city, but not the confidence in it to be able to go out and sell it without having to first doff their cap to Manchester and others.

    1. Hi Lea, the BBC (& Government) sponsoring Manchester is undemocratic and completely unfair and is worth shed-loads to their economy, ‘brand’, and ‘cultural offer’. I won’t stop bitching about that until it changes. It’s like boxing with one hand strapped behind y back.

      For me, the more we highlight the incredible BBC Manchester Marketing Board bias the more likely it is to change – and other cities are more likely to join in the fight against the incredible ignorance of the BBC. ‘Beeston, West Yorkshire’… I ask y.

      This does not mean we can’t celebrate and get on making Leeds more fabulous than it already is, the two things aren’t either/or. I’ve been actively trying do that for 33 years…. ok, ok, I’m very old but I’m still fit as fuck….. and v vain. 😉

    2. Hmm, well I must have missed the vote where “the people of Leeds” decided to ditch the professional marketeers and do the job of promoting the city themselves.

      I don’t see why blogs etc. created by citizens ought to reflect anything but what they damned well like, and if that’s not celebrating the city’s party line then tough. It’s a conversation, an argument, occasionally a quarrel. And I think we are better as a city (and a region – I don’t necessarily agree with all Mick says) if we get it out in the open and talk about it. If Manchester is being promoted unfairly – and I don’t think Mick invented that, the evidence screams at you every time you turn on the news (from Salford) – then protest is necessary, surely? It would be great if other Northern cities shouted about it too. I’d like to see Newcastle, Liverpool, Hull, Sheffield joining in.

      1. Might not have been clear. My point was that in a lot of respects it doesn’t matter what the party/city line is or indeed the Yorkshire line. The people of Leeds didn’t vote they’re just getting on it with and it would be nice to see that done with confidence rather than deference to other places.

        People can and will rite what they damned well like, it’s just a shame (as a reader/audience member) that they damned well like writing about the assets of another city is all.

        The trouble is because those other cities don’t seem interested in joining any kind of protest Leeds just looks like a whingey sore loser.

        1. I mostly agree. The only problem I have is with you framing it as whinging.

          A couple of weeks ago I saw Tom Riordan talk about devolution at an event at Leeds Beckett Uni. He was open and honest about his frustrations with the devolution discussions (well, as far as I know – the discussions are behind closed doors in an undisclosed bunker at the end of a dark corridor and you only get admitted if you know the right handshake.) I thought his point about not accepting a deal and just getting on with it – as Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool have – just because that’s all that’s on the table was principled and firm. He didn’t strike me as a “whingey sore loser” because he wasn’t prepared to accept the terms that other cities have grabbed. And, yes, he compared and contrasted other places in his talk… including Manchester (the horror!)

          If it’s good enough for Tom…

          1. I didn’t go to the Beckett event and if that was the stance Tom took I think that’s great. Being bullied and blackmailed into a Mayor in order to get investment which should be shared across the country evenly anyway, doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think that’s a whingey stance at all. Quite the opposite.

            But that isn’t the same as this post. This and other posts like this read like a whinge about Manchester because that city’s strategy seem to work for them. That strategy wouldn’t work for Leeds and I’m grateful for it.

            I agree it’s frustrating especially when I see tweets about “our inspiring neighbours attracting an extra £9m for their arts centre” – which I actually read as our neighbours appear to be over spent on that huge cavernous building with no artistic programming budget in sight.

            I just don’t agree that always comparing Leeds to Manchester is the best way through it, or that picking a fight with BBC rather than building a constructive relationship them leads to the balance being corrected.

          2. I hear what y saying Lea, I just don’t agree with the ‘put up and shut up’ attitude (I know u see it as much more positive than that) especially with the BBC.

            The BBC is hugely powerful and I’d argue, to a large extent, focuses the national media view. We pay for the BBC and it promotes Manchester to a ridiculous, totally unbalanced extent – I could turn on my TV right now and count the Manc references for the next hour. They’re not going t stop doing that and more regularly report from Newcastle or Sheffield out of the kindness of their heart. I understand pointing at their bias may have no effect but one day they may be shamed into changing.

            I can’t help miself, such blatant BBC bias and ignorance – ‘in Beeston, West Yorkshire’ – really winds me up and I’ll always be howling in the dark until that changes.

            The other thing is slowly altering the perception that Leeds is some smaller brother (it clearly isn’t) which I came across almost universally when I first started pointing out that Leeds was the way bigger city yonks ago – and it still happens now. I know when people in Leeds understand that it increases confidence, pride and umph cos I’ve seen it so many times. It’s also trying to tweak that self depreciating Leeds thing.

            Finally whenever I write about such things I ALWAYS stress how fab Leeds is – usefully 😉 this one less than normal.

  4. Argh!

    I hate Leed’s “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds” attitude. I hate it’s smug “Leeds Live It Love it” marketing.

    Why? Because I live in Bradford. The city that (seemingly) dare not speak it’s name.

    Bradford has a population of around 1/2 a million. Leeds 3/4million, if you add in Huddersfield, Halifax etc to create the Leeds City Region then you get to just over 2million, a slightly smaller conurbation than Greater Manchester or the West Midlands.

    Now if the vision for a Leeds City Region is a polycentric one, then great, but if it’s all about LS1… then I’m out. Leeds simply cannot thrive if Bradford (or indeed Halifax or Wakefield) withers. “Leeds, deprived of Bradford, has fallen a long way down the league tables.” http://www.citymetric.com/skylines/where-are-largest-cities-britain-1404

    Back in the 1980’s Manchester decided to deliberately confuse the use of the term “Manchester” and the term “Greater Manchester” which in many ways is fair enough, because Trafford and Tameside, although they are local authorities, aren’t really separate places.

    However now Leeds is trying to apply the same strategy and annexe Bradford, Skipton, Harrogate, not to mention Saltaire, Ilkley Moor, Halifax etc. into a Greater Leeds / Leeds City Region concept. So far all this has seen is jobs from Castleford (Burberry) relocating to Leeds, jobs from Bradford (HMRC) relocating to Leeds, with Leeds shouting about this as if it’s a good thing, It’s not!

    Manchester’s regeneration saw the regeneration of Manchester City Centre- but at the expense of Salford, Stockport, Oldham, Bolton etc. and we’re seeing exactly the same thing happen here in West Yorkshire.

    Bradford suffered from years of Yorkshire Forward prevaricating over where in Leeds to build a new concert hall (it finally did manage to build the Leeds Arena) and all the while Yorkshire Forward owned a concert building in the middle of Bradford (The Odean) and it literally let it rot. Just think what a West Yorkshire concert venue in the middle of Bradford could have done for the economy of Bradford city centre!

    Leeds moans about not having a tram, the reason it doesn’t have a tram is because it’s traffic engineers aren’t prepared to give the tram priority over cars. If the Leeds City region wants a tram then the best place to put it is from Halifax to Shipley using existing train tracks and then joining up the Interchange and Foster Square through the middle of Bradford, but if we did do that, then we still wouldn’t have a tram in Leeds would we… grrr…

    So enough of “Leeds Leeds Leeds” is it time for the #LeedsBradford city region perhaps?

    1. Dave just Dave, I feel your pain. I may be a Leeds lad through t mi bones but I love Bradford, don’t tell anyone but I recently moved there…. Leeds Rd Thackley. I’ve also been trying to rename ar conurbation Ladford Breeds for yonks but no-one seems to like it, dunno why. 😉

      I take LeedsCR stats from the existing one with a pop of 3 million. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leeds_City_Region

      The lack of a modern transport system in Leeds is a national disgrace and it doesn’t need to be either-or. I’m sure it’s a complex topic that I don’t know all the finer nuances of but the headline remains that same, national government has not provided anything like the transport system it needs and, when compared to all other major UK cities, should certainly have – it’s the most congested in the UK and 7th most congested in Europe including Eastern Europe.

      Something else is that the civic leaders in Bradford (who must have a lot of info) seem to be behind the Leeds City Region – I heard the head of Brad Council arguing for it…. although, obvs, they may not be right. Who knows how funding would be handled if we got it but I would hope it would be shared fairly across the region and be an improvement on what we have now.

      PS Let’s hope The Broadway drags more people into central Bradford and starts to knock on.

  5. @Dave @Phil – and who was leading Yorkshire Forward (good and bad in equal measure!) back then?!

  6. I’m not sure who is more sour me or Mick McCann.

    Through all the waffle you can see four things – the Yorkshire “brand” is holding Leeds back; he is doesn’t like Manchester and what it has achieved; the BBC is considerably unhelpful to Leeds; central government has screwed Leeds up (actually all local authorities have been screwed over by central government since the Thatcher years if not before – but some have still done better than others).

    There is a very simple answer to all this – look at the quality of the “Civic Leadership”. 40 years ago I asked an old labour hack why Leeds was not more engaged with neighbouring authorities, why it was not more innovative in its policy-making, why it was not more outward looking, why it had a poor national image etc etc. His reply was simply look at the quality and ambition of local councillors.

    If Leeds has a relatively thriving economy – and has had for many years, has had consistently stable middle of the road politics and is so culturally “vibrant” the why was it not able to capitalise when resources were available e.g. for trams.

    If I could be bothered I would produce a chart showing when a certain other city got its first arena, built an up market concert hall, held an international sports event, developed a cultural policy able to attract significant inward investment and build an international reputation etc and compare in the other column when Leeds got its only arena, hosted (not on its own initiative mind) an international sports event, applied to become cultural capital plus add in the costs of the failed supertram bid and you will get the picture.

    So looking back on our quality civic leaders we now have Judith er er Blake, the unforgettable Keith wakefield, the charismatic Brian Walker, the rainbow coalition of dynamic Andrew Carter and radical David Blackburn plus some lib dem who was so unforgettable I’ve forgotten who they were; before that we had Jon Trickett (I’m backing Corbyn) and George (the union boss).

    In fact the only two leaders I could think of who had any national prominence – largely for the wrong reasons were – Irwin Bellow (Lord Bellwin) tory local government minister under thatcher and long before him Frank Marshall (Baron Marshall of Leeds), another tory leader of the city council 1967-72.

    So if you want to find why our leadership is insipid, introverted, uninspiring, always over cautious and lacking in vision – look no further than the civic hall.

    Fortunately we have the talented and inspiring Tom Riordan leading this doleful army into the promised land of the “Best City”

    No wonder George Osborne wants an elected mayor – not that will take us very much further either.

    As always


  7. On reflection I was probably a bit too negative in my appraisal of Leeds’s civil leadership.

    Of course there is much for me to celebrate in what our leaders have achieved.

    Firstly through the liberality in the way civic leaders and senior planners interpreted their responsibilities during the years of the Leeds Renaissance I have been granted a lasting legacy of iconic world class architecture and urban design. I offer you the city’s eastern gateway IBIS hotel , the Gateway serviced apartments and of course the incomparable Bridgewater Place.

    It’s important to record too how all this was written up in the objective, erudite yet autobiographic work by John Thorp (Civic Architect) “From a tile to the city” published by Leeds City Council in 2012 and with a Forward by Keith Wakefield (price £20 at the time now £23 on Amazon). Here he recalls a period when his strategy of “urban dentistry” enabled the successful regeneration of the waterfront, Holbeck urban village and various other locations in the city centre. The record of this period is also celebrated in “Leeds – shaping the city” (RIBA and Leeds City Council 2009) originally again priced at around £20 but now available for £4.15 on Amazon. The text of this work is provided by the then Guardian journalist Martin Wainwright, later president of Leeds Civic Trust. His description of the politics and personalities of this heroic period is frankly unsurpassed. Theprefae is by Cllrs Andrew Carter and Richard Brett who must be the Lib Dem whose name escaped me above.

    Secondly I need to be grateful for the uninhibited way in which our civic leaders both in in the City Council and in Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust embraced the unprecedented opportunities of the Private Finance Initiative. They recognised from the start that this was the best vehicle for achieving the renewal of the civic and health infrastructure by establishing vital and enduring partnerships with hedge funds and overseas banks. Not only were buildings constructed of outstanding architectural quality and sustainability but service maintenance contracts were entered into which provided for innovative usages and high standards of facilities management. I know that I should be grateful for a long time into the future that value for money facilities provided by the Bexley Wing at St James’s, the secondary school rebuilding programme, Little London regeneration and now the Incinerator which have all been secured by their vision.

    Finally I need to demonstrate a debt of gratitude to our civic leaders for the retail revolution they have brought about in my lifetime in Leeds, moving us so far “up the league”. As a low income pensioner I can idle away my bus pass hours by visiting up market shops and the Trinity Centre. I can marvel at a culture of consumption that is economically and demographically far beyond me. I can meet people of a younger generation serving in these emporia working on zero hours contracts to eke out their student loans until I am moved on by BACIL’s private security teams. Marvellously there is more to come as I salivate at the opportunities presented by the world of John Lewis.

    Always seeking to be balanced but ultimately …


  8. Sour, I feel your pain and share your impatient, drooling anticipation of the vibrant opportunities for window shopping offered by the John Lewis development (Victoria Gate – the person/ committee that came up with that name – I know, I know a portmanteau of Victoria Quarter and Eastgate, but still! – should be taken out and dispatched to a messy and very public quietus) but really have nothing pertinent to add to this discussion other than perhaps to turn it on its head. Folk talk about Manchester or Liverpool or Burrnley rather than Lancashire because, unlike Yorkshire, the county is such an anonymous sort of a place.

  9. Nice to hear from you again Grumpius I was beginning to fear the worst.

    If you have got a moment you might like to read my latest outburst against the indolence of LCC.

    Since the 1980’s cities and city regions have been encouraged to compete with each other in the market place for inward investment although the inherent limitations of geography and to some degree government policy makes this inevitably an unfair contest cities including Leeds have chased what is effectively the only game in town and in the process have sought to convince their local residents that they are “moving up the league” have the ambition to be the “Best City” etc.

    In the process some places have shown themselves more astute at getting access to the funding available, more enterprising and although the usual indicators of success are measure in terms of what might be seen as the world of the elite, rather than the ordinary punter nonetheless these “landmark projects” may tell us something of the quality of civic leadership each city has.
    So let’s “Go compare” some cities.

    Starting with the basics of a modern public transport system: Birmingham has had trams since 1999. Newcastle (or should that be Newcastle-Gateshead – two neighbouring authorities co-operating what next) has had a metro system which has gradually expanded from 1980 -2005. Manchester trams from 1992. Leeds “Supertram” bid failed in 2005 with costs estimated at 40m. But let’s reassure ourselves, Leeds has 2 miles of guided busway compared to the Tyne Weir Metro’s 17 miles. No comment needed on Leeds back to the future trolley bus scheme.

    Leeds Bradford International Airport has expended in recent years but it is still a minor player. Figures for airport passengers in 2014 show Birmingham (originated journeys) at 9.7m, Newcastle 3.5m, Manchester 22m, and Leeds Bradford 3.3m

    If you want the measure of a vibrant city its just got to have an arena once again Leeds leads from behind Birmingham built one in 1991 and refurbished it in 2014; Newcastle’s opened in 1995 as did Manchester’s. Leeds finally got its act together in 2013.

    Fancy a nice classical concert? In Birmingham have two for you to choose from – The symphony hall (1991) and the Town Hall (used for concerts since 2008). Birmingham is home of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, in Newcastle (actually across the Tyne but that’s a detail) you can go the sage (2004). In Manchester you can hear the Halle at Bridgewater hall. Leeds had ideas for a nice concert venue a few years ago but these were dropped in favour of the arena so you can still enjoy the sound of ambulances going past a you try to enjoy a classical music experience at the (slightly acoustically upgraded) Town Hall.

    Every city of international ambition needs a major conference centre. Birmingham built one in 1991. Manchester built an exhibition centre out an old railway station in1982 and rebuilt it again in 2008. Sorry Newcastle you seem to miss out here unless you use the Sage. Leeds, well no plans yet after all there is Harrogate just up the road.

    In terms of sports event, frankly I can’t think of anything special in Birmingham but Newcastle-Gateshead have had the Great North Run since 1981 and Manchester after two failed Olympic bids got the Commonwealth Games in 2002. Leeds, well it got the Tour de France opening stage in 2014 largely thanks to Gary Verity at Welcome to Yorkshire.

    Looking at some wider cultural infrastructure and the events which flow from these, well Birmingham has just opened a new central library, Newcastle-Gateshead opened the Baltic art gallery in 2002 which hosted the Turner Prize in 2011. There is quite a long list for Manchester but in the last year the Whitworth art gallery refurbishment reopened as did Manchester Home. The Manchester City Art gallery extension was completed in 2008 and the International Arts Festival began in 2007. More modestly Leeds refurbished the Grand Theatre in 2006, the home of Opera North, the building hosting Northern Ballet and Phoenix dance opened its doors in 2011 and the Tetley in 2013. Citizens now wait excitedly for the result of the European Capital of Culture bid for 2023.

    Finally a few successful regeneration projects to celebrate: Birmingham’s Bridleyplace, Newcastle-Gateshead’s Tyne waterfront and Millennium Bridge, in Manchester we have (not including Salford Quays) Castlefields, Spiningfields and Canal Street. In comparison Leeds redeveloped Clarence Dock anchored by the Royal Armouries Museum (1996). Although the apartments are probably now fully let or sold to investors the retail and leisure sector launched in 2008 failed to inspire and as a result the site was sold on in 2013. We wait to see what the end result of the rebranding and next recreation will achieve. Then of course there is Millennium Square with its German market, Ice Rink, Beach, “big” screen, occasional concerts and the Lady Boys of Bankok.

    Obviously this list probably contains inaccuracies and omissions – I have left retail out altogether. But nevertheless I think the picture is pretty clear. Leeds has lost out by being last to the party, having only modest ambitions, has failed work effectively with others and where it has achieved as with retail it has not been to the benefit of the citizens who need it most.

  10. Great piece. One correction though. West Yorkshire actually introduced ‘oyster style’ smart cards for buses/trains before Greater Manchester did.

    Greater Leeds does have a nice ring to it. At least the Leeds City Region (WY plus Barnsley, Selby, York, Harrogate and Skipton) has a name you’ll approve of.

  11. The BBC may well be in Manchester, but let’s not forget that Sky are moving a big chunk of their business to Leeds right now; 1000 Sky employees in Leeds by June 2016.

    Yes, half of that is a call centre, but the other half are very highly-skilled technology staff working on Sky’s next generation digital products. That’s a lot of new jobs coming into the city, and they are creating their own version of Salford Quays at Leeds Dock (which looks incredible).

    The Sky people are also doing a fantastic job of promoting Leeds with all the meet-ups they are doing in the city.

    I do agree with the sentiment of the article, but the Leeds comeback starts here. Stop whining, get positively talking about the city and the area; it deserves it.

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