Challenge Mark: 28 Days Later


It’s another hot and humid August day here at Culture Vulture Towers on the edge of Leeds city centre. Over the road, airport-bound coaches are setting off from the bus station as the country starts its summer holidays. But we’re not taking a break this month – in fact, I’m only just getting started!

First, let me introduce myself. My name’s Mark, I live in Halton out to the east of the city, where I’ve called home all my life. Last month I left Oxford University where I graduated with a degree in English Literature.

There’s a familiar joke about English students: “What do you say to a bloke with a BA in English?”

Anyone…? “Big Mac and fries please.”

Well it’s right on the mark. For this month ahead, to put it bluntly, I’m jobless and penniless, getting by on nothing more than my homespun wit and a little northern charm.

But as I’m back home in the West Riding, and because I’m a restless man and can’t sit quietly in my room for very long, I’ve come up with a little bit of a project – a good old Yorkshire challenge.

This month, with the help of Emma and Phil here at the Culture Vulture, I’m going all around Leeds, Yorkshire, and even further afield, trying to discover some of the local curiosities, the little-known points of interest, the quirky characters and tales that make this region what it is. Starting tomorrow until the end of August (28 days!) I’m on a mission to bring out all the life and glory there is to be found in these parts.

And this is where you loyal, generous, kind-hearted readers come in. I am going to head to a different part of the region every day throughout August, and take on the challenges that you set me. Whether it’s finding the grave of an influential but forgotten name in the cemetery at Beeston, an abandoned church in Sheffield, or even a rude street sign over in Hull, I will take it on. Anything and everything that has an interesting, poignant, funny, charming story about it from wherever you live. Emma will be telling you where I am every day on Twitter, and I need you to send me to the places which bring out all the local colour across our fair county.

And because I’m a poor and innocent graduate, I need your help when I’m there too. If you can do me a good breakfast ahead of my adventure, or take me in the right direction, or even give me a tour if you know the place well, then I will be in your debt forever.

I’ll be posting the stories about my adventures here on the site regularly, with lovely pictures and voice recordings and everything else that I can make my trusty little phone do. The people I meet, the stories I hear, the sights I see – I’ll share it all with you sweet and gentle readers.

So bring it on, Yorkies! Tweet me @mw_obrien

Updated posts

Day 1 The Theme
& Leeds Always Leading the Way?
& Making the Stone “Stony”

Day 2 Communty – a Verb?

Day 3 City of Dreams

Days 4/5 When Things Go Wrong

Day 6 Getting Crafty

Day 7 More Than Just An Airport In Yeadon

Day 8 Hidden Treasures

Day 9 I Predict A Diet

Days 10/11 Radio Ga Ga

Days 12/13 What Poems Can Grow From

Day 14 Telling Tales

Day 15 Feva Pitch

Day 16 Masters of All They Survey

Day 18 Folklore Old and New

Day 20 Socially Enterprising

Day 21 Create-ivity

Day 22 Walking Back To Happiness

Day 23 If You Can’t Stand The Heat

Day 24 Not Stuck In The Mud

Day 26 Something For The Weekend

Day 27 True Adaptations Never Have Endings

Day 28 Dark and True and Tender (Part 1)
& Dark and True and Tender (Part 2)


  1. Hi Mark, what a fun idea and one I’d be happy to help with. Years ago – too many to mention – I used to work for Radio Leeds so I still have a head full of local nonsense. And funnily enough I was born and brought up in Halton, so I can tell you lots of spooky stories about Templenewsam from when I was little and we dashed through the Blue lady’s bedroom at speed.
    But now I live in Knottingley, a pretty sad little town really, but once a proud bustling place which was the furthest inland navigable dock for big ships in the North and where my Great Grandfather and his son, my Great Uncle were both master mariners….so lots of seafaring tales from an inland backwater.
    But one of my favourite places is Beckett St Cemetery opposite St James’s in Leeds where one of the Labour Party founders is buried, also the founder of the Temperance Society, and there’s one of the Light Brigade from the famous poem, there’s a little boy who was hit by an acrobatic plane in Middleton Park during a display in the 30’s. I believe there’s some commemoration of Woodbine Willy who was a local priest who gave cigarettes out to the troops in WWI and was from Leeds and I think the last of the Leeds Waits is buried in an unmarked grave….oh and so much more I shall become boring. I know a lot about cemeteries I made a series about them, so if you don’t fancy that one there are more! Undercliffe in Bradford is the most famous is suppose.

    Then there’s the Bear Pit in Headingley. Part of the now vanished zoological gardens.

    Pontefract Castle where King Richard II was incarcerated and died and there are many tales of the Civil War – once hugely powerful now mostly overlooked.

    And Ponte also has the lovely liquorice factory. It was the first place in the world to make confectionery out of liquorice, worst luck you missed the festival,that was last month.

    So….take your pick!

    1. Hi Margaret! I remember using my own garbled version of the Blue Lady story as a romantic/scary tale when I took a girl up there. I’m not sure it really worked. Hearing some scary stories from Templenewsam woul be special though. I expect I’ll be all over these in the coming days. Tomorrow planning to head up to York via Garforth and Micklefield on the train. Any thoughts? Hope you’re following on Twitter too – if you are, share your 140-charactered wisdom with me: @mw_obrien

  2. You need to get your bike out & take the train to Saltaire, take a look at the village, the church & the mill then cycle back to Leeds along the canal. Top day out & super-cheap!

    1. Jayne’s absolutely right. Saltaire should certainly be on your list. But if you do it on a Sunday, you’ll also be able to take a ride on the charmingly rickety Shipley Glen Tramway nearby for about £1 (which I can pay for, if you like…). I’ll even throw in a quarter of strawberry bonbons from the little sweet shop at the top!

      1. Reckon this is my plan for Sunday (or next Sunday or the Sunday after, but definitely one Sunday this month!!). Thank you! The strawberry bonbons are making me lick my lips already!

  3. Hi Mark
    Some years ago I began researching my family history. Many came from the Hull area. My grandfather and his siblings spent time in the Sculcoates Workhouse in Hull due to their parents dying so tragically at a very young age.

    If you get the time, I would like to know if the Sculcoates workhouse is still there,it may well have turned into a hospital of sorts, but on the other hand it may well have been pulled down. A picture of the main entrance, if it exists, would be fabulous.

    Good Luck on your #hometourist journey

      1. Hi Lynn/Mark
        I’m from Hull and work in the Sculcoates area so noticed your comments. Attached is an interesting site – it turned into a hospital which has since been demolished, but I actually had a job interview there when I was 18 so do remember it quite well (although that was rather a long time ago!!)
        Interesting reading!

  4. Great idea and all power to you fella.

    Have you met that there East Leeds FM ( & @eastleedsfm) as yet? They’re non too far from you I believe (I’m sure you’ll know them already).

    The studio I work in is underneath a church which has some history. Mentioned in the Bronte novels, of interest to the Luddites (and I don’t mean people who haven’t yet embraced Twitter here [grin]) and I’d highly recommend a trip to The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge (

    I’ll keep my peepers peeled for where you’re at too, see if there’s a chance our paths will cross and grab some food, mead and company.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. All sounds very good. Heading out from Cross Gates to York via Garforth and Micklefield on train tomorrow (Thursday… I think it’s Thursday anyway, I’ve kinda lost track already) so seeing what I find in that direction.

  5. Pub crawl around all those terrifying looking pubs in the city centre…the Duncan, General Elliott etc…!

    I’ve always wondered what they’re like inside, but been too scared to go in…Good luck!! (and I bet you’ll get some good stories too)

    1. Ha, fab idea but should be attempted only with an escort! Def need a #hometourist posse for this one… 😉

    2. Yes! Just yes, that’s all I can say! Funnily enough I know some of these pubs quite well. My grandad has often taken me out drinking in his old haunts in town for special occasions, Paddys Day and the like! Jayne says it should only be attempted with company – very true! Culture Vulture Pub Crawl anyone….?

  6. During the last part of August you could follow the Leeds-based contemporary dance company @ascendancerep as they take their Company of All Ages to some interesting places. After a week’s summer school at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds (15th–19th), they’re visiting Shibden Hall and Lister Park, Halifax (20th); Cartwright Hall, Bradford (23rd); Oakwell Hall Country Park (24th) and The Red House Museum, Kirklees (25th) and Pontefract Castle, Wakefield (28th).

    You’ll experience a warm welcome everywhere and see some wonderful new dance to original live music created to express the company’s joy in West Yorkshire’s wonderful ‘Outside Spaces Inside Places’. Real #Hometourist stuff!

  7. Well if you make it over to Hull Mark, Pave Bar on Princes Ave is good on a Sunday afternoon for chilled music and good grub! Avoid Princes Ave on a Fri/Sat night though!!

    Otherwise my favourite seaside destination is Robin Hoods Bay… a couple of hours rock pooling an ice cream on the beach… fish and chips….then a pint in The Laurel half way up/down the hill.

    Also a good camp site at the top of the hill if you’re taking your tent??


    Good luck…. will be following with interest/amusement!

  8. Hi Mark. I’m wanting to go meet an inspirational group in Chapeltown, Leeds – Leeds Young Authors. Happy for you to come with me if you fancy and you can write about what you see? Adam

    1. This sounds great. What do they do? (I realised when typing that it’s a stupid question considering they’re called “Leeds Young Authors”… I mean what kinds of events do they put on?) Would love to come. Keep me posted on Twitter if you’re following. x

  9. hi,

    can you find the 17th-century listed building hidden in gledhow valley woods, LS7?

    (there are wild swans too, and occasional sightings of deer, woodpeckers, herons, and a kingfisher)

    guided tour and/or appropriate refreshments could be provided, depending if and when you arrive…

  10. You are more than welcome to come to the first Library @ Aglassto Night, an evening celebrating literature in all its forms on the 10th August in Aglassto at 7.30. It’s free entry and if you bring your fav book (being and Eng Grad you’ll have LOTS going 🙂 ) to donate to the new Library @ Aglassto you’ll recieve a 20% voucher off food and drinkies…

    ALSO you are more than welcome to join our Leeds Book Club in Arcadia on the 21st August at 5pm ish, where I shall also be doing a book swap. We are reading Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
    this month.

    Good luck and have a good month!

  11. Hi Mark
    The York National Book Fair 9-10 September is a cultural extravaganza. Check out the website. Biggest gathering of booksellers with thousands of good second hand and antiquarian books for sale. Friendly too. Janette

  12. Hi Mark,

    I’ve just tweeted you (@BobbinsLeeds) about visiting Bradford next week. I’m working over in Bradford on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and will happily treat you to lunch on any of those days.

    I work at a South Asian arts organisation called Kala Sangam. We’re based at St Peter’s House on Forster Square – a wonderful historic building that used to be the old Post Office – and I’m currently looking into the history of the building, and others around Bradford, to see how buildings and spaces have influenced people’s lives and culture. Perhaps we could share our discoveries of Bradford over lunch? Daisies Cafe (onsite) is a great social enterprise organisation who provide training opportunities for people with learning disabilities. Lucky for us, they also serve delicious fresh home-cooked food. Wins all round!

    Give us a shout, when you’re about!

  13. Hello Mark

    You are cordially invited for lunch in Settle where you can be told ghost stories by the founder of The Settle Storytelling Festival, Sita Brand.

    This year, the festival’s being headlined by Grant Gordon (he of the Divine Comedy) who’s performing Century, a multimedia storytelling extraviganza. You can also hear about the gripping tales of Hugh Lupton, Arthur Ransome’s nephew, who’ll be telling stories about his uncle’s escape from Russia during the Revolution – he played chess with Lenin and fled the country with Trotsky’s secretary. Haven’t we all…

    What say you?

  14. Hi Mark,

    So here is your challenge if you choose to accept it !!


    Bank Holiday is fast approaching if not already here in our minds. But what to do with yourself you might ask?

    You might look online, peruse your chosen social media, look out for a poster and printed marketing, or just wait for your friends to do the work and tag along.
    Well how do we know what we chose is going to be any good? Something we will enjoy?

    What are we offered and delivered as members of the public in attempts to drag us away from another event and pump your attendance and money into another.

    Phil touched on the idea slightly here …

    There is a great deal of what to do in Leeds, in terms of marketing and making/saying what’s good is also surrounded by a market for advertising and reviewing.
    This is food for thought, and as you studied English you should be able to read well between the lines.

    TASK #1 (Homework)
    Broadly identify the various Branding Mechanisms of Leeds City Centre (such as Leeds, Live it Love it) / discussions around it
    Identify 10+ examples of content of what’s going on in Leeds (Such as Yelp, Leeds Confidential,Leeds Guide)
    Identify 5 major events going on in Leeds in the next month &/or over Bank Holiday of particular interest to the topic.

    Hopefully you get the idea and feel free to source more, this is a chance to look and highlight the language, both written(majority) and visual.
    You can use twitter under a hashtag of your choice, and other networks (facebook events) to get as much information and ask questions.

    PLEASE DO print screen/print, collate of findings for the purpose of publication/zine to be produced by me.

    TASK #2 (Field Trip)
    Acquire a Map – NEW cc map is a good one (get one from Tourist info at station)
    Here is an online version

    Voyeur the city looking for signs, posters and means of visual marking of the social occupation of the city, photograph and mark on the map.
    Collect flyers, posters, booklets, analysing the content the same as above,

    TASK #3 (Analysis of collected Data)
    Write 500+ word critical evaluation about your findings.






  15. Mark have you visited Fulneck and the Moravian Settlement? The museum is open Saturdays and Wednesday afternoon. It is in sunny Purses. Somewhere between Leeds and Bradford.

Comments are closed.