This post originally featured on The Culture Vulture
Ten years ago, I arrived in Leeds. I was a young 18 year-old, hungry for my first taste of freedom in a city that had lured me with its promises of amazing student life. It didn’t let me down. Everything was new, exciting and unexplored, and I spent three years falling in love. I loved everything about Leeds: its cool cafés, laid-back BYO restaurants, big green spaces, and especially its cheap and cheesy clubs that seemed tailor-made for my 18-21 year-old self. I’ll leave exactly what clubs they were to your imagination, but let’s just say that when I left university, things soon changed. I changed.
I’d stayed in Leeds because I’d fallen in love, but the Leeds I thought I loved didn’t do it for me anymore. We were growing apart. Determined to make the relationship work, I spent the next few years getting to know Leeds all over again. I got to know its musical side, spending every spare penny I had on gig tickets for bands I’d barely heard of at venues with very questionable hygiene standards. I had a fling with its young professional side when I made the big mistake of working in recruitment; a snooty side filled with snooty bars frequented by snooty people in snooty suits. A job in the arts got me acquainted with its cultural side; a conveyor belt of gallery openings and preview nights attended by some of the most incredible people I’ve had the good fortune to meet – underpaid and overworked, but united by a genuine passion for the arts that the government seemed intent on destroying. I even had a brief encounter with Leeds’ eco side, after being so tormented by the sight of ducks bobbing in the syringe-filled river outside my city-centre flat that I donned a pair of marigolds, grabbed a rake and coerced my housemate and boyfriend into giving up their Saturday to clean up the ducks’ home with the Leeds Waterfront Association.
It’s fair to say that I’ve loved and experienced many different sides of Leeds over the last ten years. But the Leeds that has my heart now; the Leeds that I’m completely besotted with, is a side to the city that I’ve really got to know in the past few years. Leeds’ independent food and drink scene. It’s simple, really: proud, enterprising and unique independent businesses that work with, not against, each other, to make Leeds a bloody exciting place to live. It’s like the pairing of wine and food: when you get the pairing right, you improve the flavour of each individual element to create a taste sensation that’s better than you could have ever imagined. And this is what makes Leeds so special.This is why I’m more in love with Leeds than ever before. There are hundreds of examples of this independent collaboration right across the city’s food and drink industry, from the street food traders that collaborate to put on a massive feast each month at Belgrave Music Hall, to the perfect matrimony of The Sparrow’s craft beer and Prashad’s Indian vegetarian Street Food at the newly-opened Bundobust.
Such matrimonies deserve to be celebrated, right? Well, keep reading. On 20 September (which, coincidentally, is a decade to the day since my arrival in Leeds – thanks for remembering, guys), Leeds’ very own Food and Drink Association is throwing a massive party to celebrate the city’s food and drink credentials – and you’re all invited. I caught up with Leeds Food and Drink Association co-founder, Jo Murricane, to find out more.