Dreaming of a Contemporary Christmas

2020 has been a year of uncertainty but one thing that’s brightened our spirits is the street art scene in Leeds and how it’s added an extra pop of colour to this gloomy year.That’s how we discovered the uber-talented Emma Hardaker – working in our next-door neighbourhood Mabgate. She’s worked alongside MAP charity to funky-up pavements around the area and is a favourite with City Centre Management too – turning dull hoardings into works of art (have a look at our last blog post for more info!).

So, we thought who better than Emma to commission a Christmas installation from?Along with sign painter Jameson Rogan, Emma has created a fun, festive and contemporary Christmas installation for us on Playhouse Square.Both artist’s work is typically graphic in style and takes reference from mid-century design, pattern and type.Drawing inspiration from traditional Christmas wrapping paper patterns and using the tag line “Together Again” – a sentiment shared by all this Christmas, the two designers wanted to create something that is vibrant and eye-catching but not overtly Christmassy, using more muted winter colours and subtle shapes and patterns. This piece is a modern take on the usual Christmas decor we see.


So, we’d like to say a huge thank you to Emma and Jameson for creating this great installation, and Happy Christmas to all our friends, neighbours and the people of Leeds, from everyone here at SOYO.


Street Art

Street art in Mabgate is flourishing and in so, helping to raise the profile of the area and showcase the creative and cultural organisations which make Mabgate so great. Many local artists and organisations are now part of the street art programme, an initiative that is supported by the Leeds City Centre Management team of Leeds City Council.

Organisation Music and Production (MAP) Charity, an alternative education provider based in Mabgate have started a joint project with the council and local artists to bring more street art to enhance the setting of their building, due to go under a multimillion pound refurbishment next year. The art work has been designed by the students and staff and installed by local artists Emma Hardaker and organisation ‘Open to the Public’. The designs take inspiration from local architecture and historic bridges in the area. There are so many more plans for  street art to bring colour, vibrancy and interest to the area -and will make the area feel more of a destination during times of construction works!

The Regent Street flyover construction site, believe it or not is also the home to some great artwork too- the bright and bold colours on the new hoardings are super fun and hopefully make the area feel safer and a pleasant walk through.

To add to the already growing profile of Mabgate, it has recently received the title as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the UK by renowned travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller, among other up and coming neighbourhoods across the UK, describing the area as ‘under-the-radar zone with art at its core’.

The first ever Mabgate Annual, an outdoor artist and community led event, took place in 2019 on St Mary’s greenspace in Mabgate.

A celebration of the area’s local creative businesses and organisations, Mabgate Annual hosted numerous exhibitions from local artists and provided activities for families, fresh local produce and live music. The event is championed and led by local artists, including Emma Hardaker, East Street Arts, alongside support from Leeds city centre management.

The event has done so much to raise the profile of Mabgate across the city and define it as a creative way for local creative businesses to come together, collaborate and celebrate the area. Look out for next year’s event in 2021!


-Becci Erbillur-Gray


Where culture lives and how to support the arts.

With most of us returning to work, it’s easy to forget the hardship that is still facing others, in particular in the arts.

Social distancing and the newly introduced rule of no more than six individuals meeting in a group is hindering the re-opening of theatres and performance space.

However, you can still support the arts from the comfort of your own home, and we will shortly see the launch of a number of socially distanced performances in our neighbourhood – cue collective applause from the SOYO team as we show you how to support the Leeds’ cultural scene:

Northern Ballet

Northern Ballet started their Pay As You Feel season during lockdown to deliver some of its best past performances together with new, exclusive content of those productions that may have been effected by the pandemic. If you are able to do so, they ask for a small donation in return to support the productions (think of all the backstage staff from make-up to puppeteers) and the performers.

As of June, they already had over 980 donations – but obviously, still need on-going support. Their pandemic programme has included:

This year began with Northern Ballet celebrating 50 years of dedication to creating new and innovative productions, which included plans to bring ballet’s Geisha and Merlin shows to audiences across the UK. However due to the ongoing pandemic the Merlin tour has been postponed until 2021. But the people behind the production have high hopes to bring Merlin to the big screen – giving cinema audiences everywhere the opportunity to be part of the magic.

Inspired by the story of the mythical wizard, this epic new production will be choreographed by Olivier Award-winning Drew McOnie (Broadway’s King Kong and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom) in his first collaboration with the Company.

Hence Northern Ballet launching Bring Back the Magic which you can help by making a donation here

The Wardrobe

 A stalwart live performance gem in the city, The Wardrobe, like all other live venues, has been unable to host shows since reopening. But whilst the team work hard to offer a kicking live music line-up as soon as we allowed, they are offering a number of socially distanced art performances including comedian Carl Hutchinson on Friday 23rd October!

Check their website out for full details: here.

Leeds Playhouse

The Playhouse have just announced the launch of their reopening season, which is designed to safely reintroduce audiences to the live theatre experience, showcasing the vibrancy and resilience of the artists and venues creating work within the Leeds City Region.

Fresh from the success of their critically acclaimed stage recreation of George A. Romero’s classic zombie movie Night of the Living Dead™ – Remiximitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse are joining forces once again for the première of the raucous and deliciously dark new tale, Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show.

Directed and written by imitating the dog’s co-artistic directors Andrew Quick and Pete BrooksDr Blood’s Old Travelling Show will open outside Leeds Playhouse on Playhouse Square from the 7-8 October 2020 and will then tour until 24 October.

imitating the dog bring all their theatrical and technical acumen to this unique outdoor live theatre experience. Their innovative storytelling skills will create this dark tale of mischief and immorality, drawing on classic horror movies and the traditions of carnival and medicine shows. Set in a mythical ‘North’ and made for these strange times of lockdown, Dr Blood and his motley crew tell a tale of the price paid for pursuing ambition, hypocrisy and greed.

Tickets are £10 and are available here. Please be aware audiences will be standing!

Leeds Playhouse and Opera North

Leeds Playhouse and Opera North are joining forces to co-produce Connecting Voices – a combination of six new and existing pieces of live performance staged in four areas of the Playhouse, played over three weekends in October. The pieces fuse classic and contemporary themes of isolation and connection, resilience and reflection. With a hugely talented and influential team of individuals behind the production, it will certainly not be one to miss, bringing back life and vibrancy to Leeds arts scene.

More info here.

Not only is it brilliant to have our friends at Leeds Playhouse back but these are truly unique arts experience not to be missed.


We’re really excited to talk about our latest onsite project – Street Stories by Found Fiction and funded by the Leeds City College Arts Fund.

Street Stories is an urban literature project which celebrates the area’s voices past, present and future. As part of Street Stories, a team of Leeds writers have written super-short stories to be displayed in public spaces, abandoned areas and prominent venues across Quarry Hill – including our SOYO site and on the fast-evolving Moda Living apartment block.  It’s core to the SOYO ethos to work closely with our neighbours, and artists in the city, especially on creative, inspiring projects like this.

The stories will be published guerrilla style – popping up in all different formats from banners, to vinyl stickers and even chalk painted murals, just waiting to grab the attention of, and empower passers by. But you’ll have to wait until the weekend of 14/15 August before we reveal where our Story will be unveiled.

Found Fiction have selected four Leeds writers for the project based on their creative talent, and personal connections to Quarry Hill.

We’re lucky enough to have our story written by Chris Nickson – a historical crime novelist who has set 26 of his books in Leeds, covering a range of centuries, from the 1730s to the 1950s. He’s explored the Quarry Hill area and it’s history in depth, from the rumours of Romans to the heyday of the flats. The past of the city runs through his blood and we’re honoured to show his story to the people of Leeds.

Whilst we’re here it would be rude not to give the other fantastic writers a shoutout!

Taiwo Ogunyinka is a published poet, performer and organiser who grew up in East End Park, Leeds. For the past 10 years of his life he has passed through Quarry Hill on morning and home commutes. Taiwo’s personal experiences and growth as an artist have been supported by Quarry Hill, through performances at our neighbours The Leeds Playhouse, rehearsals at Munro House and events at The Wardrobe.

Sarah Whitehouse is a writer based in Leeds, weaving together the threads of the past, present and future of Quarry Hill. Living for the past five years in the 1850s East Street Mills, she loved the daily walk past the ghost signs of school cap makers and tailors painted on the exterior of the mill. Her flat is in the shadow of her grandad and great grandparents, who were part of the old St Patrick’s Parish, living and going to school nearby. Sarah has recently started a new job at Quarry House, where her dad also works.

Mark is a writer, runner and baker, born and raised in Leeds (but bred here, there and everywhere!). His writing has included comics, journalism and the history of Yorkshire food. Many of Mark’s best memories of his grandma, Dorothy, were made in the Quarry Theatre of Leeds Playhouse. She would point out St Hilda’s down the road where his grandad, Jim, used to sing, not telling the nuns that he was really there for the free breakfast.


And then there’s Steve Clarkson – the force behind Found Fiction. Along with an army literary guerrillas Steve’s mission since 2013 is to bring the art of the short story to a new, unsuspecting audience.



We Love You, Leeds.

Friday 17th July 2020 – one for the history books. After 16 pain staking years of ups and downs (5912 days to be precise), the mighty Leeds United are back where they belong in the Premier League under the guidance of the man, the myth, the legend – Marcelo Bielsa.


The victory means Leeds are set to secure an estimated £200 million, along with increased revenue from Sky Sports.


Along with promotion they’ve already secured a huge kit deal with sportswear giant Adidas and released a teaser campaign with fan favourite Burley Banksy, known for his painted homages to the club all around the city. The city has already embraced the win with Trinity Leeds renaming numerous streets after Leeds legends and independent businesses such as North Brewing Co collaborating with The Square Ball on a beer to celebrate the promotion.

North x The Square Ball


With this win comes an even bigger win for city – an influx of new teams, away fans, and even international fans means Leeds is about to be seen an a far bigger map than usual.


Premier league clubs on average allocate around 3000 seats for away fans, this means Leeds could see an influx of at least this number every couple of weeks hitting the city – and they’ll be needing places to stay, eat ,drink, and these industries will be key to securing returning custom to the city.


Food, drink, culture – as a city not only do we have it all, but we’ve got the best. The hospitality industry in Leeds oozes independence – something the city prides itself on. The increase of new of people visiting means these bars, restaurants and overall experiences are going to be more in demand than usual – an exciting prospect after the difficulties that have been cast over the industry in 2020.


East Street Arts


In the past football, and its supporters have often caused a divide, especially within hospitality – but times and fans have changed. We, as a city need to embrace what this promotion brings in order to grow and thrive with the club.


If all goes well, we can expect to see spectators back at live games from the beginning of August and we will be ready to show off our city to new visitors. Hopefully our theatres will be back in operation or at least ready for when these all these people, who have fallen in love with our great city, and they will – come back with friends and family to sample all the delights we can offer.


This is a great opportunity for Leeds and we are ready to grasp it with both hands.