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.



Artist Pippa Hale chosen to create Leeds’ Feminist ​Sculpture

We are happy to announce Pippa Hale as the artist chosen to create a new public sculpture setting out to champion the achievements of women, and redress the gender imbalance of statues in the city of Leeds.

Caddick Developments., are proud to have been a partner, alongside Leeds City College, LeedsBID (Leeds Business Improvement District), Leeds City Council and Caddick Developments. and Leeds Arts University, in selecting Pippa for this new feminist public sculpture located at the gateway to SOYO.

The Artwork.

Close up of the sculpture showing the names women who have made a contribution to our City.

Women make a massive contribution to our city – creatively, economically and socially – and this is an opportunity to celebrate them.”

Pippa Hale

Pippa’s design, Ribbons, has been chosen in response to a project which aims to redress the gender balance of public sculpture in an innovative way, celebrating the achievements of the women of Leeds with an avant-garde approach.

The work comprises several metal ribbons that weave their way through the space, the metal structure rises up in places to create benches and low-level walkways. The ribbons meet at the gateway to SOYO where they create a 5m high central sculpture that appears to swirl and flutter in the wind. The metal ribbons carry the names of notable Leeds women celebrating those who have made a contribution to our city, both past and present.

The Project.

Image (from left to right): Sarah Friskney, Caddick Developments; Rachel Reeves, MP Leeds West; Pippa Hale; Kevin O'Hare, Leeds City College; Simone Wonnacott, Leeds Arts University; Karen Butler, Leeds BID; Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council.
Image (from left to right): Sarah Friskney, Caddick Developments; Rachel Reeves, MP Leeds West; Pippa Hale; Kevin O’Hare, Leeds City College; Simone Wonnacott, Leeds Arts University; Karen Butler, Leeds BID; Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council.

Four artists were shortlisted and had the opportunity to exhibit models of their proposed designs at the Blenheim Walk Gallery at Leeds Arts University. Visitors to the exhibition were given the chance to contribute to the selection process, providing feedback which was taken into consideration by the judging panel.

This is a joint project developed by Rachel Reeves (Member of Parliament for Leeds West) in partnership with Leeds City Council and Leeds Arts University. Supporters of the project include Leeds City College, Leeds BID and Caddick Developments.

The panel were very pleased that the artists had such a diverse and thoughtful approach to the sculpture and how it would contribute to the new public areas and celebrate women across Leeds. The quality of the shortlist was extremely high but Pippa’s concept was chosen unanimously, and was also the favourite with the public vote.

The chosen artwork will be located between Leeds City College’s new Quarry Hill Campus and the newly redeveloped Leeds Playhouse, in the gateway to SOYO, providing a scenic entranceway to the wider area which is undergoing significant regeneration. The sculpture will be sited prominently at the top of a green landscaped, tiered public space visible from Eastgate and The Headrow as part of the wider SOYO development at Quarry Hill, also home to BBC Yorkshire and Northern Ballet.

The exhibition at Leeds Arts University will remain open until Thursday 04 July, giving visitors the chance to see work by the four shortlisted artists, Briony Marshall, Pippa Hale, Wendy Briggs, and Zsófia Jakab, alongside examples of work from other cities to highlight the broader context for women’s visibility in the public realm across the UK.

See the world from SOYO – Around the World in 80 Days at Leeds Playhouse Pop-Up Theatre.

Two men (Darren Kuppan and Robert Pickavance) in Victorian costume, one with a moustache, bowler hat and suitcase and one with a top hat, beard and pipe.
Darren Kuppan and Robert Pickavance.

This Easter, head out on a voyage like no other as Leeds Playhouse takes you Around the World in 80 Days. Get your passports ready and your suitcases packed for this globetrotting escapade, a stage adaption of Jules Verne’s novel  Around the World in 80 Days.

Prepare to be transported back to the 19th century as the legendary Philieas Fogg embarks on a stupendous journey across four continents. Of course, things don’t go to plan and Fogg finds himself in the middle of many manic situations along the way. This production boasts a show packed full of surprises, laughter, props and high jinks. 

Sounds pretty great, right? Well if you want to get into the full swing of the action, head over to our Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter for the chance to win a pair of tickets! 

Around The World in 80 Days – Rehearsal footage and trailer

This stage adaption will be directed by Leeds Playhouse’s award-winning Director of Creative Engagement Alex Ferris (Searching for the Heart of Leeds, Leeds Playhouse; Rise, The Old Vic). It will also feature new original music by award-winning musician Dom Coyote (We Can Time Travel, Shoreditch Town Hall; The Tin Drum, Kneehigh with Leeds Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse). It will be designed by award-winning designer Amanda Stoodley (Europe, Leeds Playhouse; Queen Margaret, Royal Exchange Theatre).

“For me, theatre is at its best when the audience is acknowledged and get to play and share in the story on stage. We want everyone to join us on this ambitious and slightly crazy mission to tell this epic story that passes through over 10 different countries, meeting over 30 different characters, featuring daring rescues from the jaws of death, high speed chases, displays of cunning and classic British grit, and a fair share of costume changes with just our 4 actors and a handful of props.”

 Leeds Playhouse Director of Creative Engagement Alex Ferris

Following its run at Leeds Playhouse, the production will tour eight community partner areas within the Leeds City Region. This will make the fifth year Leeds Playhouse has worked within these specific community partner areas, sharing productions and delivering workshops in community settings. 

See Around the World in 80 Days at Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre, in association with SOYO Leeds, from 9 – 28 April.

Tue 9th – Sun 28th April, Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk


  1. When entering this competition, entrants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by the terms and conditions and guidelines stated below.
  2.  The Promoter of this prize draw is SOYO Leeds.
  3.  The Promoter is offering entrants of this promotion a chance to win 2 x tickets to a performance of Around The World in 80 Days at Leeds Playhouse.
  4.  To qualify entry for this prize draw, entrants must tag 1+ person in the comments section on the competition post on Facebook, tag 1+ person in the comments section on the competition post on Linkedin, RT (retweet and tag in 1+ person) on Twitter.
  5.  Entrants must be UK residents. This promotion is not open to any employees of the Promoter or any of their affiliate companies, their families, agents or anyone else connected with this prize draw.
  6.  One entry is permitted per person. Late, misdirected, incomplete or illegible, entries will not be accepted.
  7.  This promotion is open to entries from 11.00 on 3rd April until 23.59 on 8th April 2019. 
  8.  There is one prize to be won. The prize is non-transferable, non-refundable and non-exchangeable and there is no cash alternative offered.
  9.  The Promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of greater or equal value.  In the event of circumstances outside the promoters reasonable control, the Promoter reserves the right to temporarily or permanently, discontinue or modify this promotion without prior notice.
  10.  The winner will be selected from all valid entries received during the promotional period, winner will be selected using a computer process that produces a random result and announced on the 9th April 2019.
  11.  Each winner will be notified within two working days of the draw via Facebook direct message or Twitter direct message to the account from which the entry was made and will be asked to provide their full name, address and relevant contact details. If a winner fails to respond within 1 working day of this notification, a redraw will take place from the remaining valid entries to select a new winner.  If any winner declines a prize or fails to respond within the required period, they forfeit any right to the prize.
  12.  The prize is to be collected at the Leeds Playhouse Box Office before the chosen performance on the 11th April. Winners may be required to submit valid identification before receiving their prize, once selected, the date of performance cannot be changed.
  13.  The Promoter does not accept responsibility lost, misdirected or delayed entries. It also does not accept responsibility for software failures, network or computer issues.
  14.  The Promoter reserves the right to remove  any inappropriate or offensive entries and disqualify any entries if the Promoter, at its sole discretion, believes that there has been an attempt to manipulate or tamper with the operation of the promotion (including, without limitation, by setting up multiple Twitter, Facebook or other social media accounts in order to submit multiple entries).
  15.  You agree to be bound by the decisions of the Promoter, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion.

Yorke Dance Project comes to Leeds to celebrate 20 years of exceptional dance

The contemporary ballet company Yorke Dance Project returns to Leeds to celebrate its 20th anniversary with TWENTY. This incredible show features new dances by Robert Cohan CBE and the first ever restaging of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Playground since its première by Sadler’s Wells Ballet in 1979.

The company will be performing at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre on March 20th for one night only.

Yorke Dance Project continues to build acclaim for presenting dance by past masters as well as emerging artists from both the UK and the USA. Artistic Director Yolande Yorke-Edgell has curated TWENTY as a celebratory programme which showcases her company’s philosophy.

The show will host a feature of guest artists and performances

The show will feature guest artist Romany Pajdak, First Artist of The Royal Ballet, music composed by Gordon Crosse, and set & costume designs reimagined by MacMillan’s daughter Charlotte MacMillan.

Communion is the sixth work created for the company. This has been created by legendary contemporary choreographer Robert Cohan. Communion is set to music by Nils Frahm and designed by Cohan’s former London Contemporary Dance Theatre collaborator John B Read.

A new work called Between and Within by emerging LA-based choreographer Sophia Stoller has been made with music by Justin Scheid. Here, four dancers play out the complex dynamics of a relationship between two people.

Yorke-Edgell’s own work Imprint pays tribute to the three choreographers who have been the most influential throughout her dance career. Richard Alston who she danced at both Rambert and his company with. Bella Lewitzky, whose LA company she joined in 1994 and Robert Cohen who she worked closely with over the past few years.

There are still tickets available for TWENTY by Yorke Dance Project at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre. You can get your tickets at theatreleeds.com or by calling the Box Office on 0013 220 8008. Tickets are priced at £15.00

Live at Leeds 2019

Live at Leeds is back for another year on Saturday 4th May 2019! This phenomenal one-day music festival showcases the best new talents and emerging artists from across the UK as well as some international artists. 

Live at Leeds has been a staple of Leeds’ booming music scene for years now. You can see some of the best new bands in various venues across Leeds City Centre. All the venues are within walking distance which gives you the opportunity to discover new artists, follow your favourites and get a whole platter of genres for your audible pleasure.

The event takes place on the first bank holiday weekend of May (Saturday 4th 2019). It’s the perfect way to spend the day (and night).

As always, Live at Leeds has some great acts on the bill: 

Tom Grennan, Kate Tempest, The Academic, Drenge, Swim Deep, Sundara Karma, The Sherlocks, The Slow Readers Club and Skinny Living (to name just a few).

Live at Leeds lineup

If you’re wanting to bring your children, they will have to be 14-years-old or over to attend Live at Leeds.

Head to as many venues as you can. Just make sure you go to the Wristband Exchange before heading to any of the venues. You can also buy VIP wristbands for the event but get them while they’re still available as they’ll be running out fast! 

The VIP wristband allows you to queue jump at venues (subject to capacity). You also get a Live at Leeds tote bag and free entry to the Official Live at Leeds Afterparty at The Wardrobe all night. 

Purchase your VIP wristbands exclusively at: https://www.lunatickets.co.uk/event/live-at-leeds-2019/various-leeds-venues/1227872

You can also buy your Live at Leeds wristbands at: See Tickets, Luna Tickets, Crash Records, Jumbo Records. Tickets can also be purchased in person for the following places in person: Brudenell Social Club (with no booking fees), O2 Academy Leeds Box Office (with no booking fees) and Trinity Leeds Customer Service Lounge (with no booking fees to arrange a complimentary companion ticket.

Live at Leeds also provides a free companion ticket for disabled customers. These can be booked at one-day or See Tickets. Email accessbookings@liveatleeds.com with proof of ticket purchase and details of your access requirements.

The Live at Leeds official app will be your must-have companion for your day of music discovery. The app will give you information and links to all the artists. It will also allow you to build a schedule to plan your perfect day. This app will be launched soon.

Leeds International Festival 2019

After its growing popularity and demand, the Leeds International Festival is back for another year in the city centre. Leeds International Festival (LIF) launched back in April 2017 by Leeds BID and now in its third year, it continues to pull in a variety of great speakers, artists, performers and a growing number of guests.

Over the 10-day period, we will see an influx of creative and engaging speakers and performers including; Dr John Cooper Clarke, Frank Bruno MBE, Professor Alice Roberts and Tommy Cash (to name but a few). 

This year, The Tetley will act as the basecamp for the events with The Village being located within the grounds of this beautiful art deco headquarters of the former Tetley Brewery. 

We can’t think of a more impressive space for this year’s Leeds International Festival. This cultural hub will certainly put people in the spirit of the event! Not only that, but it will be a great opportunity for many people who haven’t been before to visit The Tetley – we promise that this is a treat in itself. 

CORE Programme

LIF’s CORE Programme invites the world’s leading creators, innovators, thought-leaders and pioneers to Leeds. Here, they challenge, dissect and evaluate new ideas and discuss the potentials in the world of tomorrow. By inviting thought-provoking speakers and creatives to Leeds, the CORE aims to challenge our understanding of the world today. 

OFF Programme

An eclectic, unpredictable and vibrant world, the OFF programme showcases the brouhaha of live music, after-parties, exhibitions, performances, discussions, comedy, food and experimental events. The OFF Programme will take place in streets and venues across the city. The aim is to shine a spotlight on Leeds’ deep-rooted cultural diversity and flourishing creative drive. 

Leeds International Festival takes place on 2nd May – 12th May 2019. 

For more information, head over to the Leeds International Festival website for a full breakdown of events, locations and times: