Monthly Archives: January 2012

Fun and Frugal

Roundhay Park in the December sunshine...

Ah, January. That cold, sparse month when payday seems to linger on the horizon, never getting any closer no matter how many nights you spend in the pub making half a pint last two hours. I went to January’s free Bettakultcha the other night, and it got me thinking: are the best things in Leeds free?

Everything on this list costs less than a fiver, proving that fun can be frugal, and January doesn’t have to feel long and lonely.

The Royal Armouries

You could spend hours in this enormous museum, dedicated to war, armour and weapons. Ironically, my favourite section is ‘Farewell to Arms?’ a small gallery which examines peace movements and the art of conscientious objection, but the Hall of Steel is an absolute must see. Entrance is free, but if you’re feeling flush, £3 will buy you eight crossbow bolts that you can shoot at haystacks on the top floor. Brilliant fun! (Top tip: aim a lot higher than you think you need to.)

United Enemies

The Henry Moore Institute’s United Enemies Exhibition is packed with highlights of sculpture in the sixties and seventies, when the idea of what sculpture was, was being turned completely on its head. You can get in for free, and it’s right next to Leeds Art Gallery, also free: get two for one on your cultural edification.

Beautiful bacon butties

I feel completely justified in saying that I can tell you where to get the tastiest and best value bacon butty in Leeds– and it’s at The Greedy Pig. Greasy spoon from the outside, foodie heaven on the inside, this place is amazing. Last time I checked the bacon butties were a value-tastic £1.60 – the perfect Saturday morning treat. The bacon is thick, salty and crisp, the bread is fresh and soft, and the sauce is red, if you’ve got any sense. Why not sit in and browse one of the papers left out for customers? Find them a few doors away from the Reliance on North Street.

Bracing walks

We’re having a cold snap just now, but overall the winter’s been fairly mild. Leeds is teeming with gorgeous green spaces and this crisp, cold weather is perfect for a bracing stroll. Meander around the Lake at Roundhay Park (pictured above), take snaps of the Victorian statues in Hyde Park, or admire the exotic birds at Lotherton Hall. It won’t even feel like exercise.

Swapsies

Are you bored of your winter wardrobe, but reluctant to splash out on new threads? The answer comes in the form of Remade in Leeds and their monthly clothing swaps. For a £2 entry fee you can take up to twenty items that you’re tired of wearing, and swap them for something new and exciting. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your bank balance and it’s good for your social life! The next clothes exchange is on the 28th January: details here.

Alternatively, why not donate some old books to the charity shop, and pick up some fresh new ones for under £1 (if you don’t go to Oxfam, who are brilliant but are also the Prada of charity shops, ie amazing but I can’t afford them. Hit up the hospices and the animal charities for the best prices).

Expand your mind

I don’t know about you but my brainbox is still quite chilled out from Christmas. It’s just floating around in my head on a sea of gravy and leftover cheese, idly wondering if there are any chocolate oranges left. (There aren’t. We scoffed them already.) At the Howard Assembly Room on Wednesday, 25th January there’s a free talk by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, entitled Cleopatra: Queen, Lover, Legend. Described as witty and insightful, it sounds just the thing to wake me from my festive slumber.

That should see you through to February, but if not, try visiting the library, popping along to a pub quiz or (if you’re feeling tough) window shopping in the covered Victoria Quarter…

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12 things I’m looking forward to in Leeds in 2012

As an antidote to my gloomy commute and the horrific weather over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about some of the fun things that are happening this year in our lovely city of Leeds…

Exciting theatre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

The Playhouse have tons of exciting stuff happening this year. I’m particularly looking forward to absurdist tragicomedy Waiting for Godot, which just started rehearsing this week. Also in the pipeline are second instalments of both Furnace and Transform, which promise to be even more adventurous and exciting in 2012.

The Olympic Torch

Is that lame? Is that too mainstream and uncool and a waste of taxpayer’s money? Well, sorry, but I can’t wait! Perhaps that’s just because I’m one of what seems to be a very few people who have actually managed to get Olympics tickets. There’ll be an ‘evening celebration’, apparently, when the torch reaches the city centre on Sunday 24th June, and I’m thinking there’ll be fireworks…

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

As much as I ask, no-one seems to be able to tell me if we’ll still get that bank holiday if the Queen doesn’t quite make it to next June? Apparently it’s a morbid thought. Anyhow, I’m really hoping everything goes to plan because a diamond jubilee calls for bunting and tea parties and cake and I LOVE all of those things. Let’s make Leeds the centre of the celebrations!

Joining Leeds Book Club

This month is the month I join the Arcadia branch of the Leeds Book Club, which I totes can’t wait for. Book the first is The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, (which I’m hoping arrives from Amazon, like, NOW so I actually have time to read it) and it looks really good. I’m looking forward to meeting other Leeds-based bookworms for fun times.

Baking at Iron Cupcake: Leeds

Although I’ve attended, I’ve never entered Leeds’ premier cupcake competition. However, bring on February’s freestyle month because I have my ticket and I am there. Being very much an amateur, I’m counting this as a practice round. However, before I enter for a second time, I’ll employ my secret weapon: I have a voucher for a cupcake lesson at the Sunshine Bakery.

Watching Leeds Arena take shape

Whilst the Trinity Leeds project makes me want to throw things, I’m completely on board with the Arena. It’s about time the citizens of Leeds were able to attend an arena concert without trekking across the Pennines and paying for a hotel, or getting hives from worrying about whether you’ll make the last train home. It’s not due to open until early 2013 (so probably November time), but over the next few months I think we’ll really be able to see things coming together. Rather unnecessarily, you can watch the construction live here.

Big musical numbers at Leeds Grand Theatre

There’s something a bit magical about Leeds Grand Theatre. I like to get dressed up when I go, and have a nice meal beforehand, and stroll through the lamplit streets afterwards with friends or a significant other. This year my highlights will be Dirty Dancing and the amazing, incredible Phantom of the Opera, which I’ve been dying to see again after my first viewing in theWest End in 2007.

Summer in the City

Shall we just pretend that it’s going to be this incredibly hot summer, and the sun will just beat down on us for three solid months, and no-one will bother to go on holiday because it’s too warm, but instead we’ll all go to Kirkstall Abbey or Hyde Park or Millennium Square and eat ice creams and play rounders, and we’ll all wear shorts or sundresses with flip flops, and there’ll be zero crime because everyone’s so happy, and anyway, it’s just too hot? Yes, let’s!

Heritage Open Days

I had a really busy work schedule for 2011’s Heritage Open Days, which was really disappointing, so this year I plan to be out in force. In particular I want to have a good nosey around Leeds Grand Theatre, and take a guided walk in an area I’m unfamiliar with.

Light Night Leeds

Last year’s Light Night was my first, and I got home from it completely exhausted! I felt like I’d never worked so hard for my entertainment before. The ideal for me would have been three Light Nights on consecutive nights, each in different parts of the city (say, the university, the cultural quarter and the city centre). However I’m sure this brings heaps of administrative problems that I know nothing about. This time, I want to make the most of things by setting out with a more structured plan, and maybe focussing on one geographical area.

Meeting more Twitter faces

This year I’ve met some lovely people including the tireless Emma Bearman of @culturevultures, the insanely talented Abi Manifold (@SewYou) and the hilarious Wendy Denman, aka @Wandapops. This year, I’ll be aggressively seeking out all of you, so watch out.

Developing my blog

It’s been an exciting 4 ½ months since I posted my first blog post in August, and I’ve been on a real journey. It took me a couple of months to get the confidence to put my name to it, and soon I think I’ll even put my face to it! This year I’ll be putting together a new blog header, introducing guest posters and possibly changing the blog name…watch this space.

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