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Five fantastic local and alternative festivals in Leeds

Written by
Holly Thackeray

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the summer and autumn months – besides the occasional day of sunshine – are the local festivals.

There's nothing that shows off the Capital of the North (sorry Manchester) and the fascinating quirks of Yorkshire life, food and drink better than when communities come out to shine.

This month and beyond there are a host of fantastic festivals ready to wow, as well as introduce non-natives to parts of the city they may not previously have marked on their map. Here are some of our top picks...

Hyde Park Unity Day 


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The type of immersive event where local people really get stuck in and contribute, Hyde Park Unity Day - originally created as a way to bring the local community together after the riots of 1995 - turns 20 this year, and there will undoubtedly be plenty of cake on offer.

Featuring everything from live music and DJ tents to food vans, giant puzzles and Tai Chi sessions, prepare to end this all-action day with tired feet and a full belly.

The date of the event is usually revealed in the local area, two weeks before it happens (in order to keep the attendance numbers manageable) but Hyde Park Unity Day will be seeking funding until July 26.

Hyde Park Unity Day, date tbc, Woodhouse Moor, midday-6pm. 

Leeds West Indian Carnival 


Simply a must-see event for everyone to add to their calendar, the West Indian Carnival and Parade  celebrates the city's proud Caribbean community and is a staple of summertime in west Yorkshire.

If you like bright, vibrant, boisterous fun from your festivals, to the unmistakable sounds of steel drums, The West Indian Carnival is a party in every sense of the word. 

Get ready to be dazzled by a captivating array of colours and costumes on show as the carnival snakes it's way through Chapeltown and Harehills, and enjoy mouthwatering smells and taste sensations of Caribbean cooking.

Leeds West Indian Carnival, August 23 (Carnival Prince and Princess Show), August 28 (Carnival King and Queen Show), August 29 (Soca Monarch Show), August 31 (Carnival Parade). More details are available on the website.  

Chapel Allerton Arts Festival 


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Just north of the city centre, Chapel Allerton will continue to quench festival goers' thirst and takes us into September with it's renowned arts festival.

Rock up in LS7, where the Chapel Allerton Film Festival gets proceedings underway, but there is also an art trail and a host of live music and poetry events for culture vultures to get their teeth into.

Chapel Allerton Arts Festival, August 31-September 6, Regent Street and Well Lane, Chapel Allerton. More details of the programme are available from the website

Light Night Leeds 

Flickr: Carl Milner

This extraordinary evening gives locals and tourists alike the chance to see Leeds in a different light.

Explore the city by night and take advantage of a raft of free events and walk-in exhibitions and performances, as the cityscape is illuminated with creativity, including a stunning light show which utilizes Leeds Town Hall as a canvas. Inspired by the Paris-born arts festival Nuit Blanche, this cultural trek by nightfall certainly gives the most Yorkshire of cities a continental feel.

Light Night Leeds, October 9, 6-11pm. Various venues across the city. See website for more details.  

Thought Bubble Festival 


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Calling all comic fans, the famed Thought Bubble Festival returns in November to celebrate all things animation and creation. Whether graphic novels, anime or superheroes are your bag, you'll find something here to fire your imagination.

This eclectic Leeds-founded annual events boasts a cracking convention with a guest list chock-full of leading illustrators, a cosplay parade and film viewings, as well as workshops in which aspiring artists get the chance to showcase their talents.

If you like more than just a lighthearted take on your entertainment, the floor is also currently open for any keen academics to submit papers exploring the relationship between comics and politics for the 2015 Comics Forum. 

Thought Bubble Festival, November 9-15, New Dock Hall, Royal Armouries Museum. See website for more details.

 Find more great things to do in Leeds.

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