The words ‘Leeds’ and ‘festival’ mean only one thing to a lot of people, but there is far more to the summer jamboree season than staggering around a quagmire in your designer wellies while nodding rhythmically to a grindcore band you’ve never heard of. Whether it’s musical, family-orientated or strictly recreational, the Leeds festival scene covers the whole spectrum and some of these won’t even fall foul of the pesky weather.
Leeds Indie Food Festival/Leeds Food & Drink Festival, May 7 - Jun 7
The Leeds Indie Food Festival has already started but you have another week to sample some of the taster and demo sessions taking place in 80 venues across the city. Some of our most pioneering and maverick food gurus like Bundobust, Manjit's Kitchen and Patty Smith's will be collaborating at the end-of-festival event ‘The Leeds Feast’ on the weekend of May 23-24 at The Tetley, which costs just £2 for an all-day ticket. The Leeds Food & Drink Festival then takes over with events across the city, culminating in the annual (and completely free) fair in Millennium Square on the Jun 5-7. For more inspiration, check out our top ten picks of the festival.
Slam Dunk, May 23
Russell James Smith/Flickr
A bit like Leeds Festival without the huge crowds, cold and mud. Slam Dunk is a pop punk and hardcore festival that takes over a chunk of Leeds city centre for a day, with a £39 ticket which allows entrance to the various locations. Skateboards will doubtless be the transport of choice between seven indoor and outdoor venues, as 50 artists and DJs perform between Millennium Square, Leeds University, the O2 Academy and Leeds Beckett University. Headliners You Me At Six have picked five tracks for us which sum up Slam Dunk and you can also check out our pick of which bands to see at this year's festival.
Leeds Loves Cocktails, Jun 1-7
The complex art of cocktail-making is celebrated with a week-long study of this delicious breed of beverage. 38 venues will be holding tasting events, masterclasses and general loveliness to pay homage to the creativity, refinement and outright self-indulgence of a well-made cocktail. From Mojo in the north, Epernay in the centre and Normans, Oporto and Sky Lounge elsewhere, there’ll be plenty of shaking going on. Wristbands will be required for all events, available from the Leeds Loves Cocktails website.
Made in Leeds Festival, Jun 13
An inner-city dance festival hosted at The Tetley, and returning for a second year with the subtitle ‘A New Dawn’. Made in Leeds brings together legendary local dance brands from past and present, with ‘The Warehouse’, ‘Back to Basics’ and ‘Fibre’ joining up with others in a big top circus tent with fairground rides, pop-up boutiques and food stalls also accessible with your £27.50 ticket. At just 5,000 capacity, tickets are selling fast so get one while you can.
Leeds Waterfront Festival, Jun 27-28
Taking in Thwaites Mill, New Dock, Brewery Wharf, The Calls and Granary Wharf, a mix of arts, crafts, music and food make up the eighth annual carnival along Leeds’ striking waterways. The spectacular Dragon Boat Race is one of the highlights of the many free events, with 20-strong groups of friends, workmates and businesses clubbing together to enter the fast and furious splash-about in the New Dock, which raises money for the Jane Tomlinson appeal.
Leeds Health & Healing Festival, July 4-5
A welcome antidote to the decadence and resulting exhaustion of some of the other festivals, is this two-day retreat into the recuperative bosom of spa products, spiritual mediums, jewellery, precious stones and natural healing remedies. The eighth annual festival has this year moved to Weetwood Hall at the top of Otley Road, with the £5 entrance fee opening up a portal to wellbeing and inner calm that might just set you up for the final leg of the arduous festival season.
Leeds Gin Festival, July 18-19
Leeds Town Hall is hosting the fourth annual Leeds Gin Festival, billed as the biggest in the UK. It's worth a visit for the illustrious venue alone, but stalls will also be showcasing over 100 different gins with plenty of nodding between parties as wares are sampled from the country’s leading gin distillers. Live music accompanies the split afternoon and evening sessions for which a £7.50 ticket is required.
Leeds International Beer Festival, Sep 3-6
Closing the festival season is the mammoth Leeds International Beer Festival, which spills from the Town Hall onto the steps outside in a flurry of quaffing and chatter. Craft beer is one of the most burgeoning industries in the UK and the range of beers and ciders on offer here will astound the most hardened ale enthusiasts. Live music from two stages and a street food market is also accessible with the £7 ticket dedicated to afternoon and evening sessions.