Thursday, 12 November 2009

Left Bank Advent

From the 28th November and covering all weekends during Advent, a unique exhibition is taking place at Left Bank in Leeds. Left Bank is an exciting new arts and events space which is being constructed in what was formerly St. Margaret's Church on Cardigan Road. Left Bank Advent aims to bring together emerging local art talent and others from further afield to create an advent exhibition. Each artist has created a piece exploring a different element of the traditional Advent story; from stars to shepherds.

The building's transformation won't be complete until 2010, so wrap up warm, but it looks like this could be an interesting take on the normal Christmas proceedings. Well worth a weekend stroll!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Weekend music

I sort out the guff, so you don't have to. Unless you really really want to.

Friday 13th November

[V.V.Brown - Cockpit]

A bit like The Noisettes, but more soul based. Catchy 60s-influenced tunes and deserves a bigger following. Just ignore the hair.

[The Paper Chase - Brudenell]

Eccentric emo, bewildering videos. I'd only go if they promised to have actual decapitated people there.

[La Roux - Stylus]

The daughter of June from The Bill. The one who did Something About Mary hair before Dannii or Jedward. Excellently executed synthpop.

[Dinosaur Pile-Up - The Well]

Pointy guitar? Check. Floppy haired singer? Check. Namechecking something abtract ie. dinosaurs? Check. Thrashy, bouncy rock. Oh to be 17 again...

[Gentleman's Dub Club - Fav]

Leeds-based dub outfit do their stuff. Some of the tracks I've viewed don't seem to ever kick in enough, but it DOES make you want to dance.

Saturday 14th November

[Frankie & the Heartstrings - Nation Of Shopkeepers]

If Dexy's and Morrissey had a below average lovechild.

[Zombina & The Skeletones - Mine]

Punk rock. And vampires. Yup.

[Esser - Elbow Rooms]

Looks like he could stand in for La Roux. Sounds like he might break out into Parklife at any moment. Mishmash influences and catchy tunes.

[DeLorean Drivers - The Library]

Layers of influences and sounds. Boy/girl oooooh-eee-oooooh vocals. If the Eurythmics had a punch up with some New Romantics down a back alley aided by some twangy guitars. In a really good way.

[Emmure - Rios]

The lead singer looks like a fat, bloated Danny Dyer pretending to be in Grange Hill. Sounds like he's trying poo lumps of coal.

Leeds bin strikes

As the bin strike in Leeds rolls into its tenth week, I'm starting to wonder whether I still support their decision to strike. Or, whether I would still support it if my bin hadn't been emptied for seven weeks, like some people I know. As it stands my bin has been emptied fortnightly, but there does seem to be a slight postcode lottery as to whether or not you get such regularity during these times of striking. There have been rumours that if you have a councillor on a MP living in your vicinity, you're in luck...

The fact is: Leeds City Council have to restructure pay to comply with Equal Pay agreements. This means some refuse workers would see a cut in their wages of £3500 upwards.

As one striking worker said in a national newspaper this week "How many people would take a 33% pay cut and say thank you?" He has a point. But then again, there is a school of opinion that £18,000 is quite a good wage for a job that is relatively unskilled. Not that these binmen will be keeping that salary if Leeds City Council gets their way.

I agree with their strike on principle, despite the fact that I think they had it too easy for too long in terms of amount of pay for amount of job skill needed. Yet you could probably apply that to a huge number of civil service positions. It's not their fault, they just go the job.

What I do not agree with is how some areas of the city have been effectively left to rot over the last ten weeks. As far as I am aware, every borough has had a bin collection at least once. People have complained about the putrid smell - let's all be glad this didn't happen in June or July, when we're supposed to have some semblance of a summer. It's all very well the unions pushing the workers to strike and the Council leaving talks in stalemate, but it's the thousands of citizens who are suffering the health and environmental implications of the fallout. Why don't we get some say in the matter? It is our council tax after all. The citizens of Leeds are effectively paying to live in filth, mess and unsanitized squalor. Great advert for the city, isn't it?

There is a source circulating unofficially that says the binmen will return to work some time in the eleventh week of the strike, as from the twelfth week dismissal from their jobs is no longer deemed 'unfair' if the employer is seen to have made genuine attempts to negotiate.

Wonder how the pest control businesses are doing in this strike....there is after all, always a silver lining.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Leeds International Film Festival

The 23rd Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) is currently rolling out an eclectic and enticing programme which runs until the 22nd Nov.

Despite the fact that it is in its 23rd year, there is a notion that LIFF is just for media students and movie geeks. And whilst I'm sure there is a selection of the programming which may only appeal to certain types of viewer, there is certainly something on offer for everyone! Each year the festival gets bigger, better and bolder - and tries to bring you an even more packed schedule than the previous year!

This year LIFF has chosen
A Nation Of Shopkeepers as its 'Festival hub' - a handy venue to promote films, live music and other events coinciding with the festival. It's a relaxed place, well-positioned in terms of film venues and is eagerly supporting all LIFF events.

The Festival is split up into a few sections:

Official Selection - this highlights the new work from some of the most exciting and talented filmmakers out there, and also includes some much loved archive pieces of film making too. It's a great starting point for anyone new to the festival experience.

Cinema Versa - the collective home for radical, thought provoking and imaginative documentaries, live events and personal projects based around the two main themes of music and human rights. Get ready to be inspired by what you see.

Cherry Kino - the quirky sibling in the festival family. Cherry Kino showcases 'wondermental' films. Basically, these are dreamy, gorgeous, poignant, bizarre shorts and films which make you wonder. This years theme is 'Revolting Bodies'.

Short Film City - pretty self-explanatory, but well worth a look. This arena brings you some of the most groundbreaking and charming short films from both the UK and international circuit - and also a section devoted to homegrown Yorkshire talent. Watch them and take note of their names.

Fanomenon - takes the fantasy genre and puts together the best horror, action, sci-fi, animation and Far Eastern cinema. This section of the festival often contains some real hidden gems. Great if you want to try something you might not normally watch.

One of the most loved attractions from recent years is the
Night Of The Dead all nighter at the Hyde Park Picture House, which this year gets to add another element to its bloodthirsty and gut-wrenching programme by being broadcast on Friday 13th November!

For those comic book aficionados amongst you there is also
the 3rd Thought Bubble comic book convention which is being held on 21st November and features artists, writers and titles from around the world.

Below you can find an online guide to the festival, to browse at your leisure. I really do urge you to go check something out at the festival - it is the perfect chance to dip into a genre you may normally bypass. Take a chance, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised!

Monday, 9 November 2009


You can find C'est La Leeds on Twitter if you so wish.

And also my
my good self.

Twitter is a great way to put forward any ideas for blog posts or also if you want to contribute posts too. Let's go!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The English Defence League come to Leeds.

The English Defence League, have you heard of them? Most people probably haven't, but they were in Leeds last weekend for a demonstration against Extremist Muslims and the EDL's belief that the government is not doing anything to stamp out the 'threat' that such people bring to our society.

You can find an extract of their speech in Leeds and in two sections a piece about the EDL, Part 1 and Part 2 which they billed "an hour long documentary on us" on their website. Which actually turned out to be 13 minutes on Newsnight. You would be forgiven for thinking the failing to burn the swastika business was part of some Channel 4 mockumentary. But no, they were trying to prove a point. In balaclavas. In a disused warehouse.

I wasn't able to attend the demonstration - I was on holiday - but before I went I tried to get in touch with the EDL to see if they would answer some questions about their (then) proposed visit to Leeds. They're up with technology it has to be said, for not long after I'd sent off an email someone had replied saying they would answer any questions I had. They would be answering through email on their phone though, so not to expect long, detailed answers. Fair enough...

They formed because "the situation was unbearable", they are "nothing like the BNP, we are not political, we let blacks in etc" but they do admit that prior/alongside to joining the EDL "some members are/were in political parties including English democrats, ukip etc but as we are non political it's not an issue." The demos are in response to "the governments inaction concerning the issue of Muslim extremism and sub issues such as uncontrolled immigration."

I asked why Leeds, what was their justification for bringing the demonstration here. "Why Leeds? Ha. I take it you haven't seen shalid maliks speech then?" I think they meant Shahid Malik the MP for Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. Malik most recently stood down from his role as justice minister when the expenses scandal broke, only to come back as junior community minister when he was cleared. Quite why they didn't go to Dewsbury I do not know.

"What do we Aim to gain from the Leeds protest? Awareness of the problem, let the english people know we are there for them." Slip of the tongue? They claim on their website to invite all races and faiths to join them. But now...just as long as they're English? No wonder the EDL has gained a reputation for being racist, fascist and the new breed of The National Front. They claim this is wrong, they are none of these things and they are not political. This is about a key issue. And possibly other little issues tacked on as well such as immigration. Viewing the video of the leeds speech, I do not feel comforted that the EDL are 'here for me'. They interrupt the national anthem with cut-ins of "no surrender!" and "EDL!" If there wasn't such a ridiculous element to it, I'd feel a bit intimidated.

I flagged up the fact that the EDL also have their own range of merchandise, including a hoodie with a burkha face mask for sale. Surely this just ignites controversy? "what about people that wear burkhas in a Christian country?" Well quite. No matter what your reaction to the EDL, it becomes very hard to take seriously an organisation which would stoop to such tactics. They probably think it's addressing the balance.

But back to the Leeds demo. I wasn't there, but Jason N Parkinson from the Guardian was. He claims that the local BBC coverage told a slightly different story to the one he saw. The BBC he claims, did not report all the un-peaceful elements of the protest which he saw. Parkinson has since been issued with a Fatwa by the EDL. Yes that is correct, an organisation supposedly against Islamic Extremists has sent a Fatwa. It seems like they really want to discredit themselves wherever possible.

Will the EDL have gained many new followers from the Leeds demo? Quite possibly. I think it would be quite easy in today's current climate for a certain section of society to be drawn into the EDL's ideology. Coupled with how fast momentum and supportive material can be fed through new media, it is a slightly worrying thought. Some would argue we shouldn't give such organisations the coverage or right to voice their opinions, hoping they would slink away. But as we saw with Nick Griffin on Question Time, if you give a man enough rope he will surely hang himself. Or prove to be the bumbling, inept fool so many of us knew he was.

The EDL will next be appearing in Nottingham on December 5th, just in time for panto season.

Azucar Bar, Brewery Place.

C'est La Leeds, I have to admit my ignorance. Up until a few weeks ago I had never been to Brewery Wharf. I couldn't have even told you what was there, save for Tetleys. And even that doesn't have the allure of the shire horses anymore. Leeds city centre depsite its growth over the last decade, still ain't all that big. I like that about it, I hasten to add. So why had I never taken the hop, skip and jump over the river to Brewery Wharf? Perhaps it seemed too far away in the distorted satnav in my mind. Perhaps whoever was marketing its various businesses didn't create enough hype? Perhaps there was just nothing really to go to?

Since the city centre branch of Viva Cuba/Latina had apparently stopped doing a full menu to nosh on, I was on a quest to find another city centre tapas joint. Both
La Tasca and Sandinista are notbale mentions, but I wanted to see what else Leeds could muster, if anything. And then like a grubby form of fate, I came across a review for Azucar in a trampled, discarded newspaper on the bus. The review praised it highly: it offered exceptional tasting tapas at reasonable prices in a good atomsphere. I was instantly intrigued. But where was this myserious Azucar? Brewery Place? Brewery Whuh? It was suddenly a mission.

I armed myself with my friend Matt one cloudy Tuesday evening and we tentatively set off in search of our Holy tapas grail. Checking the website prior to this I had found that it does half price tapas on Tuesdays and half price cocktails on Thursdays. I didn't want to jinx it, but it sounded like it could possibly be my new favourite place. Excellent food for an excellent price in the credit crunch era? We had to find out.

Azucar feels slightly upmarket and homely all at once, if that's possible (I think it is, like a slightly glamorous aunt.) The drinks menu was designed by former
Mojo stalwart Robert Jupp and Howard Marks has a loosely linked hand in its buzz, although I'm not sure what role he plays aside from going in there every so often. But still, tapas, cocktails and Mr Nice - it works for me.

We were shown to a table and discovered it was in view of a big screen playing a film. Which is handy if you end up there on a bad date or you fall out with your friend mid-meal. Matt was sat with his back to it, so unfortunately for him he was just going to have to talk to me. Thems the breaks, buddy. All the waiting staff were friendly, helpful but not too eager - the general vibe (did I really just say vibe?) was chilled and relaxed (no, I will not use ch*llax, get lost.) We ordered six dishes between us and it was a fine amount of food. We could've probably ordered another dish or two if we were feeling a bit more indulgent, but the six was enough. To be fair, we could've ordered the whole menu if we had given in to our true desires, as it took us long enough to narrow it down to those six.

There is always a worry with half price promotions that the food will be rushed or not given its normal attention to detail or presentation - but this was wonderful. I especially liked the Brocheta De Cordero (lamb kebab with yoghurt dip) and my friend raved about the Gambas Rebozadas (tiger prawns with dip).

Most dishes range around the very reasonable £4.25 mark, so when you take into cosideration the fact that you are sharing and the half price offer, you are most definitely onto a winner.

We didn't spy Mr Marks but my friend managed to get a free beer due to a till slip-up. Balance restored!

C'est La Leeds, if there was ever a reason to take those brave steps over the river, Azucar is it. Go feast, drink and enjoy. And tell your friends.