As the nearest major city after Newcastle, Leeds has hosted some memorable moments in my life.
The open air concerts (Queen, U2, The Stones and more) at Elland Road and Roundhay contrasting with an Elton John gig at the Queens Hall where the condensation dripped from the roof. The stress of racing to get to a Krypton Factor selection event at the Dragonara Hotel when my exhaust lost any sense of attachment to my car. The frustration of being a guy with a Wearside accent trying to get into a female hall of residence while the Ripper was at large.
So much has changed in the decades that have passed since then. Marriage, divorce, parenthood, and several changes of jobs have shaped me, my beliefs, my attitudes and my behaviours. Others will judge whether for better or worse.
Leeds has changed too, and though many of the things I love remain, particularly around the Victorian Quarter, many other parts of the city have been heavily redeveloped.
As I was in the vicinity of Leeds Dock (formerly Clarence Dock) I went in search of inspiration. I’d been before several years ago when visiting the Royal Armouries, but on a cold and wet Sunday morning I was more interested in shelter than exploration.The sun was shining when I arrived, encouraging a couple of locals to stop and enjoy the rays, but only a couple for most of the dock with its smattering of longboats was deep in shadow. Surrounded by the steel and concrete of numerous office and apartment blocks it was as empty of warmth as it was full of water.
There were some attempts to bring a touch of humanity; the reflective surface of a piece of public art providing visual interest but underlining the coldness of the place, a wall of graffiti art emasculated by its regimented display, and a stretch of rectangularity swathed in astro-turf that presumably was to encourage people to sit by the water. To my eye it couldn’t look less inviting.
Outside the Royal Armouries museum was an open area, like a Venetian campo (it even featured a pizza restaurant) but with none of the charm. Like a campo it made for a good place to play football though.
There were few people about to provide the interest that my surroundings lacked so I contented myself with some more abstract and detail shots before succumbing to the temptation of that pizza. The whole place was soulless.
But as I left there was a glimmer of hope. Making my way to the canal I found an area where the light could shine. Where colour could develop. Where apartments had been fashioned from existing buildings. Where flotsam suddenly seemed attractive. Where even the products of the industrial revolution could now seem organic.