- by Ross Horsley, Local and Family History, Leeds Central Library
There are plenty of reasons to visit the Carriageworks Theatre on Millennium Square this month, the main one being that their production of Aladdin, the city’s only traditional pantomime, begins on Friday and runs right through to 9 January. Another reason is to take advantage of the tip-top views from the bar’s floor-to-ceiling windows… Look west for a stunning zigzag perspective right the way along Great George Street (I’ll not spoil it for you here) or north for a bird’s-eye view of the square outside, which is currently crawling with shoppers, diners and general browsers – all of whom look just like ants from up here:
The German Christmas Market has been setting up shop(s) in Millennium Square since 2002, and attracts upwards of 750,000 visitors every year. That’s 10.5 million people who’ve been for a nosy over the last 14 years – or slightly less if you factor in that about seventy of those were me making repeat visits for a Bailey’s hot chocolate. But, statistics aside, that’s still a pretty impressive attraction.
Also impressive is the former Leeds Institute of Science and Art – now the City Museum – watching over the proceedings with its large Eye of Providence. (I’m not kidding… check out that central window in the photo above and phone the Freemasons if you don’t believe me.) Designed as a centre of education for the working class and housing a 1500-capacity lecture theatre, it was built between 1865 and 1868 to plans drawn up by Cuthbert Brodrick, the architect behind the Town Hall and Corn Exchange. The Wetherspoon’s pub to the left of the building is, of course, now named after him and, standing just between them, is the giant grenade-like sculpture Off Kilter by Turner Prize-nominated Richard Wilson, which disguises a light and sound control tower. How’s that for art with a purpose?
Anyway, we’ll leave you with this early, undated engraving of the Institute from Leodis, bethronged not with weary Christmas shoppers but instead lots of old horses, traps and other historical whatsits. Enjoy.
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Aladdin certainly isn’t the only traditional pantomime. I have been attending the LIDOS production at the Civic Theatre and more recently at The Carriageworks for more than 30 years.
The Carriageworks does advertise the fact that it stages the city’s only traditional pantomime. The City Varieties prefers a rock and roll panto, while the Grand and Playhouse are staging lavish shows instead (The Nutcracker and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). There are some traditional pantos in the suburbs, however, including Sleeping Beauty in Yeadon in January.