The Alternative Heritage of Leeds

This week we welcome guest blogger, Festival of Gothica, who tell us about a new project working jointly with Leeds Libraries.

Leeds has a rich alternative heritage but was influential in birthing the goth subculture as we know it today. Other cities celebrate their musical history and shape their events and tourism around it, Liverpool sings its love for Mersey Beat and Manchester bangs the drum for the Indie scene. Leeds however has been somewhat quiet in championing its alternative subcultural roots. Leeds Festival of Gothica wanted to shine a spotlight on the alternative heritage of Leeds in a way that involved the community and showcased the diverse spectrum of the scene and its musical genres. We also wanted to create an accessible archive of images to ensure the scene is conserved for posterity. Over a few drinks in Northern Guitars with artist Johnny Cosmic (@midnightvipers) the idea of a mural that people could stand within to create a shareable image for social media was born. A pair of batwings would be used to represent nightlife (with a subtle nod to goth) which would hold all the information regarding the alternative heritage. We now had an artist and concept mural!

I approached Leeds Libraries about the idea of an alternative heritage of Leeds image archive to link with the proposed mural. We were greeted with a very resounding and supportive, yes! The library already has an established image library in Leodis and it was agreed that this platform could also be offered for the alternative images.

Now the mural idea, artist and archive were in place we needed to find a location and funding. We have been holding successful alternative markets in Leeds Markets since 2017 – eighty vendors attend each market from all over the UK to showcase their strange and unusual wares. This was the ideal location for the mural to celebrate the heritage with an established audience. The next stage was approaching Leeds City Council for permission for the mural site. After a draft mural image was submitted to Leeds Market the green light was given for location in the events space. Funding was the next step which was found through a small grant from Leeds Inspired.

Leeds Libraries and the project lead held sessions at Leeds Tattoo Expo, the alternative market and even at Whitby goth celebrations, as well as a social media campaign to determine what people would like to include in the mural.

Johnny Cosmic wanted to use original fonts and web the words together like punk gig flyers. Two designs were finalised in black and white and a colour version that went to public vote. The colour version won.

The finished mural with creator Johnny Cosmic.

The mural was unveiled on the 15th of October 2022 at the Alternative Market at Leeds Kirkgate Market. We still require images of flyers, gig tickets, photographs of nights out, posters, venues, shops, clothing from the alt scene of Leeds pre 2000. To see what’s already included click HERE

This works sits in Leeds Festival of Gothica’s grand plan of commissioning black heritage plaques to celebrate Leeds subcultural roots and for the city to truly embrace and appreciate its alternative diversity. How wonderful would it be to have another version of light night called dark night? We would like an annual citywide celebration in October with events like … Dracula at the ballet, gigs, readings of gothic literature, alternative fashion shows, dark cabaret, club nights, markets, a chid friendly horror film festival and a recognition of how influential Leeds has been in shaping the alternative scene. We must mention that there is a thriving scene with the likes of Carpe Noctum, Goth City , Bunker 13, Zeitgeist Zero, Salvation, The Rose of Avalanche, Den of Delirium, the newbie Feral, Old Woollen and the iconic Brudenell Social Club to name but a few. Many of which have been supportive to the Alternative Heritage of Leeds Project.

Our next market is on the 18th of March 2023 at Leeds Market. Leeds Libraries will be in residence promoting the alternative image library and will be available to scan images. You can also pop down to the market at any time to have your photo taken with the mural, please however tag us in on Instagram as we love seeing and sharing peoples portraits. If you would like to find out more or get involved please follow @leedsfestivalofgothica on Instagram or email

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Robert Thomas says:

    I’m a little disappointed that you have veered away from the excellent coverage of the history of our city.
    Goth fashion is hardly the most interesting thing the city is known for.
    How about coverage of how the city fathers ensured a safe water supply with far sighted plans to pipe water from the hills northwest of Leeds instead of abstracting from the Aire?

    Something on the musical life of the city with our numerous brass bands and choirs?

    Not Goths. Please.

  2. The purpose of the blog is to showcase Library collections, and it is our role as Local Studies Librarians to ensure all communities are represented in the collections. The Alternative Heritage of Leeds project approached us about adding their history to the Leeds Libraries collections, something we are very excited about. If you wish to read more about choirs and the music life of the city please check out our Discovering Leeds site at:
    Also keep a look out as we are soon to announce an upcoming Leeds Gig Heritage project. Also there are items in the Local Studies book collections covering brass bands and and the city water supplies, just waiting to be discovered by visitors to the Central Library. – Louise

  3. Vallentyne Mazorodze says:

    This is an excellent article. Informative about an important aspect of Leeds History and culture. Totally love the batwings. Inspired and creative.

    1. Thank you, though we cannot take credit for the batwings we will pass it on to the artist

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