Not Quite Your Run of the Mill

Canal Mills - Leeds

My previous blog was about Ernest Wright & Sons, the scissor makers in Sheffield. In that piece I got a bit emotional about the decline of industry in the North and how it was a shame that traditional heritage companies are few and far between. And now here I am again about to write about what is essentially on old mill in Leeds and I can already feel the tears coming. Well if Canal Mills is no longer producing textiles or whatever, it may as well be used for the variety of cool events it now hosts. We went along to sample just one of these – the ‘Brandon Street Night Market’.

Canal Mills is one of those ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ sort of places. Dilapidated-looking from the outside and out of town in terms of location, you really have to step inside to understand why its the ideal location to host exhibitions, pop-up restaurants, live music and theatre events. Unfortunately, it’s not the sort of place you might just stumble upon either, unless you’re specifically planning a trip to the Adult Superstore across the road (not that we did - we’re professionals).

Our first obstacle to overcome however was my unfortunate inability to successfully navigate the Leeds ring-road. Fortunately, with Ben as my surrogate sat-nav and a series of correct roundabout exits, we found ourselves on Brandon Street. Parking is ample if you’re wondering, although perhaps as a result of the excellent beer and ale selection, a lot of people were opting to use taxis (or obliging family/friends) to get them there and back. After unpacking our kit we made friends with one of the door staff team, who kindly pointed us in the direction of the Mikey - the bar manager - our contact for the evening.

At this point the venue wasn’t particularly busy, in fact some of the food vendors were still setting up. However it wasn’t long before the place was packed to the brim with a lively bunch of revellers, looking to enjoy the music, the food and perhaps a beer or two. We suggest you come here on an empty stomach. Rows of park benches slice through the central space, with the food stalls and bars situated around the periphery acting as a constant source of temptation (to which we sucuumbed rather rapidly). The centerpiece however is the raised DJ bench at the far end which sports an artsy colourful frontage. Top that off with a decent outdoor smoking area and a few comfortable sofas and you’ve got a venue with a really chilled atmosphere and an ideal refuge for a cold winter’s night.

I almost wish it ran more often than its current monthly schedule. If you’re looking for something different from the monotony of post-work drinks or the busy watering holes of the city centre – the night market is worth a visit. Perhaps the greatest testament to that notion is the fact that people are willing to make the journey, either by bus, taxi or car, to the out of town location. In fact I was quite surprised at the variety of people the night market seemed to attract. It wasn’t just the studenty-types, but couples, families and for some reason a load of dogs. Seriously, there were a lot of dogs.

Perhaps the biggest draw is the food. We sampled only a fraction of what was on offer but there is something for everybody with a healthy rotation of different vendors appearing each month. I elected to go for a smoky pulled pork wrap from Market Wraps , (I have never tasted anything as smokey in my life), while Ben went for an American style patty from Cow Boys that wouldn’t fit in his face (watch the episode for proof).

Although it’s not an easy undertaking, reclaiming spaces like Canal Mills is well worth it. The rustic charm of the brickwork, the wooden beams, the history of this 18th century mill provides a new purpose for something with historical importance for the city. More than just a space for hire, the building has clearly succeeded in becoming a cultural hub for artistic and creative ventures alike.

There are plenty of other events that might take your fancy at Canal Mills, so make sure you check them out here. If you’ve got a particular favourite – why don’t you tell us about it in the comments section? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Maybe we’ll see you at the next night market. Otherwise, if you’re ever out that side of town – there’s always the Adult Superstore...