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10 Awesome Surprises That Await at Leeds Town Hall

· Joseph Sheerin · Culture

Leeds Town Hall Clock

Don't miss Leeds International Beer Festival, as the Town Hall is taken over by some of the world's finest brewers from 3rd to 6th September 2015. Book your tickets now.

You might think Leeds Town Hall is merely used for business of running the city, but you would be very wrong…

It’s probably the most recognisable building in Leeds – Cuthbert Brodrick’s iconic Leeds Town Hall has been a symbol of the city’s civic duty since 1858, but there’s more to it than just that. But if you delve inside, you’ll find there’s plenty to entertain, intrigue and even surprise.

1. It’s a cracking gig venue

The Cribs

Credit: Jess Rowbottom

The imperious surroundings of the Victoria Hall make quite the setting for a concert – and believe it or not, they hold them often. The likes of The Cribs, Daughter and Ocean Colour Scene have all graced the stage in this hallowed space, while it’s also regular the home for classical and orchestral events – there are few venues like it anywhere else in the city.

2. It’s a political soap box

Leeds Town Hall

Credit: Leodis

Leeds Town Hall has been the centrepiece for the city and the scene of many an important political event, from general elections to speeches and appearances by the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria. Despite the nearby Civic Hall taking most of the slack, even today it still homes council offices.

3. It knows how to guard itself

Leeds Town Hall

What you might not have seen in Leeds Town Hall is the rather skilfully crafted Entrance Screen. It bears a quote from Psalms 127:1, “Except the Lord, Keep the City, The Watchman Taketh But in Vain”, a way of guarding the building from harm.

4. It has something in common with the Senate House

Leeds Town Hall

The entrance hall is equally remarkable. The huge domed ceiling will instantly fill you with awe, but believe it or not, it’s the floor you’ll want to turn your eyes towards. It shares a similar design to that of the Senate House in Washington, and was made by the same Stoke-On-Trent company.

5. It does a mighty fine festival

Leeds International Beer Festival

Whether it’s Leeds International Beer Festival in September, Leeds International Film Festival in November or Grapeful in May, you’ll find that more than a few of the city’s finest festivals are held at the Town Hall – even Live at Leeds has gigs there.

6. It still has the old Victorian cells

Leeds Town Hall

The Bridewell cells underneath the Town Hall were a vital part of its function, but thankfully they’re no longer used as such today. You can still visit them though, to see what prison life was like in Victorian England, or when they’re transformed into a bar with a difference for events like The Wood Beneath the World.

7. Its court is a conference space

Leeds Town Hall

As part of its original purpose, Leeds Town Hall was once home to a court, becoming the Crown Court in 1933. That’s no longer the case, but the old courtroom has now been transformed into the Albert Room, a conference space with many of its old courtroom features.

8. It boasts amazing views

Leeds Town Hall

Once the tallest building in the city, the Town Hall still imposes itself on the skyline – and you can get up there to see for yourself on the Town Hall tours. There are 203 steps to climb to reach the top of the clock tower, but once you’re there with that view, it’s more than worth it.

9. It hosts a slew of weird and wonderful events

Preview: The Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival at Leeds Town Hall

More recently, the Town Hall has diversified its offering, bringing us even more unusual events. From retro gaming markets to vegan festivals, vintage fairs and celebrations of Italian street food, it’s worth keeping an eye on the events coming up at Leeds Town Hall.

10. It’s got a ginormous… organ

Leeds Town Hall

Part of the breathtaking grandeur of the Victoria Hall is the massive pipe organ at the rear of the room. The imposing instrument is the largest three manual example in Europe – that’s no mean feat.