Ready to grab 2020 by the horns? Then this list of the best events taking place across Leeds will come in very handy indeed…
2020 is nearly here and it’s going to be a good ‘un because there are all manner of events in the pipeline. From huge West End shows to the city’s best festivals, these are the biggest and most exciting events coming to Leeds in 2020, so get your diaries out and start planning for a seriously good year.
Brewdenell Beer Festival
The eighth annual Brewdenell Beer Festival kicks off with loads of great ales. It’s spread across their two concert rooms and will boast their biggest selection of British breweries yet, both on keg and cask. This year, they’re concentrating on UK breweries rather than global beers, so get ready for treats from Kirkstall, Magic Rock and The Kernal. You won’t go hungry either – they’ll be serving Pieminister pies all weekend, with a host of street food vendors coming along for the ride.
Brewdenell Beer Festival takes over Brudenell Social Club from Friday 10th to Sunday 12th January 2020.
Opera North’s first production of the year will be Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. It’s a hot summer’s day in New York City and tension is bubbling under the surface of one Big Apple community. Frank is mad at the world for changing too fast, his daughter Rose wants to leave the dirty city behind and his wife Anna is having an affair with the milkman. Watch as their story evolves in soap opera style on the stage, all to a soundtrack of golden-age Broadway standards.
Street Scene comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Saturday 15th January to Friday 28th February 2020.
Millennium Square will once again be taken over by Ice Cube at the start of February. The annual pop-up ice rink is incredibly popular with all ages, and because it’s indoors, you can enjoy it whatever the weather. They run lessons, so you can learn how to skate, and they have special penguin skating aids for the kids. They also have a series of winter themed rides, like the Starflyer, and a cafe.
Ice Cube takes over Millennium Square from Friday 31st January to Sunday 23rd February 2020.
The Marriage of Figaro
You can see one of Mozart’s finest operas in Leeds this year as the Marriage of Figaro returns to the Grand Theatre. It’s a joyous farce that tells the story of mistaken identity, heartache and forgiveness. Trouble looms on Figaro’s wedding day – his master, Count Almaviva, wants to bed his fiancé Susanna, the heartbroken Countess becomes the object of Cherubino’s desires and if Figaro can’t repay a debt to housekeeper Marcellina, he’ll have to marry her instead. Hilarious chaos ensues to an absolutely unforgettable score.
The Marriage of Figaro comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Saturday 1st to Saturday 29th February 2020.
The Yorkshire Pudding Festival
The UK’s first Yorkshire Pudding Festival will take over Leeds Kirkgate Market this February. You’ll be able to tuck into loads of weird and wonderful dishes, all made using the humble Yorkshire pud. From wraps stuffed with roast dinners to sweet treats filled with fruit and ice cream, who knew the Yorkshire pudding could be so versatile? It’s free to enter, there will be loads of different vendors to check out and you can even get a drink at the bar.
Yorkshire Pudding Festival comes to Leeds Kirkgate Market on Saturday 1st February 2020.
The Turn of the Screw
Opera North will bring Benjamin Britten’s chilling take on Henry James’ edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller to Leeds Grand Theatre in 2020. It’s set in a remote manor in the countryside – a newly-appointed governess has arrived to look after two orphans, but she soon realises that she’ll have to protect them too. They’re haunted by strange and menacing spirits – but are they real or a figment of her imagination? Backed by a wonderfully disturbingly score that adds to the tension superbly, The Turn of the Screw is an absolute must.
The Turn of the Screw comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Saturday 15th to Thursday 27th February 2020.
Manchester four-piece The 1975 are one of the UK’s biggest bands. Over the past decade they’ve grown from a sickly-sweet indie pop group to a tour-de-force of innovative musical artistry. Now they’re heading out on their biggest UK tour to date, stopping at First Direct Arena in February. They’ll play through latest record, ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’, alongside cuts from their first three albums, including ‘Chocolate’, ‘The Sound’ and ‘Love It If We Made It’.
The 1975 come to First Direct Arena on Monday 17th February 2020.
Cocktails in the City
Across two nights in February, Cocktails in the City will take over the Town Hall to celebrate the city’s cocktail culture. 20 of the city’s best bars will pack up their spirits, mixers and shakers to open up pop-up stalls at the event, where you can get one-off cocktails you won’t find anywhere else. There will also be cocktail masterclasses, secret tasting experiences and unexpected adventures in the Victorian prison cells.
Cocktails in the City takes place at Leeds Town Hall on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd February 2020.
Rock icons The Who have been at the top of their game for over 50 years, but that’s not stopped them from pushing forward and creating new music. They’ve just released their 12th album, ‘Who’, and it’s their first in 13 years, so expect them to play a host of fresh new cuts as they return to First Direct Arena. They’ll fill out their setlist with a smattering of era-defining tunes, like ‘My Generation’, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and ‘Love Reign O’er Me’.
The Who play First Direct Arena on Wednesday 25th March 2020.
Planet Earth II Live in Concert
Planet Earth II is one of the most successful BBC TV shows of the decade. Sir David Attenborough’s BAFTA award-winning documentary explores the mysteries of the planet’s various habitats and it’s now going out on a special UK tour. Expect a host of incredible video sequences from the TV series that take you across the world on a 200 square metre, 4K Ultra HD LED screen, as a full symphony orchestra perform the soundtrack live.
Planet Earth II Live in Concert comes to First Direct Arena on Saturday 28th March 2020.
The Book of Mormon
It’s one of the most popular new musicals of the 21st century and you can watch The Book of Mormon at Leeds Grand Theatre this spring. From the creators of South Park, it follows the hilarious misadventures of a pair of mismatched missionaries who find themselves a long, long way away from their home in Salt Lake City. Blending rib-tickling comedy with spine-tingling music, it’s a truly great night at the theatre.
The Book of Mormon comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Wednesday 8th April to Saturday 2nd May 2020.
Leeds Indie Food
Back once again for 2020, Leeds Indie Food is the perfect excuse to explore the city’s independent food and drink scene. Hundreds of bars, cafes and restaurants get involved every year – and they never fail to amaze us with their creativity and skill. From exhibitions made completely out of food to unique tasting menus, cool collaborations and huge street food festivals – you need to get involved.
Leeds Indie Food takes place at venues across Leeds in May 2020.
Tour de Yorkshire
The Tour de Yorkshire has fast become one of the biggest cycling events in the UK and it’s coming back to Leeds in May. It runs from the county’s East Coast before travelling through North, West and South Yorkshire. The riders will cycle through Brontë Country, the Yorkshire Dales and Nidderdale, before making their way into Leeds on the final day. You can line the roads by Kirkstall Abbey or join the hordes for the big finale on The Headrow.
Tour de Yorkshire ends in Leeds city centre on Saturday 3rd May 2020.
Live at Leeds
Live at Leeds is a staple of the city’s music scene as it welcomes over 100 top bands to play across 20 venues at the start of May. They’ve already announced their first headliners, so you can look forward to seeing DMA’s and Pale Waves alongside the likes of Easy Life, Ezra Furman and Tim Burgess. You can also check out plenty of new talent – keep your ears open for the likes of Working Men’s Club, Stereo Honey and W.H. Lung.
Live at Leeds takes place across Leeds on Saturday 2nd May 2020.
A Little Night Music
Opera North and Leeds Playhouse will join forces for the first time since 2016 for A Little Night Music. Their version of Stephen Sondheim’s critically acclaimed production glistens with wit and romance as they blur the line between musical and opera. A chance meeting between two lovers during a weekend in the country sparks a game of romantic musical chairs in which mismatched couples are forced to look at themselves in the mirror.
A Little Night Music comes to Leeds Playhouse from Saturday 9th May to Saturday 6th June 2020.
Slam Dunk will take over Temple Newsam once again for one of the region’s biggest punk and metal festivals. 2020’s line-up has already been revealed and it’s an absolute stonker – they’ve confirmed the first two headliners as Sum 41 and Don Broco, but the rest of the line-up is stacked. NOFX return, Billy Talent make their Slam Dunk debut and Refused play a rare Leeds show.
Slam Dunk takes place at Temple Newsam on Saturday 23rd May 2020.
Pub in the Park
After the success of their first festival in 2019, Pub in the Park will take over Roundhay Park for another three-day celebration of food and music. It’s organised by acclaimed chef Tom Kerridge and brings together the best pubs and restaurants in the UK, including his own two Michelin-starred venue, The Hand and Flowers. They will show off their signature dishes, which you can pair with real ale, wine and cocktails. To soundtrack your weekend, you can look forward to an impressive line-up of top live musicians.
Pub in the Park comes to Roundhay Park in June 2020.
The Leeds Food and Drink Festival
Take a trip to Millennium Square for The Leeds Food and Drink Festival this summer. The city’s finest cafes and restaurants will come together to show off their wares, so you can get stuck in to the finest fare around. You can visit stalls from local producers and enjoy a few drinks from the impressive line-up of Leeds bars and breweries that will be there too.
The Leeds Food and Drink Festival takes place at Millennium Square in Summer 2020.
AJ Bell World Triathlon Series
The AJ Bell World Triathlon Series will return to Leeds in 2020, as the world’s best triathletes compete for gold in the eight-race series. You can watch them pass through Leeds, as they kick off in Roundhay Park with the swim, then move into the city centre on their bikes to complete the race on foot in Millennium Square. The Brownlee Brothers took gold and silver for the first two years, but the past two events have been won by South African Richard Murray and Aussie Jacob Birtwhistle – can the local lads make a comeback in 2020?
AJ Bell World Triathlon Series starts at Roundhay Park on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th June 2020.
Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo
Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo comes to the UK for the first time in 2020, including four nights at First Direct Arena in Leeds. ‘Corteo’ translates as cortege in Italian, so it’ll come as no surprise that this show is centred around a festive parade imagined by a clown, which starts with him looking in on his own funeral. Spectacular acrobatics and mind-blowing feats of strength will wow you as they tell a touching story that weaves together comedy, drama and athleticism.
Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo comes to First Direct Arena from Thursday 18th to Sunday 21st June 2020.
As one of The Supremes and through a storied solo career, Diana Ross has cemented herself as an international musical icon. She’s coming back to the UK for her first headline tour in over a decade, which includes a visit to First Direct Arena, 48 hours after she headlines Glastonbury. Expect all the hits, from ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ to ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’ and ‘Upside Down’ as Ross proves why she’s such a legend.
Diana Ross plays First Direct Arena on Tuesday 30th June 2020.
Leeds International Tattoo Expo
The Leeds International Tattoo Expo has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated events in the industry and it returns to First Direct Arena for its seventh year in 2020. It has grown to include over 160 tattoo artists who travel from all over the world to show off their work. There will be boutique stalls selling everything from t-shirts to taxidermy, and plenty of live entertainment, whether it’s music, fire breathers or a live piercing show.
The Leeds International Tattoo Expo takes place at First Direct Arena on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th July 2020.
A decade since its last UK tour, Les Misérables is coming to Leeds Grand Theatre in summer 2020. This new staging will bring an all-time classic into the 21st century, featuring an updated set design inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. It promises a thrilling night of musical drama as a stunning ensemble cast lead you through this story of love and revolution featuring tunes like ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, ‘On My Own’ and ‘Bring Him Home’.
Les Misérables comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Thursday 23rd July to Saturday 15th August 2020.
Expect a rainbow of colours across the first weekend of August to celebrate Leeds Pride. It’s a three-day extravaganza that culminates in the famous Sunday afternoon parade. It starts with live music in Millennium Square, before weaving its way through the city centre and ending at a second stage on Lower Briggate. You can revel in a street party atmosphere in the city’s Freedom Quarter until the early hours.
Leeds Pride takes place across Leeds city centre from Friday 31st July to Sunday 2nd August 2020.
Michael Bublé is one of the biggest stars in the world and you can see him live in Leeds in 2020 as he returns to the city to play a special outdoor show at Harewood House. He’s heading out across the UK to show off his tenth album ‘Love’, which includes his smash hit single ‘When I Fall in Love’. He’ll run through favourites from his entire back catalogue, so you can hear him play tunes like ‘Everything’, ‘Lost’ and ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’.
Michale Bublé plays First Direct Arena on Sunday 2nd August 2020.
Leeds Ska & Mod Festival
If you love ska and mod music, this shindig at Millennium Square is a must-see. This year’s headline act has been confirmed as The Selecter, led by the iconic Pauline Black – she’ll lead you through tunes like ‘Three Minute Hero’, ‘On My Radio’ and ‘Missing Words’. The Selecter will be joined by The Neville Staples Band, The Chords UK, Secret Affair, The Pyramids and The Death of Guitar Pop.
Leeds Ska & Mod Festival comes to Millennium Square on Sunday 9th August 2020.
The big bash at Bramham Park will be one of the standout events of 2020. The Leeds Festival line-up has not yet been revealed bar for one of the biggest icons of British music of the past 30 years. Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher is the first headliner and he’ll play through his new album ‘Why Me? Why Not’ alongside a few Oasis bangers. He’ll be joined across the bank holiday weekend by some of the biggest pop, indie and rock bands from around the world.
Leeds Festival takes place at Bramham Park from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th August 2020.
Leeds West Indian Carnival
The Leeds West Indian Carnival will be back on the August bank holiday weekend. Expect joyous dancing, vibrant music and colourful parades through Chapeltown as Leeds comes alive with the sights and sounds of Caribbean culture for the 53rd edition of the famous festival. Afterwards, there will be a huge party in Potternewton Park, with live music and tasty street food.
Leeds West Indian Carnival takes place in Potternewton Park on Sunday 30th August 2020.
Leeds Beer Week
Leeds is a well known hub for craft beer, and Leeds Beer Week was launched to celebrate the fact in 2016. It’s a celebration of all the bars, pubs and breweries that have made the city a destination for beer-lovers. Across 10 days, you can expect beer tastings, brewery talks, special collaborations, beer masterclasses and much more – we can’t wait to find out what they have lined up for us this time around.
Leeds Beer Week takes place across the city in August and September 2020.
Leeds International Beer Festival
The Leeds International Beer Festival is now in its ninth year, and in that time, it’s become one of the biggest events on the craft beer and real ale calendar. It will take over Leeds Town Hall in September for four days of beer-related brilliance. There will be hundreds of brews from Yorkshire, the UK and beyond, as well as street food and live entertainment.
Leeds International Beer Festival is at Leeds Town Hall from Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th September 2020.
After a stunning rise that included a number 1 album and a huge headline set at Glastonbury, Stormzy is back with a brand new album, ‘Heavy is the Head’, and one of the most anticipated tours of the year. He’ll play First Direct Arena in September as he shows off that highly anticipated new album, as well as popular tunes like ‘Big For Your Boots’, ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ and ‘Vossi Bop’.
Stormzy comes to First Direct Arena on Saturday 12th September 2020.
Thought Bubble’s increasing popularity is a surefire sign that Leeds is becoming one of the most important places in the world for comic art. The biggest names in the industry will come to Leeds for a series of talks, Q&As and workshops at venues across the city, culminating in a huge Comic Con spread across Millennium Square, Leeds Town Hall and the Carriageworks Theatre.
Thought Bubble takes place at Royal Armouries and various Leeds venues in early September 2020.
Light Night 2020
Leeds Light Night was the first of its kind in the UK when it launched in 2005. Now, 15 years on, it’s the cornerstone of the city’s cultural offering. It’s spread across two nights and puts on an artistic feast that showcases some of the best creative minds in Leeds. Expect art installations, dance performances and huge visual projections all over the city, with over 100 events to choose from.
Light Night 2020 takes place across Leeds in October 2020.
The Leeds Christmas Light Switch On
If you’re looking for a night out with the family that’s guaranteed to get you into the festive spirit, head to the Leeds Christmas Light Switch On in Victoria Gardens. Every year, it gives us a mix of live music, celebrities, dance shows and theatre performances before the city’s Christmas lights are turned on with a huge fireworks display.
Leeds Lights Switch On is at Victoria Gardens in early November 2020.
Leeds International Film Festival
The Leeds International Film Festival takes over venues across the city every November with a fortnight of big name flicks, independent releases and the best cult films across all genres. It’s this combination that has made it one of the biggest events of its kind in the UK, attracting over 40,000 people to 300 events every year – and 2020 will be no different.
Leeds International Film Festival takes place across Leeds from Wednesday 4th to Thursday 19th November 2020.
The final leg of Elton John’s mammoth Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour comes to the UK in December 2020 and includes a huge show at First Direct Arena in Leeds. Elton has been one of the biggest pop stars in the world for over five decades and you’ll see why during this show. Expect stunning visuals and stage design as he plays through famous songs, like ‘I’m Still Standing’, ‘Crocodile Rock’ and ‘Your Song’.
Elton John comes to First Direct Arena on Monday 7th December 2020.
Next Christmas, you’ll find out how the world’s most famous wizard found his magic as Northern Ballet bring Merlin to Leeds Grand Theatre. It brings together classical ballet and riveting storytelling to take you on a mind-blowing adventure full of humour, heartbreak, and of course, magic. Featuring choreography by Drew McOnie and music by Grant Olding, it’s the perfect festive ballet to get you into the Christmas spirit.
Merlin comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 8th to Sunday 20th December 2020.Cover image credit: Jess Rowbottom