From unmissable operas to gigs and comedy, make May one to remember with these amazing events.
May is here and there are loads of fantastic events to enjoy in Leeds. You’ve got immense pop-up restaurants, massive festivals and a ballet triple bill you’ll rarely see outside of the capital. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – so go ahead and find out what’s on in Leeds this May.
Picks of the Month
Huge festivals and powerful operas – these are the events you won’t want to miss this May.
Head to Leeds Town Hall for Opera North’s concert staging of Verdi’s classic opera Aida. It’s a tale of two lovers caught in the middle of a brutal war – Aida and Ramadès are from opposing sides but fall in love with each other. It’s up to Aida to choose between her heart and her country in a moving opera that’s brought to life by Verdi’s incredible score played by the Orchestra of Opera North and cutting edge video installations.
Aida comes to Leeds Town Hall on Wednesday 1st, Wednesday 8th, Tuesday 28th and Thursday 30th May 2019.
Leeds International Festival
Leeds International Festival is back this May with a heaving programme of eclectic events across two weeks. It’s the UK’s leading metropolitan festival of ideas and innovation and there’s plenty to look forward to, from a day of discussion and music including Frank Bruno at BlaqueXplosion to a celebration of sex positive poetry in Sex Tapes. But that only scratches the surface of an incredible line-up that includes world-class art, top theatre performances and family-friendly entertainment.
Leeds International Festival takes over various Leeds venues from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 12th May 2019.
Leeds Indie Food
Join in with this annual celebration of the city’s independent food and drink businesses as Leeds Indie Food takes over much of Leeds this month. There are over 80 events to choose from – you could devour street food at School Diner in Chapel Allerton, learn about Bundobust’s Origins with a special supper club at Prashad or even practice your own culinary skills at Around the World with Leeds Cookery School. Take your pick, there’s loads of tasty events you can fill out your diary with.
Leeds Indie Food takes over various Leeds Venus from Thursday 9th to Monday 27th May 2019.
StreetFest has been a major event in London for over a decade, and now it’s making its way to Leeds for the very first time. It’s a day-long celebration of British urban culture. Pop by during the afternoon where you can admire the work of top extreme sports stars in the halfpipe, witness live graffiti artists at work and take part in dance workshops, all while street food vendors cook up a storm. There will be DJs spinning tunes throughout the day too, but when night falls, you can expect some huge names playing live, like Foreign Beggars, DJ Semtex and Fresh Jive.
Streetfest comes to Canal Mills on Saturday 11th May 2019.
Live at Leeds 2019
Live at Leeds is an annual highlight and this year’s festival will be no different as over 100 different artists take over the city’s music venues. Make your way from the Brudenell to The Wardrobe, O2 Academy to Oporto, as a feast of indie, pop, rock and hip-hop stars play live. This year’s headliners are proof of its status as one of the best music festivals in the UK – we’re talking Sundara Karma, Tom Grennan, Metronomy, Drenge and Kate Tempest.
Live at Leeds 2019 takes over Leeds city centre on Saturday 4th May 2019.
Food and Drink
Check out May’s top foodie events, with a host of festivals celebrating everything from beer to pizza, rum and local produce.
Lotherton Hall Food and Drink Festival
Lotherton Hall hosts their yearly Food and Drink Festival this May and it’s a must-visit. Make the most of the bank holiday weekend as you wander around stalls packed full of fresh local produce ready for you to take home. You can even tuck in right there and then thanks to the impressive line-up of street food vendors cooking up a storm. And you can wash it down at the bar, which is packed full of local ales, wine and spirits.
Lotherton Hall Food and Drink Festival comes to Lotherton Hall from Saturday 4th to Monday 6th May 2019.
LS6 Beer Festival
LS6 Beer Festival is one of the best events of the year for real ale lovers. It’s back for its 10th edition at Left Bank Leeds, a stunning venue that will be taken over by some of Leeds and Yorkshire’s best breweries. We’re talking The Meanwood Brewery, Anthology, Kirkstall, Ridgeside and Sunbeam Ales. If beer isn’t your thing, they’ll have a big range of British ciders too. While you’re there, you can tap your toes to the live music and fill your tum with street food.
LS6 Beer Festival comes to Left Bank Leeds from Thursday 9th to Saturday 11th May 2019.
Pizza and Prosecco Festival
One of the highlights of Water Lane Boathouse’s Summer Series is the Pizza and Prosecco Festival. They’ve enlisted the services of three of the North’s finest pizza traders, Honest Crust Sourdough Pizza, Fritto Italian Street Food and Pizza Loco, to join their in house wizards Small Victories. Wash down your pie of choice with specially imported sparkling wines and proseccos courtesy of Latitude. And if Eurovision is your thing, they’re hosting a party upstairs later in the evening, just book your table before you go.
Pizza and Prosecco Festival comes to Water Lane Boathouse on Saturday 18th May 2019.
The Gin and Rum Festival
The UK’s largest gin and rum festival is taking over Leeds Town Hall for two days this month. On arrival you’ll get a Copa glass, guide and satchel which are included in the ticket price. Then take your glass to one of the stalls which will be lined up to serve you one of 60 rums and 60 gins, some of which are exclusive to this festival. You can follow that with one of their masterclasses or enjoy the live music.
The Gin and Rum Festival takes over Leeds Town Hall on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th May 2019.
Bank Holiday Boathouse Feast
Water Lane Boathouse are going all out for the Bank Holiday Boathouse Feast as they welcome some of the best street food you’ll find in the north. Tuck into Japanese eats from Dim Sum SU, Mediterranean classics from The Ottö-Men and sweet treats from the Porterhouse Cake Company. There will be tap takeovers by local breweries too, as well as a gin and Aperol bar. Expect live music and DJs throughout, and both kids and dogs are welcome.
Bank Holiday Boathouse Feast comes to Water Lane Boathouse on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th May 2019.
Head to the city’s best music venues to see folk favourites, rock stalwarts and hip-hop icons.
London African Gospel Choir play Paul Simon’s Graceland
Graceland is one of the best selling records of all time, shipping 15 million copies of Paul Simon’s seminal effort. The African-inspired album is 30 years old this year, and to celebrate, the London African Gospel Choir are coming to Leeds to show off their own unique take on it at Belgrave Music Hall. Expect to hear incredible versions of classic songs like ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’.
London African Gospel Choir play Paul Simon’s Graceland comes to Belgrave Music Hall on Sunday 5th May 2019.
Aldous Harding is one of the great folk musicians of the 21st century – and the chances are you’ve heard her work, even if you don’t know it. Her self-titled debut and 2017 follow-up ‘Party’ are hypnotically beautiful records, but she’s taken it up a notch with the release of her third album ‘Designer’, which is all lush and open-eyed as you’d expect from an artist who is fast-reaching the top of her game – and you can see her in full flow at the Brudenell this month.
Aldous Harding plays Brudenell Social Club on Friday 17th May 2019.
Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul
Steven Van Zandt is bringing his Disciples of Soul to O2 Academy Leeds this month. The E Street Band member and star of TV shows like Lilyhammer and The Sopranos is touring with his other group. They play a rich blend of rock, pop, soul, blues, funk, doo-wop and reggae, from their own material and a back catalogue of incredible covers, earning them a reputation as a must-see live band, led by a rock and roll legend.
Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul play O2 Academy Leeds on Saturday 18th May 2019.
You can see one of the pioneers of hip-hop music in Leeds this month as KRS-One returns to the Brudenell Social Club. He started out as one half of the Boogie Down Productions group who provided the basis for what would become East Coast gangsta rap, and became a voice against violence when his partner Scott La Rock was murdered. He forged a hugely successful solo career too, and will be playing hits from over 30 years in the business, including latest album ‘The World is Mind’.
KRS-One plays Brudenell Social Club on Monday 20th May 2019.
Strand of Oaks
Timothy Showalter, aka Strand of Oaks, has been at this a while. The Indiana singer-songwriter has just released ‘Eraserland’, his third album in three years and seventh in the last 10. After the breakthrough of 2014’s ‘HEAL’, the prolific juices seem to be flowing from his strings and this new album, recorded with members of My Morning Jacket, is possibly his most cohesive, accessible and downright rocking set of his whole career.
Strand of Oaks play Brudenell Social Club on Wednesday 23rd May 2019.
Need a laugh? There’s a stellar line-up of stand-up comedians coming to Leeds this month.
You’ve seen her on The Inbetweeners, Dancing on Ice and I’m a Celebrity, but Emily Atack has had a career change. ‘Talk Thirty to Me’ is her first ever solo comedy show and she’s bringing it to City Varieties in Leeds this May. It’s a live memoir as she runs through what it’s really like to be an actress in her twenties, life in a social media world and more than a few of her best impressions.
Emily Atack comes to City Varieties on Wednesday 15th May 2019.
An Evening with Andy Hamilton
Andy Hamilton is one of the most important figures in British comedy. He’s an award-winning writer who’s provided the magic on shows like Outnumbered, The Two Ronnies and Not the Nine O’Clock News. Now he’s heading out on tour again, which will see him reminisce and reveal stories from over 40 years in the business, as you ask him all those burning questions you’ve always wanted answered.
An Evening with Andy Hamilton comes to City Varieties on Tuesday 21st May 2019.
After one last tour to end all last tours, Canadian comic Stewart Francis is about to head, ahem, Into the Punset. You read that right. His new and final stand-up show is coming to Leeds Town Hall, as the Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo star shows why he’s considered one of the best comedians in the world, with his sharp, clever one-liners and hilarious tales.
Stewart Francis comes to Leeds Town Hall on Friday 24th May 2019.
The Pub Landlord is back in Leeds this month, so get your tickets before last orders. Al Murray’s new show is ‘Landlord of Hope and Glory’ as he takes a typically tongue-in-cheek look at the state of modern Britain, warts and all. Front and centre of his sardonic ire is, of course, Brexit as he looks into the future and reassuringly sees the past as the going gets tough and the tough gets going. Maybe.
Al Murray comes to City Varieties on Sunday 26th May 2019.
You’ve seen his work on Phoenix Nights which has now been immortalised on social media in meme-form. Now, Clinton Baptiste is going on tour and he’s bringing his paranormal powers to The Original Oak in Headingley for an intimate tour warm-up. He’s the hapless and helpless clairvoyant who will predict your future, look into your past and, hopefully, cross over to the other side to find ‘The Answer’.
Clinton Baptiste comes to The Original Oak on Friday 31st May 2019.
From huge musicals to incredible dramas, there’s plenty on at the city’s theatres.
Willy Russell’s legendary Blood Brothers is returning to Leeds Grand Theatre for a two-week run this month. It’s one of only three musicals to pass 10,000 shows on the West End and it’s considered one of the great UK shows. It follows the moving tale of a pair of twins who were separated at birth and grow up in different circumstances, only to meet again in a heartbreaking finale.
Blood Brothers comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 7th to Saturday 18th May 2019.
EDGE Mixed Bill
EDGE Dance Company, the postgraduate company of the London Contemporary Dance School, are coming to The Riley Theatre to perform a special Mixed Bill this May. The group of 13 incredible dancers from around the world will perform a trio of works by award-winning choreographers Hagit Yakira, Fabio Liberti and Jorge Crecis that will examine life, death and the challenges we face in between.
EDGE Mixed Bill comes to The Riley Theatre on Wednesday 8th May 2019.
Be My Baby
Unmarried 19-year-old Mary is seven months pregnant, but this is the 1960s and the social norms of the time are not as forgiving as the 21st century. Be My Baby follows her as she’s sent to live in a church-run maternity home for single women. She meets Dolores, Queen and Norma, who strike up a remarkable friendship which leads them to fight for what they truly believe in, to a soundtrack of classic 60s pop tunes.
Be My Baby comes to Leeds Playhouse from Saturday 11th May to Saturday 1st June 2019.
Fresh from an acclaimed sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Freeman is coming to Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds this month. It takes its inspiration from the first man in America to plead insanity in his defence in court to examine the link between mental health and systemic racism. You’ll see six intricate stories, from William Freeman to Sarah Reed, which are threaded together using physical theatre, spoken word, shadow puppets and gospel music.
Freeman comes to Carriageworks on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th May 2019.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
You can head to a musical where you’ll have no idea what will happen at City Varieties in May. Showstopper! Is an improvised musical that won an Olivier Award during its time on the West End. The whole performance is created from scratch every night as they take audience suggestions and transform them into an all-singing, all-dancing production with hilarious results.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical comes to City Varieties on Thursday 16th May 2019.
Another month, another batch of intriguing exhibitions for you to see in Leeds’ galleries.
Oh My Zine
Since they began, zines have been at the heart of protest and counter-culture movements, providing a platform to radical ideas, art and commentary. Oh My Zine is an exhibition that celebrates this art form at The Bowery. These DIY, low-budget, self-published works are a diverse mix, featuring extracts and full zines from a range of sources, like 105 Women Press, Chella Quint and Okocha Obasi.
Oh My Zine comes to The Bowery until Friday 21st June 2019.
Mary Gibbons is a Printmaking Instructor at Leeds Arts University who has a brand new exhibition of her work at Leeds Print Workshop throughout May. Offset shows how Mary balances colour and ink, while bringing together this mechanical process with hand-drawn elements. The result is an engrossing series of screen prints and collagraphs.
Offset comes to Leeds Print Workshop from Friday 3rd to Sunday 26th May 2019.
Roundhay Artists Open Studios 2019
For the sixth year running, the Roundhay Artists will swing open their doors and let the general public into their home studios. You will be able to see what these artists’ studios look like and find out more about their work directly from the source. There are more than 25 artists taking part on the day, whose work covers a wide spectrum, from ceramics to prints, paintings and sculptures.
Roundhay Artists Open Studios 2019 comes to Roundhay on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th May 2019.
Cut and Paste
The brand new exhibition at Sunny Bank Mills for the start of the summer is Cut and Paste. It features the work of 14 local artists, like Christine Meyer-Eaglestone, Pat Harvey and George Hainsworth. They’re showcasing their latest works that are inspired by contemporary collaging techniques across a range of different mediums to show off its versatility as an art form.
Cut and Paste comes to Sunny Bank Mills from Saturday 18th May to Sunday 14th July 2019.
Monarchs – Elizabeth I
The Royal Armouries will become the court of the Virgin Queen this May for three days only. Monarchs – Elizabeth I will give you the chance to look at actual artefacts from the reign of the second female queen. There will also be talks and tours across the weekend, as well as costumed characters, live combat demonstrations and a chance to look around the wider Monarchs exhibition.
Monarchs – Elizabeth I comes to the Royal Armouries from Saturday 25th to Monday 27th May 2019.
Clubnights & DJs
From outdoor raves to brand new nights, get yourself down to Leeds’ clubs this May.
The Garden Party Part 1
The Garden Party is a legendary Leeds club night and the first one of the summer will take place this month. It’s their final shindig at Canal Mills, so you can expect a stacked line-up of huge names who will take you from 12pm to 10pm. We’re talking DJs like Mall Grab, John Talabot, Derrick Carter, Kettama, Skream, Butch and Eats Everything.
The Garden Party takes over Canal Mills on Sunday 5th May 2019.
Back to Basics: The Last Supper
Back to Basics is taking over Church one last time as the venue is set to close in its current form in May. And it’s going out with a bang – local DJ legends like Ralph Lawson, Tristan Da Cunha, Frenchy and, of course, Back to Basics founder Dave Beer will man the decks, and they’re also welcoming a very special guest in the shape of house music pioneer Carl Cox.
Back to Basics: The Last Supper comes to Church on Friday 24th May 2019.
Fans of UK garage have a brand new club night to look forward to this month as Vanilla takes over The HiFi Club for the first in a series of new nights. Expect good vibes and big steppers. Their inaugural event welcomes Paris-based British producer Alec Falconer and Bristolian selector Dr Banana alongside Vanilla’s own DJs.
Vanilla takes over The HiFi Club on Saturday 18th May 2019.
System and Set One Twenty Terrace Party Part Two
System and Set One Twenty have been teaming up for bank holiday Terrace Parties for years now and this month’s edition promises to be one of the best yet, taking you from 3pm to 6am. They’re working with London house label FUSE, who are bringing Archie Hamilton and Enzo Siragusa back to Leeds for another memorable night, and they’ll be joined by Sen Zito and Ion Ludwig.
System and Set One Twenty Terrace Party Part Two comes to Mint Warehouse on Sunday 26th May 2019.
Jungle Jam Summer Carnival
There’s one must-do event for fans of drum and bass, jungle and reggae in Leeds this month – the Jungle Jam Summer Carnival. It’s taking over Mint Warehouse for a 12-hour shindig that will see you party from 6pm to 6am with a stellar line-up. Headliners Calibre & DRS will be joined by Mungo’s HiFi & Charlie P, Unglued and Kenny Ken.
Jungle Jam Summer Carnival comes to Mint Warehouse on Friday 31st May 2019.
Families have plenty to look forward to this May, with theatre, workshops and a chance to see medieval jousting.
Leeds International Festival Family Day
Take the kids along to The Village in The Tetley for a fun-filled Family Day as part of this year’s Leeds International Festival. There’s loads going on throughout the day – you can find out about bees and how to be planet-friendly with Bloom! York, head into a family rave with Boomchikkaboom and even learn about the the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with Eureka!
Leeds International Festival Family Day takes over The Village at The Tetley on Monday 6th May 2019. Get your tickets now.
Family Den Building
Leeds Indie Food isn’t just for grown ups. Head to Grumpy’s in Farsley where you can all get involved in Family Den Building. Scrap Creative Reuse Arts Project will be on hand to provide a host of materials for you to use to make your den and it can be absolutely anything you want, from a castle to a pizzeria. You won’t go hungry either – there will be a buffet of wood-fired pizza, salads and sides.
Family Den Building comes to Grumpy’s, Farsley on Saturday 11th May 2019.
Leeds City Museum is home to a host of incredible artefacts from Roman times and this special workshop is your perfect opportunity to get up close. As long as you’re aged 6 and above, you’ll be able to go marching, try on armour, fill a kit bag for a Roman solider, step into an Iron Age roundhouse and even handle real historical Roman items.
Romans Workshop comes to Leeds City Museum on Thursday 16th May 2019.
Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine
Tutti Frutti’s brand new production is Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine and you can check it out in Leeds at Carriageworks Theatre this month. It’s a charming and inspiring story about two friends, Yoshi and Hani, who are very different but learn the perfect way to communicate their feelings through words, BSL and dance.
Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine comes to Carriageworks Theatre on Saturday 18th May 2019.
The Right Royal Armouries
There’s another half-term coming at the end of May and the Royal Armouries will mark it by going all Royal. You will be able to see a host of incredible treasures that once belonged to monarchs from around the world and even see Henry VIII’s magnificent armours, guns and swords. But that’s not all as there will also be workshops, dramatic performances and combat demonstrations.
The Right Royal Armouries comes to the Real Armouries from Tuesday 28th May to Sunday 2nd June 2019.
There are loads of festivals to make the most of in May, whether you want theatre, music or culture.
Leeds Digital Festival
Leeds Digital Festival is one of the biggest festivals of its kind in the UK. Last year, over 20,000 people heard from 660 speakers at 170 events, and this year promises to be even bigger. Highlights include How to Build a Bot in 30 Minutes, One Night: 40 Talks From 40 Designers and the Leeds Digital Festival Awards, with more to come in the run up to the festival.
Leeds Digital Festival takes place across the city from Monday 23rd April to Friday 4th May 2019.
Transform Festival 2019
Transform Festival continues at the start of May, promising even more ground-breaking theatre. Expect performances that challenge your ideas of what theatre can be. There are 18 events across nine days, taking you from Tianzhuo Chen’s dark pop opera An Atypical Brain Damage to the 24-hour live art marathon of 30 performances in Jija Sohn’s Performing Britain.
Transform Festival 2019 comes to various Leeds venues from Friday 26th April to Saturday 4th May 2019.
Gold Sounds Festival 2019
Gold Sounds is back for another weekend of quality new music at the Brudenell Social Club. This year’s headliners are Doncaster’s The Blinders, who unleashed their wonderful debut album ‘Columbia’ last year, and Brixton’s finest sons The Fat White Family, fresh from the release of their acclaimed third album ‘Serfs Up!’ They will be joined by the likes of Pigs x7, Pip Blom, The Beths and Viagra Boys.
Gold Sounds Festival 2019 takes over Brudenell Social Club on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th May 2019.
How to Festival
Slung Low’s How to Festival is back this May, so head down to The Holbeck for an adventurous day of family-friendly workshops, activities and performances. It starts with Den Building with The Den Experiment and a Collab Skate Session with Simon Jones before you join Tom Ryalls for The Superhero Challenge. Little Soldier Productions will then be on hand to perform Journey to the Impossible, ahead of a meal from Manjit’s Kitchen and another show, Can You See Into a Black Hole?
How to Festival returns to The Holbeck on Sunday 12th May 2019.
Slam Dunk 2019
Fans of pop punk, metal and alternative music are in for a treat this month as Slam Dunk makes its move over to Temple Newsam for an outdoor extravaganza. The line-up is heaving with big names, from headliners All Time Low, Bullet For My Valentine and NOFX to supporting groups like New Found Glory, Neck Deep and Bad Religion.
Slam Dunk 2019 takes over Temple Newsam on Saturday 25th May 2019.
Best of the Rest
From live sport to foodie celebrations, this is the best of the rest this May.
Tour de Yorkshire Final Stage
Kick off May at one of the top sporting events of the year in Leeds, as the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire finishes up in the heart of the city. The fourth stage makes its way north from Halifax to Otley where the peloton will then head south, through Tinshill and into the city centre. Gather on The Headrow to cheer the cyclists home and head to Millennium Square for more cycling-related fun.
Tour de Yorkshire Stage Four will ride into Leeds city centre on Sunday 5th May 2019.
Feast and Fiesta
Sneaky Experience are once again taking over Kirkstall Abbey, this time for Feast and Fiesta. It’s an immersive food festival that will bring this historic landmark to life with a carnival atmosphere. There’ll be a host of street food stalls to encounter as you make your way around the grounds, as well as bars, carnival performances and live Latin music.
Feast and Fiesta comes to Kirkstall Abbey on Saturday 11th May 2019.
Facing Brave: Women Take on the Acid-Throwers
Acid throwing has become a huge problem in the UK and Facing Brave looks at the people who are fighting back against this horrendous crime. Part of this year’s Leeds International Festival, this free day of panel discussions sees Bradford doctor Almas Ahmed explain how she invented the world’s first acid-proof make-up, womens’ rights expert Danielle Cornish Spencer give insight on the international fight on violence towards women and skin scientist Dr Julie Thornton reveal the scientific challenge of skin burns.
Facing Brave: Women Take on the Acid-Throwers takes place at The Village at The Tetley on Tuesday 7th May 2019. Register to get your free tickets now.
Leeds Dragon Boat Race
It doesn’t matter if you’re racing or just enjoying the family-friendly fun taking place on the day, the Leeds Dragon Boat Race is for a great cause. Now in its 12th year, proceeds from the event go to Martin House, a local charity who support children and young people in hospice care. Each team gets three races, before moving on to the semi final and final. Anyone can take part, but you can just head down to soak up the atmosphere and cheer them on.
Leeds Dragon Boat Race comes to Roundhay Park on Sunday 19th May 2019.
Pub in the Park
Pub in the Park is finally coming to Leeds this year, as Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge brings his hugely popular food, drink and music festival to Roundhay Park. It will be home to some of the UK’s finest gastro pubs, from Andrew Pern’s The Star Inn to James Mackenzie’s The Pipe and Glass, alongside Kerridge’s own The Hand and Flowers. There will be a host of bars selling beer, spirits and wine, and a top class line-up of live music, like Tom Odell, Scouting for Girls and Will Young.
Pub in the Park takes over Roundhay Park from Friday 31st May to Sunday 2nd June 2019.Cover image copyright Lucy Forrester.