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Leeds Indie Food

The best things often come from the simplest ideas. In 2014 a group of Leeds friends had one such moment; ‘wouldn’t it be good if we put on an independent food festival?’ Now, one year later and shortly before launching, it is clear that Leeds agreed; ‘yes, it would be good if you put on an independent food festival’.

What began as a modest ambition quickly escalated. Founder Matt Dix tells me “from hoping we could get 10 venues involved, it’s grown into about 100 events and businesses”. Following a core group, including Belgrave Music Hall and Bundobust, the event has expanded throughout the city into a variety of suburbs and genres. “We’ve been lucky that most people have come to us wanting to be part of it and really understood what we’re trying to do”.

What it is that they’re trying to do is “celebrate the independent Leeds scene, focus on what people do for the city and encourage its growth”. All with working links to the independent food and drink industry, the group are keen to help those within it become more widely recognised; “Its improvement has been one of the most enjoyable things about Leeds over the last few years. The independent sector needs recognition and this is a way to talk about what the city offers. No-one will shout about it unless we do it”.

Equally, support from the Leeds public was immediate and impressive. With strong social media backing, word spread and a kickstarter to help fund the project raised £10,000 – a relatively small amount for a major festival but an enormous total in context. Buoyed by people’s generosity, Leeds Indie Food felt a responsibility to create an inclusive event for businesses and public alike to share, enjoy and benefit from.

This collaborative theme is central to Leeds Indie Food’s ethos. I ask Matt whether it has been difficult getting competing businesses to unite; “I think it’s becoming less combative. That the event is not from a specific business helps bridge that successfully. It’s been nice to see people meet, chat and plan”. Acknowledging that existing interest in independents varies throughout the city, Matt hopes collaboration within the event can help everybody discover more. “People might only know one place but whilst there they could find out about others. You can sign up to the thing you know then discover something new”.

Every day and night from the 7th to 24th May, Leeds Indie Food hosts an array of tastings, meals, showcases and more. From Leeds institution North Bar offering a magical mystery tour around their six venues, to the brand new Gorse popping up in Mrs Atha’s with a vegetarian dining club, there is something from all ages and sizes for all tastes and budgets. Within the many and vast offerings, you can go back to source at Swillington Organic Farm, learn how it’s done at Friends of Ham, take brunch at The Man Behind The Curtain, be served a Victorian banquet at Whitelock’s, get drunk at Left Bank beer festival, take in edible art at Munro House Gallery, watch culinary films at Hyde Park Picture House… all culminating in a 2 day street food celebration at Tetley on 22nd & 23rd May.

For the full experience, Leeds Indie Food have introduced a passport which allows holders access to offers from all involved businesses. These include, amongst a whole lot more, a special sandwich at Greedy Pig, money off event tickets at Latitude, discounts on food at Arts Cafe, on drinks at Northern Monk, free prossecco at Salvos, tea at Just Grand and entry at Leeds Feast. Plus the stylish and fun booklet acts as a memento, with users encouraged to collect stamps from all visited venues.

As Leeds Indie Food approaches, Matt admits they are nervous but confident; “we have had to learn quickly but everything is coming together. The most important thing is that the businesses do well. We want it to be good, we know they’re good and it will be as good as the independents let it be.” With a fortnight full of excitement, invention, information, entertainment & ethics, and with some events already selling out, expect the independents to let it be pretty damn great.

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