I was very disappointed to see that most of the Yorkshire Day celebrations in the Leeds Area were taking place well out of town. There were two which I came across, one in Kirkgate Market and the other at Leeds University Union.
As the former clashed with another appointment – lunch – I thought I would see what our academics were up to.
When I arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes – the room was full of overseas students coming to terms with our county’s special day. They were busy making paper roses, although the multicoloured variety, drinking Yorkshire Tea and partaking of local delicacies.
The two organisers I spoke to said that they try to put on events throughout the year in order to illustrate significant events which they hope will go some way towards explaining our sometimes eccentric behaviour. Working on the maxim If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I made myself a cuppa and had a chat with a couple of students. Most of them came either from China or Mexico and were really getting into the swing of things. I wish I had arrived earlier as they had been told about the Leeds traditions of calling everybody ‘love’ regardless of gender, and translating ‘ey up and na then’ to bewildered students. I offered some assistance by pointing at the handiwork of a Chinese woman and asking her to ‘Gi’ us it ‘ere’ which provoked the most nonplussed expression I have ever seen in my life.
Having failed my audition as a university lecturer, I wandered over to the food table where there was a selection of goodies to die for. Each had an explanatory sheet of paper in front of it which was brilliant. First up was Parkin with the ingredients listed along with a note that it was traditionally eaten on Bonfire Night, 5th November. I don’t know whether the ceremonial burning of the effigy of a wannabe assassin was explained but it was so tasty, who cares.
Next was another traditional Guy Fawkes Night staple, cinder toffee. Again, spot on. It had been in the dishes for a couple of hours so not only had the chunks stuck together, as they should, but they had stuck to the bowls as well. I managed to dislodge a chunk which then did a limpet impression on my teeth. There followed a couple of bowls of Yorkshire Mixtures which were in the early stages of melding with each other, but you can’t eat Yorkshire Mixtures until they have been in the bag for a couple of days and the paper becomes embedded in the sweets. Other than that, they were ace. Finally, there was the substance which brought all kinds of facial expressions to the samplers: Yorkshire Liquorice. The note explained that it was made in Pontefract where it was grown but did miss out the fact that in Leeds it is not called liquorice at all, but Spanish. I was quite pleased that the students didn’t find this particular confection too appealing as they would have changed their minds when it had woven its magic a little later!
I have heard people knock Yorkshire Day and say that it is yet another money spinner, but an event like this shows how it can be used to bring people of all nationalities together and show a side to our local psyche which would otherwise have escaped them.
Should you feel like joining any of the coming events please have a look at the Leeds University Union website https://www.luu.org.
Happy Yorkshire Day, love.
All photographs by Stan Graham.
Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living. He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds. He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.