Overworlds and Underworlds

Mysterious girls in black appear on a balcony in the County Arcade

This ‘free, multi-location event’ over the weekend of 18 – 20 May was billed as a ‘passport to another Leeds’. It was part of Leeds Cultural Olympiad project, according to Culture Vultures and master minded by the Quay Brothers. Ignorant of all these things, I went along on the principle that if it’s public entertainment and free, then it’s of interest to Leeds Wellbeing Web readers.

An eery eruption in Briggate

And actually it was all rather mysterious and spectacular, starting with a strange choir of girls dressed in black, singing on the balconies of County Arcade. About two or three hundred of us gathered to listen, and it was very moving, even though I couldn’t make out the words. Having to look up really made you appreciate what an extraordinary place the arcade is. Warring brass bands then appeared and we followed down Briggate, past a strange dreamlike sculpture that had emerged in the precinct. There were dancers and more brass, but somehow it all seemed a little less magical in the light of day. 

Things took a sombre turn when we entered the Dark Arches beneath the City Station, which I’ve always thought is one of the most fascinating places in Leeds. Here were dancers, flickering early film of the city, surreal insects in glass victorian specimen jars, an otherworldly performance of a ghostly figure and a storm tossed ship. It was all rather weird and wonderful, but the place itself was the star. They’d opened much more of it up, and lit the tunnels so you could see into corners normally in darkness. The final scene was a viewing point where you could see through several arches, across the flowing river. As you watched the music swelled and slowly the whole scene was suffused with light and colour. It seemed suddenly like you’d returned to the Central Arcade, looking at the rich colours of the ‘Overworld’ – back where you’d started.

Pale young people playing trash percussion

There was more outside – a macabre percussion band like something from a TIm Burton movie, the top of a pylon projecting from one of the locks. I didn’t really understand half of what I saw, but I enjoyed seeing Leeds from a different point of view, the Underworld in particular, and went away feeling I’d had my imagination tickled. Terry

Dark Arches Transformed