It's not all Hunter wellies and "finding yourself" - Leeds' best music, food, & culture festivals throughout Summer 2017

With festival season unofficially starting with Live at Leeds at the end of April, we’re already several weeks deep into it. 

It’s worth remembering though, that it’s not all Hunter wellies, ‘finding yourself’ through the medium of face painting, and embracing a bohemian lifestyle for three days while using up the remainder of your annual leave. Leeds is rich in festival heritage, and we like nothing more than embracing the elements and making the most of the good things in life that surround us; be that music, food and drink, our natural surroundings, or our diverse communities.

Here’s a rundown of where the best festivals are happening in Leeds this summer, so start choreographing those rain dances to ward off the dark clouds, and get ready to celebrate the hub of cultural diversity and entertainment that is Leeds:

Slam Dunk Festival

The 11th annual dirty mosh-fest sees 50 artists playing across seven stages in Leeds. The main stage in Millennium Square is joined by the O2 Academy, First Direct Arena, and Leeds Beckett Uni among others as Enter Shikari (interview here), Bowling For Soup, and Less Than Jake headline another all-day assault on personal hygiene standards.

Multiple venues, Sunday 28 May. Tickets & Info

170519 Festivals Slam Dunk Danny Peart
Slam Dunk 2016 Danny Peart

Yorkshire Food & Drink Show

This annual extravaganza in Millennium Square is now in its seventh year, and with it being free of charge always tends to attract the crowds. With over 100 exhibitors there is every chance you will come away with something more substantial than ‘another’ jar of chilli pickle, a stain on your shirt from an excellent shish kebab and the after-effects of the Pimms tent.

There are plenty of bargains, new delicacies to try, and some expert masterclasses to marvel at and while wishing you had the patience to do it on a Tuesday night before Emmerdale.

Millennium Square, Friday 2 - Sunday 4 June. Tickets & Info

170519 Festivals Yorkshire Food And Drink Show

Leeds Loves Cocktails

A week-long tribute to the much-loved cocktail, where for the price of a £10 wristband you gain access to events, tastings, workshops, and menu pairings at 36 participating bars including Jake’s Bar, Hedonist Project, Distrikt, and Vice & Virtue, offering the finest blends and mixtures with the (non-obligatory) insistence on drinking better, not more (why not both?)

Each of the bars will have a limited edition LLC menu of drinks available to wristband-wearers for £5, with sufficient variation in maverick concoctions to keep you interested, all while getting your 5-a-day through garnishes alone.

Multiple venues, Monday 5 - Sunday 11 June. Tickets & Info

170519 Festivals Leeds Loves Cocktails
Leeds Loves Cocktails Organiser Nick Fox

Leeds Waterfront Festival

Creating a splash for 10 years now is this celebration of the picturesque expanse from Thwaites Mill to Granary Wharf, and all the iconic views of Leeds this offers in between.

Showcasing waterside industry and heritage along with dragon boat racing, tranquil riverside dining and beer quaffing, live music, contemporary arts and other family events, across 11 sites on a five mile stretch in the heart of the city. Set up and run by community groups, social enterprises, charities and the many waterside establishments, this is one festival that really demands - and deserves - your support.

Leeds Waterfront, Saturday 24 & 25 June. Tickets & Info

170503 Waterfront Dragon Boat Race

Gin Festival

There is no let-up in our gin obsession, and this is reflected in the enormous success of the Gin Festival at Leeds Town Hall; the perfect venue for an afternoon or evening sampling gins, talking shop with fellow gin-thusiasts, listening to the ace live music in the background and slowly losing control of your motor functions and verbal fluency.

A mind-boggling 100 gins of all varieties are on offer, with unlimited tonics from sponsors Fever Tree, and producers’ stalls offering samples, distilling techniques and that crucial garnish advice.

Leeds Town Hall, Friday 30 June – Sunday 2 July. Tickets & Info

170519 Festivals Gin Festival Danny Payne
Gin Festival Danny Payne

Made In Leeds

Taking place this year at Thwaite Mills, Leeds dance music stalwarts Federation, Insomnia, Back To Basics and Fibre take the city’s nightlife on an expedition to this unique island on the river.

The 1pm - 11pm event takes over the waterside location with huge dance tents pitched in the forestry and picturesque grounds to create spectacular visuals, scenery and sounds.

Thwaite Mills, Saturday 1 July. Tickets & Info

170519 Festivals Made In Leeds

Leeds Pride

A two-day, completely free celebration of LGBT culture that was attended by over 40,000 people across the weekend last year.

The main event takes place in Millennium Square on Sunday with a huge parade including more than 60 floats, plenty of colour and lots of live music, culminating in a huge party on Lower Briggate involving all the well-known venues such as Fibre, Queens Court and the Viaduct Showbar.

Multiple locations, Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 August. More Info

170519 Festivals Pride

Leeds Festival

Well, we kinda have to include it, and it remains a staple part of many people’s summer. Residing still at Bramham Park, the sister event to the Reading Festival continues to attract huge names such as Muse, Kasabian and Eminem, but as ever there is much fun to be had in the smaller tents and stages.

Bramham Park, Friday 25 - Sunday 27 August. Tickets & Info

170125 Leeds Festival Kasabian

Leeds West Indian Carnival

As central to Leeds culture as Tetley’s and The Good Old Days, Europe’s longest running authentic Caribbean carnival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Starting out in 1967 as a way for some West Indian students to get over their yearnings for home, the carnival is now a major social occasion attracting over 100,000 people along its route. Mixing costumes, music and dancing with colour, joy and rhythm the parade starts and ends in Potternewton Park, taking in Harehills Lane, Roundhay Road and Chapeltown Road along with many sights, sounds and taste sensations from the accompanying street food stalls.

Potternewton Park, Monday 28 August. Tickets & Info

170519 Festivals Leeds Carnival Benjamin Paul
Leeds Carnival Benjamin Paul

Leeds International Beer Festival

The traditional festival season closer is now in its sixth year; a flurry of foam-moustaches and sincere, heated discussion about hopping methods, as over 100 beers from 30 different global breweries descend on the Town Hall, with street food and live music to boot.

As per the Gin Festival, there are afternoon or evening sessions depending on how (or even if) you want the rest of your day to pan out, or if you’re thinking ‘to hell with next week’ you can buy a wristband for all sessions across the weekend.

Leeds Town Hall, Thursday 7 - Sunday 10 September. Tickets & Info

170519 Festivals Leeds International Beer