Christmas is coming, and Saturday in Leeds city centre was a sea of shoppers with no room to shuffle, let alone run. Yet there I was cutting a swathe through carrier bags, gaggles of giggling teenagers and the odd dog lead and I wasn’t alone. By gum, the looks we 25 runners got as we trotted past them all. It was liberating, fantastic and very arty.
The wonderfully imaginative Veggie Runners had designed a 6km Art Run around the city to celebrate the opening of the new Tetley Gallery. This took us from the art deco building which was the former headquarters of the Tetley family brewing business, preserved with a twist of modernism, past some of the city’s heritage pubs and jewels in the crown of the brewery founded in 1822. The drinkers at Whitelocks, the city’s 300-year-old pub had a bit of a shock when we all trooped through the pub’s narrow yard and shoppers in the Victoria Quarter had an impromptu history lesson about the Matcham heritage.
Of course we weren’t racing, most of us had done the parkrun earlier so had got that right out of our systems. Instead we passed the time learning more about the city and about each other, which is when I discovered I was in truly international company including a French couple, an Italian lady, a Scot and a man who described himself as Hungadian, well, what else could someone born in Hungary and then moving to Canada be called?
We started and finished by whizzing through the revolving doors at the Tetley, a wonderful treat as in the days of the brewery, only important people could cross that particular threshold.
I do have a softspot for Tetley’s. It was Leeds. It was Yorkshire. It was heritage and we were proud of it. I worked for them for a short while and loved its people and pubs, though never quite developed a taste for the warm beer. It was a sad day when the last pint was brewed there a couple of years ago and the doors closed to make way for progress in the shape of better brewing outside of Yorkshire. As if.
But the heritage of the Tetley family has been preserved in this new gallery. As well as the new arty things, they have kept the oak-panelled offices and boardroom for use by the artists. And runners of course.