David Parkin on the danger of Leeds resting on its laurels, bolting in Brid and TV fame

IN the last few weeks Leeds has hosted England Test Match cricket versus Pakistan at Headingley.

Across the city international football was played at at Elland Road with England v Costa Rica plus boxer Josh Warrington won a world title in his home city front of 20,000 fans.

Meanwhile last weekend millions of TV viewers enjoyed the World Triathlon Series while even more watched in person and on screen as the four day Tour de Yorkshire cycle race came to a glorious climax in blazing sunshine outside the magnificent Leeds Town Hall.

Such a glut of sporting highlights have been rightly celebrated and together they gave truly international profile to the city.

As one Twitter user proclaimed: “Leeds is superb, don’t be scared of being proud of it and shouting it out.”

True. These are achievements to be proud of.

But the city needs to be careful.

I can’t help thinking back to another time when it was not just proud, but pretty pleased with itself.

In fact it was downright smug.

It was after Harvey Nichols chose to open its first store in its 160-year history outside of London – in Leeds.

The 1996 opening in the impressive Victoria Quarter of the city centre rightly caused quite a stir and gave Leeds bragging rights over other UK cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.

When I arrived in Leeds in 2000 the city was pitching itself as Britain’s number one retail destination outside London.

At the same time it was aggressively marketing itself as the legal and financial capital of the provinces.

Well, why wouldn’t you?

The only problem is that those in the city started to believe the hype and disappeared up their own backsides.

When they finally pulled their heads out of their nether regions they discovered that during the time they had been congratulating themselves on their achievements Manchester had not just gained a Harvey Nicks but two Selfridges stores.

And in the legal and financial sector many private equity firms had either re-trenched to London or established their northern bases over in Manchester.

I hope the powers that be in Leeds won’t get too carried away by the city’s sporting success in recent weeks.

By all means take a moment to appreciate the achievements but away from the glitz seen by TV viewers there is a reality that needs addressing.

They only need to take a walk across the city centre.

Start on Sovereign Street where a sign points to a ‘Riverside Performance Area’.

The only performance I’ve ever seen there was a scuffle between two drunks.

Walk up to the junction with Neville Street and turn right walking under Leeds Station, the main route into the city if you are travelling by car.

The most bizarre experience here used to be the underwhelming light and sound installation that some arty designers managed to persuade Leeds City Council and the now defunct Yorkshire Forward and the Northern Way to cough up £4.6m for.

Now the pavement is home to tramps living in tents.

It would have been cheaper for the council to give these temporary residents torches and pots and pans and they could have created a better light and sound show than the current shabby effort.

Mind you, calling these tent dwellers temporary is not quite true – they’ve been there months.

Navigate up towards the city’s buzzing but litter-strewn shopping streets and keep a tally of how many charity ‘chuggers’, Big Issue sellers and suited sales people accost you on the way.

I am always polite when approached but nearly cracked the other day when one chap in a charity bib jumped into my path, pointed at me, narrowed his eyes and said: “Are you a businessman or a gangster?”

He’s done it before. I must stop chewing toothpicks and wearing that black shirt and white tie combo.


Once you’ve managed to get within sight of Harvey Nichols you see the crowing glory of retail in Leeds.

No not the Trinity Leeds or Victoria Gate shopping centres but the black anti-ram raid bollards outside the Louis Vuitton store.

It might be 22 years since Harvey Nichols opened but there is no room for Leeds to rest on its laurels.


FROM Leeds to the east coast of Yorkshire, where I spent last Friday at The Business Day conference at Bridlington Spa.

Now in its second year, the event, created by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and backed by commercial sponsors to fill the gap left by the demise of the Yorkshire International Business Convention, attracted a sell-out attendance of 650 people.

Rather than the usual collection of life coaches and business mentors networking as if their lives depended on it, this event was a who’s who of those running businesses in Hull, East Yorkshire and the East Coast.

Speakers included Live Aid creator Sir Bob Geldof, social entrepreneur Josh Littlejohn, Sir Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire and former cricketer Geoffrey Boycott.

I didn’t see the first two speak but it was nice to see Gary pay a fitting tribute to Barry Dodd, the businessman and Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire who died last month in a helicopter accident.

There’s only one person Geoff Boycott wants to pay tribute to, so I gave his talk a miss.

I kicked off the morning hosting a workshop for Welcome to Yorkshire on how to harness the power of Yorkshire for your business.

Despite being up against events presented by BBC Breakfast’s Naga Munchetty and leadership guru Rene Carayol the workshop attracted a good turnout.

On the back of the massive success of the Tour de Yorkshire and countless other initiatives, Welcome to Yorkshire wants to make sure that the region’s companies are making the most of the opportunities it is creating.

And we even had some success on that front at the event itself.

One lady asked a question about what help she could get finding skilled staff after moving her men’s fashion design firm north to East Yorkshire from London.

Jenny Higgins from Welcome to Yorkshire pointed out representatives of Coventry University’s Scarborough Campus and they arranged to meet the fashion entrepreneur after the event.

Thinking I was on a roll I turned to Peter Dodd, Welcome to Yorkshire’s commercial director, with my next question and asked him, given the phenomenal success enjoyed by Welcome to Yorkshire in recent years had the tourism agency “shot its bolt”?

“Oh I don’t know about that. What do you mean by ’shot our bolt’David?” said Peter with a smile.

Leaving me, momentarily at a loss for words.


NEWS this week that pub group JD Wetherspoon, headed by pro-Brexit businessman Tim Martin, is planning to dump French champagne and German beer in the run-up to the UK’s departure from the European Union.

That’s all very well but what the hell am I now going to drink with my £2.99 full English?


I SAW a Facebook post the other evening from a schoolfriend who said he had seen a former classmate of ours appearing on the

Graham Norton Show on BBC1 last Friday.

Other guests included sprint king Usain Bolt, Hollywood heart-throb Channing Tatum, and comedians Jennifer Saunders and Rob Brydon.

At school this girl was a bit of a high flier so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that she is now rubbing shoulders with big names like that.

I downloaded the show and rather than sitting with the guests on the sofa, she sat in Graham’s red chair, which not being a regular viewer of this weekly celebrity love-in, I had no idea about.

Apparently members of the public sit in the chair and tell an embarrassing story in a bid to persuade the guests on the show not to pull a lever to tip them out of it.

So what did my former classmate confess?

That she was once on holiday in Turkey with a stomach bug and sitting with her boyfriend on a pedalo.

Caught short, she leapt into the sea and relieved herself.

Clambering back onto the pedalo she turned to see another holidaymaker swimming straight towards where she had just defecated.

I know.

Last week’s observations about Love Island highlighted the desperation of some people to appear on TV.

Fame, it’s not all it is cracked up to be.

Have a great weekend.


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