Recently, the lovely team at Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton, a suburb in north Leeds, got in touch to ask if I’d like to join them at an event to launch their new summer menu. Being a big fan, I said yes straight away.
As we were there to taste the new menu, I’ll start with that. It’s lovely. Internationally influenced, light and colourful and bursting with flavour, it would be the perfect accompaniment to a warm summer’s evening. Ingredients are supplied from local sources where possible–meaning that other businesses in the area benefit in a really good example of community collaboration and support.
I particularly loved the gravlax, with the ruby red beetroot-cured salmon sitting with caper remoulade on sourdough toast. Broad bean, asparagus and ricotta frittata was beautifully fresh and I enjoyed the pan tumaca (tomato, chorizo, manchego cheese and an olive) so much I went back for seconds! Seven do a great selection of cakes too, perfect if you’re visiting in the day-time. My favourite is the lemon and polenta … Ok, this is a terrible photo of a beautiful cake. I’m not going to hang around taking pictures when someone presents me with a tray of cake. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
But, as well as that gorgeous food, what is particularly interesting about Seven Arts is that the income from the cafe bar funds their ongoing professional and internationally acclaimed programme of arts. The programme is an eclectic one, featuring (but not limited to!) music, comedy, poetry, theatre and film from around the world. The strength of the programming is such that in one evening, I’d bookmarked almost every event that’s coming up this month–it all looked so good. The venue has seating for 100, in a creatively designed space that allows them to adapt it to suit each performance.
As the reputation of Seven Arts is so strong and continues to grow, there are opportunities to see shows that you might not otherwise get the chance to outside of the Edinburgh Festival or London; in fact, shows often stop at Seven on their way up to Edinburgh for August. To think that this is all happening in a suburb of north Leeds is remarkable, really – and why you should keep an eye on their programme. It’s seriously top quality.
The story of Seven Arts really starts with the Chapel Allerton Arts Festival, which was founded by a group of women, most of whom are still on the Board now. The increasing success of the Festival made them realise that a permanent venue would be something that the people living in the LS7 postcode area (Chapel Allerton, Chapeltown and Potternewton) would really value. Seeking funding for the creation of a purpose built venue, the team were successful in obtaining grant support through European Regional Development Fund and private donations for the building of Seven Arts.
However, since that initial grant, Seven Arts (a not-for-profit organisation) has had no grant funding to keep it going. It’s all self sustained – something that was incredibly forward thinking at the time and now helps to protect them from the significant drop in grant funding for the arts. To me, there is much about their model of funding sustainability that other organisations could learn from, and it’s enabled them to keep going for nine years! I think the tenth anniversary celebrations next year may well be unmissable.
Spending the evening chatting to this group of remarkable people I came away feeling hugely impressed by their hard work, tenacity and dedication to the arts and to Seven Arts, not to mention the venue and upcoming programme. It’s somewhere that I intend to spend more time in, and I highly recommend that you do too…