When I read that Small Acts (Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti) were opening a pub in Leeds Kirkgate Market as part of Compass Arts Festival I was elated. When I read the small print and found out that it would be the size of a Yorkshire Square i.e. 12ft x 12ft I wondered how on earth there would be enough space for we drinkers. I need not have worried.
For those of you unfamiliar with the brewing process, a Yorkshire Square was the large fermenting vessel used in these parts in the days of yore. They are probably illegal now under health and safety laws because, whereas today’s fermentation vessels are sealed, Yorkshire squares were open at the top meaning that any airborne detritus could settle on the top of the brew. On the occasions when I visited Tetley’s Brewery, the main user of the vats, I have seen unsuspecting flying insects stray over the tun and, after having absorbed an unfeasible amount of the carbon dioxide it was emitting, drop into the mix. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds because fermenting beer produces a thick crust on top of an open tun so none of the foreign objects actually got into the ale, which was drained from the bottom. So as not to suffer a similar fate as the flies, the empty vessels had to be left for some time before it was safe to send in the cleaning squad to prepare them for the next brew.
Meanwhile, back at the market, I was relieved to see that The Yorkshire Square was where the beer was served from rather than where it was drunk, so we were all socially distanced in the large food court. Unsurprisingly it has four sides, each of which has its own function.
The Third Space occupies one side and is the place to go for information as to what is going on at this event and the rest of the Arts Festival. Third Space refers to the place where you spend most of your time after work and home.
On the opposite side there is the Time Bar where you can participate in a ‘pub quiz’. It is not the traditional ‘who won the FA Cup in 1953’ type but a video camera pointing at you to record your responses to questions about your attitude towards pubs and drinking. The videos are then shown in rotation on a screen next to the camera.
Now we come to the serious business of quaffing. The remaining two facets of the installation were bars. My pint, well, it would have been rude to have called and not had a beer, was at The Duchess a name chosen in homage to the Duchess of York. No, not the ginger one, but the long gone music venue pub of that name in Vicar Lane which had been voted by visitors to Compass Arts’ website as the most missed pub in Leeds. I did find this to be a bit ageist as when I was a lad it was called The Robin Hood, an ale house which I doubt has been missed at all! There were three hand engines on the bar so I was in my element. I showed great restraint and only had the one but I am back to cover a couple of other events on Saturday so I can make up for it then. The bar was set up in traditional manner with beer, spirits and bags of nuts. It also had a selection of photographs of the original boozer.
The final side was devoted to Chameleon, a bar serving craft ales from wall mounted dispensers and cans so reflecting the current trends. I asked Simon Persighetti about the name and he said it was inspired by Richard Coldwell who has a blog called Beerleeds and said that his ideal pub would be one which changed its identity as the day went on to cater for the changing tastes of the customers in at the time. Breakfast in the morning, coffee at elevenses, lunches etc and beer later in the evening. He could have been describing any branch of Wetherspoons! I must say that this vision is my idea of hell on earth. I like my pubs to have a purpose. There are times when I want to call for a lunchtime pint without the smell of cooking food, and others when I want my dinner – that is Yorkshire dinner at 1.00pm. If I go out on my own in the evening my ideal is to have a pint, stand at the bar talking bollocks to the bloke next to me and flirt with the barmaid. If I am ever again fortunate enough to find a lady to take out then perhaps a bar serving cocktails and wine. I certainly don’t want anywhere combining the two. Another downside to a fantasy Chameleon is that there is no need to go anywhere else so you are doomed to spend the rest of your drinking days with then same group of people.
The point of art is to trigger a reaction in those who experience it and not only does The Yorkshire Square succeed brilliantly, as you can tell by my last paragraph, it also provides a space to discuss that reaction with other attendees. I can’t wait to get back there on Saturday for a presentation on brewing and a guided walk to visit some lost pubs.
For more details of Yorkshire Square and associated events please go to
Public House: The Yorkshire Square
Feature image Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti provided by Compass Arts
All other photos by Stan Graham
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