Wednesday, 31 December 2014

City of the Lord

On 20 December I spent a weekend in Leeds.  The city is the third largest in the UK (after London and Birmingham) but this agglomerative accolade is as much the outcome of cookie-cutter administrative boundaries than any geographical fact.  It is a regional centre for banking and retail, along with significant remnants of its once dominant role in manufacturing.  On the recommendation of a friend I decided to stay at the Queens Hotel, an eerie Art Deco building dating from 1937, because I had been given a small task to complete: to photograph the hotel ballroom.  The ballroom of the Queens Hotel has a distinctive place in the music culture of northern England — during the late 1970s many bands performed there— but what is the venue like now?  I finally set out to complete my task on the Sunday morning but immediately found that the pathway to the room was staffed by succession of stewards for the LIFE Church, a recently founded religious organization based in Bradford, with branches in Leeds, Belfast, and most recently Warsaw.  As an agnostic atheist I felt rather like an imposter edging my way ever closer to the room; as I neared the entrance someone tried to hug me, I was clearly entering an alien spiritual domain.  The room was filled with a glittering darkness of acoustic guitars and biblical incantations; an imaginary post-industrial nirvana far removed from the sound and fury of the past.    

Ballroom of the Queens Hotel, Leeds, 21 December 2014


My apologies for not having posted anything for over two years — it was as if I had gone to make a cup of tea only to find that time had moved swiftly on by the time I returned to my desk.  Well here I am again with a mug of tea to my right and the familiar London vista of moss-clad rooftops to the left.  The German word Funkstille means “radio silence” but it also has the figurative connotation of a non-communicative interlude.  My very own Funkstille has origins both personal and professional (if I may be permitted such a plodding alliteration).  I also somehow managed to mislay my password — just one among dozens of others that we all strive to make both cryptic and memorable.