A page turning celebration for Leeds Jewish Literature Festival

PAGE TURNER: Phillipa Lester and Diane Saunders. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
PAGE TURNER: Phillipa Lester and Diane Saunders. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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THE Leeds Jewish community has produced some famous public figures over the years - from Dame Fanny Waterman, founder of The Leeds International Piano Competition, to entrepreneurs and philanthropists like Montague Burton and Leslie Silver.

The remarkable story of the Jewish community in Leeds was captured by Diane Saunders and Phillipa Lester in their book, From The Leylands To Leeds 17, which inspired them to set up the Leeds Jewish Literature Festival.

The inaugural festival, launched at the British Library at Boston Spa, runs throughout March.

The festival includes a creative writing workshop, a poetry cafe and a book club.

“We felt there was something to build on so we came up with the idea of a mini-festival,” said Phillipa.

Among the guests is Baroness Joyce Gould, the Leeds-born Life Peer, who will be talking about her political career.

There has been a string of new literary festivals popping up across the country, and particularly in Yorkshire, over the past five years which Lester believes reflects the growing appetite for local history.

“There’s a resurgence of interest in local history and culture because these old communities are shrinking and there’s a desire to preserve as much as we can for future generations,” Phillipa said.

“Although it highlights Jewish culture and heritage we see it as something of interest to everyone, it’s for anyone who is interested in community, writing and culture.”

For more information about the Leeds Jewish Literature Festival visit www.milim.org.uk


In its heyday back in the 1950s, the Jewish community in Leeds numbered something like 25,000.Whereas today that number has dwindled to less than 8,000, thanks, in part, to the disappearance of the textile industry, but also changing demographics and smaller families.

Leeds has a proud association with Jewish life and culture.

It was used as a place of refuge for the poor and persecuted from around the globe long before it was officially designated a City of Sanctuary a few years back.

Its first dedicated synagogue opened in Belgrave Street in 1860