Juliette Bains: Fond farewell to 2014 as an exciting new year beckons

Light Night Leeds.
Light Night Leeds.
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I’m not sure how it happened, but 2014 is now well and truly over, and we’re already more than a week into 2015.

Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time when we look back over what we did (or perhaps didn’t) accomplish in the past 12 months and inevitably make some new promises to ourselves about the coming year which we have no real intention of sticking to.

As I saw in the new year with a glass of bubbles, I stuck with tradition and did what everyone does as Big Ben bongs at midnight.

Slightly tipsy and a little emotional, I looked back over the high and lows of 2014, and wondered what might be in store for 2015.

After reliving my own personal holiday highs and regrettably numerous hangover lows, I got thinking about what a jam-packed and successful year it had also been for my adopted homeland.

For starters, 2014 was the year that the eyes of the world turned to Leeds for perhaps the biggest event we’ve ever hosted.

And we didn’t disappoint, as tens of thousands of you took to the streets to clap, cheer, wave and watch what is now pretty much universally regarded as the best Grand Depart of the Tour de France ever.

It was also a year when Leeds’s First Direct Arena finally began to come into its own a bit and welcomed impressive names like Prince, Michael Bublé and A1 (which, as a big 90s pop fan, was genuinely a highlight for me).

We welcomed countless new restaurants and bars (Almost Famous, MeatLiquor and Manahatta to name a few) and summer saw the official ground-breaking on the exciting new £150m Victoria Gate retail development.

This year’s Light Night event was a major highlight both for myself and the city, and really showed that Leeds at night can be about much more than bustling bars and cheap booze.

Towards the end of the year, the Christmas lights switch on and Christkindelmarkt attracted huge crowds once again and helped us finish the year on a high.

But we also had some lows too, as we said goodbye to old friends including The Cockpit, Pin Bar and La Grillade.

We also saw the much-loved Majestic building, which held memories for many people, almost burned to the ground.

And we lost one of the highlights in the city’s calendar after the popular Party in the Park event was scrapped.

Looking back, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

But as hard an act to follow as 2014 undoubtedly was, 2015 is shaping up to be a hugely promising year for Leeds too.

This month alone we’ll have Adam Lambert and Queen rocking out at Leeds arena, Jessie J at the O2 Academy and the ice skating rink returning to Millennium Square.

Later down the line there’s Leeds Festival, which is sure to see big names added to the bill, plus Nicki Minaj and Pharrell will be performing at the arena.

Just down the road, the swanky new Hilton Hotel is also set to open its doors this year.

This could even be the year that Leeds takes a leap onto an international stage, if we choose to bid for the Capital of Culture for 2023.

And for all you commuters out there, the shiny new train station entrance is set to be unveiled in the spring.

Not to mention the ongoing work at the Victoria Gate development and Central Square coming to life.

For sports fans, this will also be the year we host some Rugby World Cup games, with Italy vs Canada and Scotland vs USA being held at Elland Road in September. Admittedly, I know nothing about rugby, but hosting a global tournament can only be a good thing.

All in all it’s shaping up to be a big 2015. Let’s just hope it can live up to the hype and when the bells chime this December, we’re looking back on another incredible year.