Celebration of Leeds' diverse history to be launched in the city centre

A free storytelling walk around Leeds City Centre has been set up to celebrate the diverse history of the city and its people.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 4:45 am

'Stirring Up the Past’, set up by theatre Company Blah Blah Blah (The Blahs) will feature the stories and achievements of Jogendra Sen, Pablo Fanque, Leonora Cohen, and Michael Marks.

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Jogendra Sen was an Indian private soldier in the British Army’s Leeds Pals who, despite his university education, was denied the rank of officer because of his race and is believed to be the first Bengali soldier to have died in the First World War. Suffragette Leonora Cohen, smashed a showcase in the Jewel House at the Tower of London with an iron bar and a window at the Leeds Labour Exchange, for which she was imprisoned in Armley Jail.

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This walk down memory lane is being described as perfect for all the family.

Meanwhile Equestrian performer Pablo Fanque was Britain’s first black circus owner whose arena in the city centre was the scene of a devastating disaster, while Michael Marks was a Jewish stall owner whose penny bazaar in Leeds Market grew to become the world-famous Marks & Spencer.

“You are invited to download a map from www.stirringupthepast.org and take a fascinating walk through the city centre and Leeds’ trailblazing history,” explained director Deborah Pakkar-Hull. “There are a series of stops on the map and at each of them, a character will tell you an exciting story about their life in Leeds, and why the place you are standing is important to them."

The audio stories can be listened to straight from a smartphone or tablet device via the website or can alternatively be downloaded to MP3.

The experience has been three years in the making after a dive into the into the archives and artefacts at Leeds Discovery Centre, uncovered the stories.

“Children and their grown-ups will enjoy experiencing first-hand the lives of the people who have walked the streets of Leeds before them,” Deborah continued. “It’s about finding our own connections to the city, through stories of hope, bravery and belonging. They will delight in encountering a story on every street corner and see themselves as a part of the next chapter of the story of Leeds.”

Described as a perfect day out for all the family, the walk will officially launch today at Leeds Kirkgate Market (October 27) between the hours of 10am and 4pm, and is set to run over the next two years.

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