One Foot in the Rave: the unique exhibition celebrating Leeds' infamous club scene

Everyone loves a boogie now and again, but few places have a better party scene than right here in Leeds.

The Leeds club scene attracted clubbers from across the UK and beyond
The Leeds club scene attracted clubbers from across the UK and beyond

From the mid 80s through to the late 90s the Leeds club scene was nothing short of infamous, with a host of iconic nights attracting keen ravers from far and wide, and earning the city a reputation for dance music which extended across the UK and the world.

More than just dance, the period marked a movement which changed the cultural landscape, with the club scene lending its influence not only to music, but to fashion, graphics and art alike.

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An ode to an iconic era

One Foot in the Rave is the concept of, and curated by, Tony Hannan, the man who gave Leeds Soak, Kaos and Up Yer Ronson

This year's Leeds International Festival will see the Leeds' legendary dance scene from 1985 to 1996 celebrated in a special exhibition which will explore its influence through historic images, videos, talks, interviews and documentaries.

Held from Saturday 28 April until Friday 4 May at Trinity Leeds, the One Foot in the Rave exhibition is a unique concept brought together by Tony Hannan, the man who gave Leeds the clubs Soak, Kaos and Up Yer Ronson, introduced Acid House to Ibiza and who still promotes great dance nights to this day.

Bringing these clubs together under one roof for the first time, along with his own personal collection of images from this pivotal period, Hannan is eager to showcase the city's golden era of dance music.

"It's a chance for the Leeds story to be told by the people who created it," explains the One Foot in the Rave curator.

One Foot in the Rave is the concept of, and curated by, Tony Hannan, the man who gave Leeds Soak, Kaos and Up Yer Ronson

"It’s our time to tell the story and to say how good our city was then and the influence these people still have now.

"It’s never really been done before and I'm really honoured all the clubs are behind the exhibition for the first time."

Celebrating a cultural movement

Giving a nod to those who launched and ran the clubs, the DJs and the many clubbers who attended, the exhibition serves as a nostalgic throwback to the hugely influential cultural period.

But what was it about the Leeds scene that proved so popular?

"After the Madchester scene ran its course, Leeds took over as the UK's number one clubbing destination," says Hannan.

"Students chose Leeds because of the club scene and thousands of young people travelled to Leeds every weekend to visit their favourite club, whether that be Kaos, Ronson, Basics, Soak or Orbit.

"It was as big as anywhere in the world - it was the clubbing capital of the world outside Ibiza. The sheer number of quality and choice clubs all doing their own style in their own way, offering DJs from across the globe, was what made Leeds stand out."

A toast to the visionaries

Widely described as a cultural movement, the period from 1985 to 1996 a wealth of clubs throw open their doors in the city and as clubbers flocked from around the UK, the thriving Leeds scene soon helped to put the North firmly on the map.

"Kaos at Ricky’s kick started the house music scene in Leeds, followed by Up Yer Ronson and Back to Basics at The Music Factory, then the Pleasure Rooms was as big as it got," recalls Hannan.

"DJs from around the world wanted to play in these clubs and we were all breaking boundaries, creating safe and inclusive places for people whatever their race, gender and sexuality.

"Leeds had been a bit rough for a night out and fights were common, but all of these clubs changed that."

With the One Foot in the Rave, Hannan hopes the wealth of unseen pictures, documentaries, interviews with guest DJs, and other exciting additions in the exhibition will provide an intriguing showcase which celebrates the visionaries who put Leeds on the international map and the legacy they have left on the city today.

"When this scene was created it was fresh and new, and it was a movement that changed people's lives and perceptions and had a big cultural impact on Leeds," says Hannan.

"The dance scene is still thriving today with clubs like Mint, Canal Mills and various other small clubs with music of all genres, so Leeds is still dancing to the beats."