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Leeds

Leeds Art Gallery is centrally located, ensconced in the heart of the municipal buildings district. The Tiled Hall Café can be found on the ground floor of the Art Gallery, and is the perfect place for visitors to rest their feet and recharge.

Tiled Hall Cafe 2

The first thing that hits you when you enter is the hubbub of chatter echoing around the huge room, aided by the lofty arched ceiling. The massive windows allow unlimited amounts of sunlight in giving a light and airy feel to the room. Couples sat on the small tables by the windows are able to look out onto Victoria Gardens as they eat and drink.

The Tiled Hall Café is named as such because of the original tiles covering the walls and ceiling. Once covered by shelving they have now been exposed and the colourful detail which they give to the room remains a unique selling point. I’ve been a few times before but always with friends and their children. As lovely as it was to be with them, I never really had the opportunity to take in my surroundings and appreciate the area for what it is. Sitting there on my own today, waiting for my friend to arrive, I had the chance to do that.

Tiled Hall Cafe

Speaking of children the café is very family-friendly. It gets extremely busy during school holidays, and there isn’t a time when a child isn’t dashing around, chattering away or tugging on your leg and trying to make friends with you. Unless you’re incredibly focussed I wouldn’t suggest choosing the café as a location to do a spot of work (believe me, I’ve tried!) Having said that a relaxed, friendly atmosphere is always guaranteed.

Visiting today at lunchtime I chose to eat a lovely salmon nicoise salad, following by a scone with jam and cream. I washed my food down with two pots of Earl Gray Suki tea. All food is sourced within Yorkshire, ensuring that local business is supported. The food has a wonderful home-made, freshness to it and is delicious. I’ve been a fan of Suki teas for a long time so there’s definitely no disappointment there either.

I really don’t have a bad word to say about the café and will continue to return whenever I want a reliable, central place in which to stop off and have a break.

Tiled Hall Cafe 3

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The event

A collaborative venture between The Culture Vulture, the Blog North Awards and Creative Tourist ‘Food Glorious Food’ was the fourth in a series of day long workshops, with previous sessions focussing on art, culture and social media. The aim of the game was simple – to get as many like-minded bloggers (of varying levels) in the same room, and provide a number of inspiring and informative sessions from influential people in the business. The day covered photography; social media; writing skills; PR and how to build effective relationships with brands, as well as listening to Lynn Hill (Clandestine Cake Club) and Leigh Linley (Good Stuff) describe how they went from blogging to the heady heights of published author-dom. The opportunity to taste Café Moor’s food came at lunchtime, and Bompas and Parr were present later in the day to demonstrate the amazing things which can be done with jelly.

It was not expected that bloggers in attendance would just learn from those they were listening to in the workshop sessions, however. Just as (if not more) important was the opportunity to network and mingle. To ask questions and share ideas with each other. I loved meeting those who I’ve interacted with in the cyber-world for the first time, and new links.

The venue

In the introductions Duke Studios was described as a place providing “creative, co-working spaces” and I could understand why. Walking into the open-plan room located on the first floor of Munro House, in the centre of Leeds, I felt just like I was stepping outside again into a bright and colourful garden area perfect for mingling and networking. A range of work spaces are provided, as well as hireable studios for photography and equipment for laser and vinyl cutting. There is even The Not Bored Room – a refreshing twist on the generic, bland meeting room. The entire area has a rough edge to it, and is perfect for people who need an inspirational place in which to complete their work. I’d be back there in a second if I ever get the opportunity to work full-time for myself.

The workshops & speakers

Everybody had the opportunity to attend two workshop sessions from a choice of four. In the morning I opted for “Brands and Blogs”, which had Sam Ward (Brand PR Manager for Taylors of Harrogate) at the helm. She explained how Taylors of Harrogate approach working relationships with bloggers, and highlighted what both sides should expect from a collaboration with one another. Sam emphasised the need for bloggers to approach a brand with a unique idea and that it must be relevant and refreshing. Hearing about some of the recent projects which the brand are undertaking solidified the need for constant, creative thinking from a blogger’s perspective. Scary stuff when you think about it…but not impossible. Though this workshop was not relevant to me right now, I learnt a lot which I can take into the future if/when I ever get the opportunity to work with big brands.

I thought I would choose ‘No Such Thing As A Free Lunch’, a writing workshop run by food writer Emma Sturgess for the afternoon session. I’ve done some writing work in the past, both paid and unpaid, and had a journal for many years before starting this so I knew I could string two words together but had no idea if I was doing it effectively. The hour with Emma contained so much practical advice that sparks were flying off my pen by the end. She took us through every aspect of creating the perfect blog post from establishing an identity and unique ideas for posts, all the way through to structuring and producing posts, and critically editing them. All the underlying principles of writing covered by Emma can be applied to writing of any subject, and I would have paid just to listen to her alone. The end of the workshop consisted of Emma encouraging us all to write one thing we could work on on our blogs on a postcard, which she would mail back to us in a couple of days. The idea being that we sometimes put these things off, and that receiving a hand-written reminder in the post would prompt us to act. I like it.

The food

Bloggers were truly fed and watered all day. The day started with breakfast (toast or croissants) and a hot drink from Café 164 – located on the ground floor of Munro House. I’ve been in Café 164 a few times when I’ve needed to work in a quiet, relaxed space and their service is always fantastic.

Lunch was served by Kada Bendaha, owner of Café Moor which can be found in Leeds Kirkgate Market. Kada showcased his talent in creating delicious Middle Eastern food, and many bloggers just had to return to him for seconds. I’ll be visiting the markets to sample moor (sorry, I couldn’t help it) of his food.

High tea saw an afternoon break full of cake happiness provided by Clandestine Cake Club members, including a massive pink cake provided by The Sunshine Bakery. I stopped myself from going back for seconds, as difficult as it was.

Throughout the day there was as much Yorkshire Tea available as people were able to drink.

The people

As I alluded to earlier, the event was an opportunity for people interacting in the cyber-world to finally come face to face, and I was no different. I met the lovely Nelly of Nelly’s Cupcakes for the first time, along with her friend Lauren of Around The World in 80 Bakes. I spoke to @acurlyspoon and @woodalljoshua who are both fellow newbies keen to take the first steps into blog-dom. I also met Shirley Quarmby, who runs Chez Shamwari – the first underground tearoom in Saltaire, and am already planning an afternoon there at some point in the not too distant future.

The verdict

I was incredibly reluctant to register and attend the event. The day was geared towards food bloggers, of which I am not. Combined with the fear that I was plunging myself into the unknown world of networking, I had almost talked myself out of it and was getting ready for a Saturday at home. I’m pleased that I ignored all my instincts though. I was rewarded with the opportunity to listen to, and learn from, some inspirational people. I took away many tips which will hopefully make me a better blogger, and I got to taste some AMAZING food…what more could anybody ask for?!

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