Hunslet Gala and me: the end of an era

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, Hunslet has undergone many changes.

Heavy industry has come and largely gone as has the ‘crammed together’ back-to-back housing needed for the workers.
In all that time there has been periodically some sort of celebratory gala or festival that has taken place. Sometimes on Penny Hill, now under the Morrisons shopping centre or in the old vicarage garden. There were very few green spaces in those days.

About fifty years ago when the church that has recently been demolished was built and, following that the new school of Hunslet St Mary’s came the green space that we now have on Grove Road appeared. The Gala began on the space at the side of church and was run by the church, a Church Gala in fact.

Over the next few years this evolved into a Community Gala and the first was held in June 2003 on the field on Grove Road with a car boot sale on the space at the side of church.

In 2006 it was decided to include more events throughout the year including the Gala itself, a Songs of Praise Celebration, an Older Persons’ Tea Party, a Community Gala Evening, and a Children’s Christmas Fayre and Craft Day. The whole programme of events was collectively named ‘Hunslet Festival’, with the whole ‘Festival’ funded by the National Lottery.

However, organising all these events proved too much and going forward it was decided that the Gala in June was to be the main focus and the name of Hunslet Festival was used from then on.

Over the past twenty years there have been many different activities and the one that sticks in my mind is that one of the organising ‘committee’ arranged for the Air Ambulance to come along and land in the school field. Right on cue, just as the person opening the Gala said, “I declare this Gala open”, the helicopter flew over the Gala field coming into land. Unfortunately, that was one photograph I didn’t manage to get as it was unexpected, but I do have twenty years’ worth of other photographs archived.

I must mention that the archiving of photos and other documents relating to the Galas was done by Committee Member Jonathan Chapman who sadly passed away a few weeks after the Gala in 2021.

So, here we are now twenty years on and the Gala has only been rained off once and, of course, in 2020 was cancelled because of Covid. However, the Gala is now back in full swing, and preparations are taking place for this year’s event.
I have decided after 20 years this will be my last year as Chair as I feel it is the right time for me to concentrate on family and other things.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have helped on the Committee over the years and all the volunteers on Gala Day itself. I must also thank the Council’s Area Management Committee, our elected Councillors over the years, our Member of Parliament, The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, our Hunslet Festival President, Cllr Mohamed Iqbal (Labour, Hunslet & Riverside) and all our sponsors for their support over the last 20 years, without whose help the Gala would never have been as successful as it has been.

Although after this year’s Gala on 17 June, I will not be organising much going forward, I will be there on the day taking photographs and videos and helping where I can.

Committee member, Stewart Walton adds:

“On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank Steve for his leadership and commitment over the years, he will be missed. I would like to recognise that over the time I have been on the committee I have learned a great deal from Steve as well as finding a friend.

“Please do join us on Saturday 17 June to send Steve off on a high.”

And Cllr Paul Wray (Labour, Hunslet & Riverside comments:

“Steve can look back on a remarkable period in which he helped lead and organise this fantastic gala. Hunslet would not be Hunslet without the gala, and Steve has played a significant role in ensuring this. He can look back with immense pride and with the heartfelt thanks of the people of Hunslet.”

Hunslet Gala takes place on Saturday 17 June 2023, 11:30am-4pm on the recreation gropund off Church Street and Grove Road. For more information go to:


This post was written by Steve Thompson

Photo: Steve Thompson (right) with Gala Chair Cllr Mohammed Iqbal

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