Leeds marching towards month-long armed forces celebration: Daisy Belles - Armed Forces Day

09 May 2024

Leeds marching towards month-long armed forces celebration

Lord Mayor of Leeds Armed Forces/Remembrance

The annual Armed Forces Day becomes the Armed Forces Festival for 2024.

Armed Forces Day is becoming the Armed Forces Festival for 2024 with a month-long extravaganza of themed activities culminating in the city centre-based Armed Forces Day event on Sunday 30 June.

The Armed Forces Festival, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, is a chance for everyone to show their support for the men and women who make up our Armed Forces community, from currently serving troops and service families, to reservists, veterans, and cadets. Everyone in Leeds is invited to participate and there is something to suit all tastes.

Highlights of the festival include talks and exhibitions hosted by Leeds Museums and Galleries; a special D-Day anniversary music and comedy show at City Varieties; an armed forces career event at Leeds and York Partnership NHS trust; and a special tour of the Thackray Museum of Medicine which served as a First World War military hospital.

Leeds Library Service will also hold a series of events to mark the festival, including exhibitions and lectures by local experts across various sites in Leeds, family history workshops, and a curated online gallery relating to the armed forces on the Leodis photography platform.

During the weekend of 8 and 9 June, the Royal Armouries will be hosting a free D-Day 80 weekend, filled with blank firing demonstrations, poignant performance pieces taken from first-hand accounts of those on the beaches of Normandy and technical talks surrounding the weapon development during the Second World War.

The festival will culminate in the main Armed Forces Day event on Sunday 30 June, packed with family-friendly activities, parades, stalls, exhibitions, and music. In a change to previous years, the flag-raising event which usually takes place the Saturday before Armed Forces Day will now take place on the day itself, adding to the pomp and ceremony.

The Lord Mayor Elect, Councillor Abigail Marshall Katung, said: “Leeds has a long history of supporting and celebrating our armed forces and this is a tradition I am keen to continue during my year as Lord Mayor.

“This year is special as we mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, so it is fitting that we expand what is traditionally a one-day event into a month-long festival that offers something for everyone.

“There are some exciting events. I am particularly looking forward to learning more about our rich armed forces history in the city, including the incredible Barnbow Lasses, who are set to be recognised with a Civic Hall inscription.

“The Armed Forces Festival will be an incredible way not only to say thank you to the men and women of the armed forces community for the work they undertake around the globe but also a fun and engaging day out for all the family.

“I would like to extend an invitation to everyone in Leeds and I look forward to seeing as many people at the different events as possible.”


 Notes for editors:

Up-to-date details of all the Armed Forces Festival events can be found at: https://www.millsqleeds.com/leeds-armed-forces-day/ 

Confirmed festival highlights include:

  • Throughout June, leodis.net will host an Armed Forces Day online curated gallery of images related to the armed forces in Leeds. Expect buildings, parades, and events from Leeds’s past. Find out more at: www.leodis.net
  • Throughout June Leeds Central Library will host an armed forces display featuring a range of unique and rare treasures related to the armed forces. No pre-booking is required.
  • 1 June – 6 July, Crossgates Library will host the Barnbow exhibition detailing how the munitions factory was set up during WWI by the Leeds Munitions Committee, answering the need for shells vital to the war effort. The workforce of 16,000, mostly women, covered three shifts over a 24-hour period, six days a week. Holidays were unheard of, and the TNT poison that turned the skin of the workers yellow gave the women the nickname ‘Barnbow Canaries’. This exhibition looks at the history of Barnbow including the details of the explosion that caused the deaths of 35 women and the greatest loss of life in Leeds. No pre-booking is required.
  • June 3 – June 29 Armley Library and Community Hub will host the Reflections of War exhibition, focused on Leeds’s contribution to WWI in this touring display inspired by collections held at Leeds Central Library. No pre-booking is required.
  • Throughout June, Leeds City Museum will host a free exhibition of items from its First and Second World War collections, with a particular emphasis on the home front, as a part of its Leeds Story Gallery. No pre-booking is required.
  • Tuesday, 4 June - ‘Stories of Leeds citizens serving in the First World War’ 1152 Club history and heritage talk for people aged 55 and over, with Kitty Ross, curator of Leeds & Social History at Leeds Museums & Galleries. Email: abbey.house@leeds.gov.uk for more details
  • Wednesday, June 5, at 3pm, Kippax Library will host, “What did Normandy July 1944 have to do with the Gascoigne’s gifting Lotherton to Leeds City Council?”. Stephanie Davies, Community Curator at Lotherton Hall, will talk about Douglas Gascoigne, Operation Blue Coat in Normandy July 1944 and why this event was pivotal to Sir Alvary Gascoigne gifting Lotherton Hall to Leeds City Council. No pre-booking is required.
  • Saturday, 8 June - Leeds City Varieties will host a special 80th anniversary of D-Day performance of the ‘Spirit of the Blitz’ show. Featuring music and comedy by legendary stars such as Vera Lynn, George Formby, Max Miller, and Gracie Fields, the show is a nostalgic tribute to those who kept us smiling through those dark days and recaptures the optimism of war-torn Britain. Find out more at: https://leedsheritagetheatres.com/whats-on/spirit-of-the-blitz-2024/
  • Monday, 10 June - MoD Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award holder, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust will hold two online sessions for people wanting to learn more about careers in mental health and learning disability care, and their support for the Armed Forces Community. LYPFT offers guaranteed interviews for those looking to transition from the military and runs a dedicated Reservist and CFAV policy. Two sessions are being hosted on Microsoft Teams (you only need to attend one) and no pre-booking is required:

10am-12pm: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_MGM3ODc5ZTAtMDE0YS00MjU2LTk4NGYtY2MyOGM5MDExMGMy%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%2237c354b2-85b0-47f5-b222-07b48d774ee3%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%22e44f8ecf-e696-4903-8a5b-18642b2af1e1%22%7d

3-5 pm: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_NjZmOWI1OTAtNTIwOC00YTJlLThmNzItZDdmNDY4ZmQ5ZDY5%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%2237c354b2-85b0-47f5-b222-07b48d774ee3%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%22e44f8ecf-e696-4903-8a5b-18642b2af1e1%22%7d

  • 12 June, 1.30 - 3.30pm, Leeds Central Library will host an armed forces-themed drop-in session, on local and family history. Attendees will be able to explore treasures from the Central Library collections, with a specific focus on military and armed forces-related material. This will include news cuttings, ephemera, photographs, memoirs, letters, and much more.  No pre-booking is required.
  • June 27, 2pm, Armley Library, librarian Josh Flint will be giving a local history talk looking at the history of battles and warfare in the Yorkshire area and based largely on collections and treasures held at Leeds Central Library.  Yorkshire has been the battleground for some of the bloodiest, most treacherous, and most vicious battles ever fought. The talk will discuss the importance of Yorkshire Battles from the 7th to the 20th Century and how they are represented in the Leeds Libraries collection.  No pre-booking is required.
  • Friday, 28 June, the Thackray Museum of Medicine will host a special tour entitled, ‘The Front Line: Medical Museum or War Hospital?’. Few know that during the First World War, the site of the Thackray Museum was the East Leeds War Hospital, treating soldiers wounded in Flanders and Gallipoli. The tour will be supplemented by contemporary photographs, poetry, and objects. The tour is included in the standard entry fee and anyone with valid armed forces identification can enjoy a 20% discount on entry, Friday 28 – Sunday 30 June. Online booking is available, or you can pay on the day. Each tour can accommodate 20 participants, so get there early. Find out more about the museum at: https://thackraymuseum.co.uk/
  • Royal Armouries D-Day 80 Weekend: The weekend will be filled with blank firing demonstrations, poignant performance pieces taken from first-hand accounts of those on the beaches of Normandy and technical talks surrounding the weapon development during the Second World War. https://royalarmouries.org/leeds/whats-on/d-day-weekend
  • Friday 5 July - Kitty Ross will present July’s Sociable History Club talk on ‘Stories of Leeds Citizens in the Second World War’, between 10:30 am – 12 noon, at Leeds City Museum. Sociable History Club is a series of free, monthly talks for adults, with guest speakers and a different theme each time held at Leeds City Museum and no pre-booking is required.


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Leeds City Council Communications team