Let it not be said that Millennium Square is a paved waste of space and council money surrounded by mercenary bars spilling over with brainless lads and clotheless lasses. It’s not. Since opening in, erm, the millennium, the square has provided a serene space to potter, bask and relax in an otherwise hectic city centre. The following year saw the beautiful adjoining Nelson Mandela Gardens opened by the loud-shirted man himself, who thought he was in Liverpool. Since then, a string of ingenious events have provided us Loiners the chance to have some great days and nights and put some money back into the project. Music gigs, art exhibitions, theatre, fashion shows, sport screenings and food tasting are some of the impressive showcases staged at Millennium Square, all with huge success. The most successful of all returns winter after winter: Christkindelmarkt aka The German Market.
Friday, 5:05pm, mid-November: I am two of thousands upon thousands of feet clomping hurriedly up The Headrow. Offices and staff-rooms across Leeds descending from all sides, eyes bulging, mouths shrieking, tummies rumbling. For tonight, 11 months later, the city comes together for a previously unknown mutual love of sausage, steins, mulled wine and oompah. The anticipation is palpable.
Within minutes, I have queued for a spicy sausage, put too much pressure on the ketchup dispenser, queued for a cheese sausage, put too much pressure on the mustard dispenser, wiped mustard excess off with a paper towel, demolished a spicy sausage and too much ketchup sandwich, and demolished a cheese sausage, mustard and paper towel sandwich. I’ve injured my girlfriend on the dodgems, perused the lovely stalls, laughed at mullets and been told I’m too old for the merry-go-round. Things are going well and can only improve with a massive jug of overpriced German lager next to roaring drunks watching an aged hirsute brass band.
Fifty minutes later, I am two of hundreds of feet standing miserably still, way away from our holy grail, outside the mockingly named Walkabout. Queuing and waiting. Tummies bulging, mouths rumbling, eyes shrieking. Waiting and queuing. One in one out. Only another eighty to go I reckon. Only no-one’s leaving. Another couple of joy-sapped call-centre staff trundle off towards The Cuthbert Broderick. Only another seventy-eight to go I reckon.
I am sitting in the window of Wetherspoons with an underpriced pint of German lager, a wooden rocking horse, 3ft of salami, a reindeer rug, 45 chocolate marshmallows and a toilet roll holder of a man pooing. People outside shiver with broken hopes, from the bierkeller to the exit and beyond. The group of booming louts to my right cheer or jeer, it’s hard to tell, as another pint goes tumbling over. The evening has disintegrated into a din of wordless noises; yelps and grunts, wahays and woahs. I smile at the moustachioed old gentleman to my left carrying a trombone case as he rinses his bangers & mash down with a gulp of English ale. Sir, the city is waiting for you.