Every week there are new restaurants and bars opening up in Leeds, but this particular opening caught my eye. The name alone sparked my attention; The Weather Cafe, and after further research it appeared that there was more to this cafe than meets the eye…
The Weather Cafe is not just a cafe, it’s also a public art installation created by artist David Shearing, featuring the voices of over 100 people living and connecting with Leeds. When you enter you become part of the installation too. As the name suggests the theme is weather and how it affects us (and for us British folk, this is our favourite subject), as David’s website explains:
“Inspired by the weather conditions of the moment, the sound responds to the shifting winds, the rising and falling humidity and the visibility of the sky – the space becomes its own digital microclimate.”
Upon on entering it’s a feast for all the senses; touch, taste, smell and sound. There’s a thick carpet of grass which meets you at the door and runs throughout the cafe, offering you the sense and smell of rainy summer days that this wonderful island is known for. Watch out for the rain too, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of jars to collect the falling drops! There’s also a display of what appears to be scientific experiments depicting air/pollution levels and temperature gauges. Against another wall old televisions play scenes of clouds and birds flying in the sky, which all fit with the weather playing out inside the cafe.
Take a seat at one of the wooden tables and you will be offered three things; a menu, a set of headphones and a booklet. Choose your tea wisely and depending on your mood maybe try Noon Grey, Lingering Fog or Fresh Breeze? I opted for Yorkshire Clouds; a strong, bold tea, a perfect pick me up after a morning rushing around the city. Whilst enjoying your tea pop on your headphones and take time to listen to the stories told by the local people of Leeds, recorded over the past three months, covering subjects such as the weather, money, illness, personalities and even death. I noted that these stories made me feel human again, that everyone goes through tough times and whatever you may be feeling at that particular moment, there is someone else going through it too.
The space is small and intimate and perfectly submerges you within the elements. It’s great fun too to experience the weather indoors. The lights brighten then dim to reflect the sun. There’s sporadic burst of fog, and those fans in the corner? … it can get a bit breezy! All this happens whilst a melodic soundtrack plays in the background, perfectly suiting the mood of the weather at that moment. Listen, feel and immerse yourself.
At the end of your experience you’re invited to write down how you feel, mapping it out on a graph, and I can guarantee you’ll notice that you feel a lot calmer and rested than you did when entering the cafe. I urge anyone to visit The Weather Cafe and be part of the experience that David has created, you won’t regret it.
The Weather Cafe is on The Headroom, opposite the Art Gallery, 1st – 20th March 2016