Charles Engwell

All we have is time. Time to live, enjoy and love. Here is what I love.

Voices of Leeds: Kirkgate Market.

The Market Front - Charles Engwell

The Market Front – Charles Engwell

Europe’s largest indoor market. Not a bad claim to fame. The Leeds Kirkgate market has seen a lot since it was first built in 1857: It has survived German bombs during World War II and rose from the smouldering remains of a terrific fire that destroyed almost two-thirds of the halls in 1975. It has remained strong, stood tall and passed the test of time. However, with the new £300 million pound Trinity Centre opening it’s doors just a few hundred metres away and the new Eastgate Quarter being brought into development, has Leeds had enough of Market stalls and set its sights on designer brands and high street style instead. This is the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’ after all.

After years of deliberation, heartache and toil between vendors and the management plans are now being drawn up for a £12.3 million revamp of the market. Included in the proposal are plans for roof repairs, new signage and performance and entertainment space. It sounds like a well deserved investment for a historic and treasured part of Leeds culture – so let’s see what people have to say. Let’s hear the voices that really matter: The voices of Leeds.


Thatcher: The Leeds reaction.

Protest in Millenium Square

In a wet and miserable Millennium Square, in the shadows of the Leeds city council building, where meetings had been cancelled out of respect, few stood to commemorate Lady Thatcher’s funeral. Of those that did only two were there for peaceful protest. Neither men wanted to be named however were more than happy to be photographed. One man draped in a multi coloured flag was there representing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights group (LGBT). Raising awareness of Thatcher’s stance on homosexuality he had the words ‘Section 28’ around his neck. Section 28 of the Local Government Act was brought into power during Thatcher’s government. The act stated: ‘Local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.”Second class citizen” was a repeated saying as the LGBT representative spoke, saying:

“It was appealed in 2003 but the ramifications were such that many people led heterosexual lives because they felt it was right. Many then came out in favour of homosexual lives when they could and had to walk away from the lives they new.”

The gentleman talked about a viral video on YouTube where Lady Thatcher gives an anti-gay speech at the Conservative Party Conference, Blackpool in 1987.

The full transcript can be read here.

He went on to say: “She would have had us sitting on the back of the bus if she could have, that is the person I hate to say she was.”

The representative of the LGBT may have been alone today in Leeds but his message was echoed with loud voices on the streets of London where thousands gathered on the streets. The LGBT community in London was out in force and their message and anger towards section 28 was clear. They wore red and turned their backs to the coffin.

Ian Mckellen has been quoted this week in the Mirror as saying that Thatcher “misjudged the future.” with her views. The Shakespearean actor, well known for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, said in his blog yesterday:

“Lest we forget, this nasty, brutish and short measure of the third Thatcher administration, was designed to slander homosexuality, by prohibiting state schools from discussing positively gay people and our ‘pretended family relations’.”

Also protesting in the square was a man representing the Northern Republican Association For Northern Independence. He was simply there to fly the White Rose flag of Leeds. His pride was on show and he was happy to “feel the freedom of the flag.”


Hardly anyone turned out to watch the live BBC stream in full, in Millennium Square, but many stopped and stood for a few moments at a time to catch a glimpse of the proceedings – the absence of the people speaks far greater than the angry shouts of any protest could today. Nick Arnold, a business owner from Oxford, who was visiting Leeds for the day with his son, stopped to watch Lady Thatcher’s coffin being taken from St Paul’s Cathedral to its final resting place. He said he was not a Tory by any stretch of the imagination but he did have this to say:

“I’ve come to Leeds for the first time forever and I’m blown away by Leeds city centre, it is very impressive… What I am trying to say is the money…You always think of the north as the impoverished north, where Thatcher destroyed the mining and the mining areas… The unions had far too much power. She didnt destroy the unions, infact they had already destroyed themselves and she just stood up to them. She did good things but she also made a lot of bad decisions.”

He finished by saying that he did not think the state funeral was necessary and the spending was definitely not in the public interest, especially in times of hardship and tough economy.

The reception in Leeds was flat and bleak just like the day that it was greeted by. Unlike London which came to a stand still, while Margaret Thatchers coffin was drawn by gun carriage, the north did not. Thatcher will forever be engrained in its history and many will try to forgot however lots will want everyone to remember.

Charles Engwell

Further Audio and commentary to follow.

FAQ: Boston Marathon

The Second Explosion. Photo: DAN LAMPARIELLO/DOBSONS

The Second Explosion. Photo: Dan Lampariello/Dobsons

“Limbs bloodied and their eyes vacant, shattered glass and a lot of blood.” – An eyewitness’s account of the Boston Marathon bombings describing the bodies on the street.

Little is known about why this happened and who is responsible, but investigations are fully underway to reveal the cause and the reason why two explosions ripped through the heart of Boston on Patriot’s day during the 117th annual marathon.

What happened?

Three people have been killed and over 144 have been injured in the attack on the city. It has now been confirmed that one of the blasts has taken the life of an eight-year-old boy named Martin Richard, from the Dorchester neighborhood of the city. His mother and sister have also been seriously wounded.

At approximately 14:50 local time (18:50 GMT) an explosion occurred next to the finish line on Boylston Street just two hours after the winners had crossed the line. Moments later a second explosion tore into the street about 50 – 100 meters down from the initial blast, causing even more carnage. The first explosion was caught on video and is being circulated around the web courtesy of the Boston Globe. Five devices in total were found; including the two that exploded – teams completed a thorough search of the area.

Who is to blame?

As it stands little is known about the perpetrators behind the vicious attacks and no group has come forward claiming responsibility. What is known so far though is that the FBI has taken over co-ordination of what it described as a “potential terrorist inquiry”. The FBI has searched the fifth floor of an apartment block in the city in connection with the bombings and a ‘person of interest’ is being closely guarded in hospital after being injured in the blast and is said to be connected with the flat in question.The person is said not to be a suspect.

What was the Government Reaction?

President Barack Obama addressed the United States people after being briefed by Homeland Security on the events that unfolded. In a stern and strong address Obama confirmed that an investigation was already underway involving the FBI, CIA and all major local law enforcement. Obama declared swift and absolute action in finding those responsible.

“We will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this,” he said.
“Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.”

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement:

“My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured…Our focus is on making sure that the area around Copley Square is safe and secured. I am asking everyone to stay away from Copley Square and let the first responders do their jobs.”

What has the public reaction been like?

The outcry from the American people and from others all over the world has been huge. Social media sites blew up with reaction and commentary while the days events unfolded. It was not just the emergency service personnel who showed extreme bravery and heroism but all of those who were caught up in the horror. Twitter provided a window onto the streets, as they stood shattered and chaotic after the attack. Bruce Mendelsohn was an eyewitness sitting in an office above the scene at the time the explosions and his first on accounts show the gruesome outcome of the blast.

Twitter Reaction

Twitter Reaction

Social media has been flooded with reaction and as you can see from the picture below the Bostonian people have blown up twitter and the world is watching.
Hashtag screen shot.

How will this affect the London Marathon this coming weekend?

“The bombings in Boston are shocking, cowardly and horrific, and the thoughts of all Londoners this morning will be with the victims,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a statement Tuesday.

Security concerns are now obvious and the security plans for this weekends London Marathon have been reviewed but it has been confirmed by the Metropolitan Police that the London Marathon will still go ahead as planned.

The chief executive of the marathon Nick Bitel said:

“We want to reassure our runners, spectators, volunteers and everyone connected with the event that we are doing everything to ensure their safety.”

With over 500,000 spectators expected to turn out to watch the 26 mile marathon which takes over the streets of London security will be stronger than ever and all precautions possible will be taken.

Leeds food blogs: Helping people to eat smarter.

Leeds City Market. Photo by Lukasz Koziol.

Leeds City Market. Photo by Lukasz Koziol.

Food blogging is an understated art. If done just right, like a fine Manet painting, it may be controversial but will surpass your expectation and leave you wanting to explore and find more. If done wrong it can be catastrophic for any restaurant and the reader. The internet is a digital mezze of food blogs and many need to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, certain blogs, the crème de la crème, manage to find the right balance and work as a vital tool for the public in a more competitive, and in recent years, struggling economy. These are the good food writers. They help us all eat better and make smarter culinary decisions.

Market research conducted by Mintel, a leading market research company has shown that by the end of 2013 the restaurant sector in the UK is expected to be worth £7.8 billion. That is a huge figure, especially as this does not take pubs and fast food vendors into account. It is clear to see we are a nation that loves to dine out. It is expected that with this growth, consumers will be eating out more and more frequently but be very prudent with how much money they spend.

It seems then that food writing and indeed blogging is now needed more than ever and is going to become ever more important in raising awareness of the best restaurants and culinary experiences for everyone, at the best possible prices.

In the city of Leeds there is a wonderful up and coming underground scene of bloggers dedicated to revealing their passions for food through delightful descriptions of their own personal tastes coupled with razor sharp opinions, that allow everyone to see what the city has to offer. It is a hyperlocal food advice bureau.

Surprisingly, despite tight budgets, students in Leeds are amongst the most common writers, with the number one food blog on Leeds List currently being written by Helen Simpson, a PR alumni from Leeds Metropolitan University. Helen uses a quirky and quite informal manner of speaking to describe all of her restaurant visits; sometimes using far too many complicated words, yet offering a lovely insight into a sometimes indulgent student diet.

“I can understand why some people may feel slightly uncomfortable or out of place in Gaucho as it could be seen to some as a little pretentious (an observation a couple have friends have shared), however it’s the perfect place for confident, smartly dressed, food loving professionals. I’m pleased we had an occasion to go and I absolutely plan on returning.” – Helen Simpson.

Another successful blog is Northern Food. This blog does not just focus specifically on Leeds but West Yorkshire as a whole. The insight on Leeds however is wonderful and the writer, Dave from Sheffield, is helping keep older traditions alive in Leeds. Many of the posts on his blog talk about the hidden gems of Kirkgate Market. It opens up a wonderful window into the market, as well as focussing on specific eating experiences that can be found under the roof. Everyone is able to see the different cultures that inhabit the halls; including – Caribbean and Thai and Chinese. Kirkgate market has seen a rise in small ‘pop up’ restaurants and with a Ministry of Food it is a treasure trove of delights. There is a food world microcosm being created under one roof and it is thanks to bloggers, like Dave, that everyone can know about it.

Another essential ingredient in the Leeds food ‘blogosphere’ are the writers who take it upon themselves to cook and review recipes in their own homes, like the author of Squeeze of Lemon, who finds inspiration from visiting restaurants in and around Leeds and recreating recipes at home. A great example are home made gyoza inspired by a visit to Fuji Hero in Leeds. This is a very clever way of publicising restaurants as well as empowering people to cook in there homes.

Bloggers are here to advise, criticise and inspire – after all; bloggers, chefs and restauranteurs alike all do it for one reason: the love of food.

With the range of cuisine that the world has to offer and with countless Chinese, Indian, Italian and Thai restaurants on every street corner the world needs to encourage the food blog or may get lost without it. Everyone should read and help to make this art a masterpiece because it will become crucial to people who need to save money, who want to be inspired or learn to cook and most importantly of all – people who want to enjoy the millions of tastes the culinary world has to offer.

Mr. Chow: A meal not to be forgotten.

Mr. Chow – Knightsbridge, London. 14th February 2013.

I love food. It probably excites me more than most other things in the world. Whenever I hear rumor, speculation or first hand accounts of brilliant restaurant experiences, I always want to be the next person to get my taste buds tingling over these culinary delights. While growing up I have been told numerous tales, by my father, about a wonderful Chinese restaurant, in the heart of central London, called Mr. Chow. A restaurant that he frequently took clients to and personally loved over the many years that he worked in London.

First opened on Valentines Day 1968, Mr. Chow prides itself on providing authentic Beijing cuisine. Over the years they have expanded overseas, with prominent locations in – Miami, Beverly Hills and New York City.

For me after years of being told tales of the magnificent food and the celebration that is the service, I quite naturally have always wanted to go and experience the wonders of Mr. Chow.

I have never been so disappointed with a dining experience in my life. Having amassed this fantastic image in my head and then being brought to sheer frustration and near anger made the evening very disappointing.

We decided to book a table on the 14th of February 2013 as part of my Fathers birthday celebrations. Being Valentines day and the anniversary of the restaurant opening we thought we would be in for a treat and with a £70 a head set menu it seemed like it would be a perfect birthday treat to remember. It certainly was memorable. It certainly was unforgettable but not for the spine tingling reasons I thought it would be and I will never be returning.

It begins…

With the table being available for 2 hours we (my parents and I) arrived very promptly and were the first sitting down in the restaurant, bar a few lonely souls hoping not be stood up on Valentines night. The welcome was lovely with a few laughs and exchange of smiles between our party and the Maître d’.  Once sitting we were given water and the wine list to browse before being handed a laminated A4 menu with our choices for dinner.

The service at this point was very formal but still presented itself as friendly and warming. We started by ordering wine: a very lovely, crisp and delicious bottle of Chablis and then our food order was also taken. Now the menu had a feast of different options to choose from; Dumplings, Scallops, Satay, Lobster, Chicken, Prawns, Sea bass, Beef and everything and more you would expect to see on a Chinese restaurants menu. There was nothing spectacular that stood out and nothing that seemed unique or worthy of the Mr. Chow reputation.

We decided to play it safe with the main course and all of the family decided to order Lobster for a main course, this was also the most appertising meal on the menu. We ordered this along with a selection of Satay, Scallop Dumplings and Pork Frites for our first course. The waiter that was taking our order, who was very charming, suggested that we not all order the Lobster, as there would be more than enough to share between the three of us. We agreed with his confident suggestion and finished our order and proceeded to get very excited about the meal that was about to come which now included some delicious sounding Prawns and Sea bass. This is unfortunately where it all started to go wrong.

First course.

When the starters arrived it was obvious that the purpose of the restaurant staff was to get the food out as fast as they could and to clear away the dishes as soon as that last bite hit the roof of our mouths. Our first dish of three, my mothers Satay, arrived at the table and was uninspiring to say the least. It was two pieces of very white chicken, on skewers, coated in a dull looking off white ‘Satay’ sauce. This was brought alone and we had to wait another 5 or so minutes before the other two starters were brought to our table. The satay, that tasted very bland although still of peanut, due to its puny size was finished when the Pork and the Dumplings arrived. These were both also very disappointing, not consisting of much and lacking in any depth of taste or flare. The rushed nature of delivery and the far than appealing dishes left us all a little disgruntled after the first course concluded.

With the wine now flowing a lot faster as the conversation moved towards our disappointment at the first course we decided that the second course was the ‘make or break’ and should show the true colours of any restaurant. As it stood the best was yet to come.

Second course.

The main course, apart from a small helping of what was supposedly ‘luxurious fried rice’ cannot be described as anything other than not very Chinese at all.

The first thing that was too evident was the portion size. Small silver dishes that you would expect to see in your every day, run of the mill, Indian restaurant carried lackluster portions of Lobster, Prawns and Sea bass. There was no grandeur or celebration about any of it. It once again felt rushed and as food unappreciated. Food should be celebrated, as of course that is why every customer was there, to enjoy the food.

The Lobster was more shell than meat and we felt like birds of prey picking an already ravaged carcass, yet what we did manage to pick clean had a very smooth, silky and well cooked taste and texture. The, very small, Sea bass was bland and had no real character with a very basic Chinese flavour. The Prawns, on the other hand, were actually delicious and were cooked in a green curry paste with lots of spice and flavor. They had a lovely texture and flavors that grew the longer you were eating them – by far the best part of the meal, yet it did not make up for the overall experience we were having. Unfortunately it was time to say something.

The confrontation.

In the normal world if you were not happy with the quality of something or the service you are receiving while separating with a large amount of money, it is natural to complain and demand quality. In Mr. Chow apparently they do not look upon this at all too well.

Nobody ever came back to ask if we were enjoying our meal so very discreetly, and to the delight of my parents, I walked to the concierge desk and approached the Maître d’. He was happy to hear about the problems and a slightly wine driven explanation about the importance of the restaurant and the expectations we had.

The response I received was not at all pleasing. Instead of taking the reigns and suggesting a solution to the problem, he did the number one fatal thing and asked, “What do you want me to do?” He did so in a very patronizing tone as if I had trapped him into a corner.  He acted like a naughty schoolboy who had just been caught out. He suggested bringing a few more dishes out, but I had to remind him that even if he did this it still would not justify the large £280 plus bill we would be presented with at the end. It just did not feel worth it.

I suggested to him that Mr. Chow discount our bill appropriately and only charge us for 1 set meal and the wine. I felt even this was less than what they should do, however it was a starting point.  In the response to this the Maitre d’ walked off, raised his arms and exhaled with a loud tone while shaking his head. He reminded me of a child.

After a long a fully circular conversation I returned to my seat. At no point did any members of the staff come to our table and apologise or ask if we were okay. We were not then offered any more drinks and had a pre ordered desert placed on our table.  After managing a few bites we were offered coffee and tea for an extra £10 per person. This for me was the final straw. It showed me that the restaurant was only interested in making money and not looking after the customer, which is the most vitally important thing in the restaurant trade. They simply did not care.

After a final, frustrating, conversation with the Maître d’ we received our bill and ended up paying for one set meal and the wine. We left the restaurant unhappy and not satisfied with the resolution or how our entire meal was managed.

What I think.

When you eat out at a restaurant you go for an experience. You pay for the luxury, no matter how big or small, and always want to be treated with respect. At Mr. Chow there was none of that. There was no ceremony or spectacle to behold and everything just seemed mediocre. For its premium location and matching price, something went very wrong and it seems that years of tradition have gone to waste. If that wasn’t enough, the customer relations were appalling and after a very inadequate meal and service I am amazed they did not try desperately to salvage any hope of keeping a reputation alive.

It is sad to see that simple good food and pleasant, friendly, attentive customer service is being neglected and substituted for overpricing and bad quality, simply to buy a seat in a luxury address among people who are sometimes naïve enough to spend money on something that quite simply does not deserve it.

A take on being weird

A take on being weird

I love this.

Hello world!

‘Hello world!’ What an appropriate, preconceived Word Press title. All users are obviously given this title as a default but I wonder how many people who are starting blogs actually choose to keep it.

I have had a great day today at university and have become more motivated than ever, with the idea that my course and the opportunities that lay ahead of me could actually lead to a creative, fun, extensive and exciting career. This is why I have chosen to keep my blog title as ‘Hello world!’ This is the start of what I am hoping will become a scrap book for me to collect my thoughts, ideas and general feelings about life in and the path I choose to take through it.

My excitement today was fuelled by my Course leader and News Writing module tutor, who gave a speech that I wouldn’t say was, overly inspirational or full of hope and dreams. There was no idealistic vision of where anyone embarking on my course should end up, however, he was just convincing. Speaking with experience and sincerity that showed me his genuine excitement for Journalism. This is what got me energised and re-charged, thinking that I can now take on the world. What a great feeling to have.

It is not just me that should feel this way. Anybody undertaking a course in any subject, in any school, in any country has this mind blowing opportunity to succeed and make a difference in their lives. I hope this doesn’t sound too dreamy or like an attempt to be profound. I just think we’re lucky. There are millions of people that do not have the luck or even the chances that we do. Not just in our educational opportunities but in our quality of life in general. It is not something we should throw away. For all these things we should be very grateful and thankful. Be happy and embrace every second of it.

So today I have been very pro-active in my new sense of being and opportunity. I thought: lets make something happen. I have sent emails, letters and filled out applications. I am hoping my endeavours will pay off and my portfolio will start to grow and my contacts book become filled to the brim. Hopefully I will start to connect and be involved with all matters of current affairs. It sounds challenging, but today my confidence has been boosted and I feel like I can do it. Hope is a great word.

Hopefully if my world media domination plan pays off then this blog will not be all about me, but about everything that interests me and everything that affects my world. It will not be a short and sharp reflection of my immediate feelings that Twitter is, which claims more and more slanderous casualties everyday, but something where I can showcase how I write and what I want to write about. I would also like people to read this and think that they can do the same. Not necessarily in the same way as me or in the same field but just have a genuine want to succeed in life and make the most of all these fantastic opportunities we all share. I want to give people thoughts of their own possibilities.

So as I say, ‘Hello world!’ I welcome you into my world and hope that if you ever find yourself coming across these pages as they float through the vast wilderness of the internet amongst other pages, sites and blogs, that you stop, read, and ultimately get a good feeling from what you see.

Thanks 🙂 Charles

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