About Jewel of Yorkshire Bellydance Festival

A short history of our Festival

Mandy and Chris organised the first Jewel of Yorkshire Festival back in 2004. Their aim was to provide a weekend of workshops, with high-quality teachers, from around the world, at a reasonable price. Bellydance, as a style of dance, had really taken off in the 1990’s and there was a great hunger for more knowledge from students. But most events were down south. So, using Victoria Hall, a grade II listed building in a World Heritage Site, Saltaire, they started what would become a very successful festival.

The format quickly established itself. Workshops in the rooms at Victoria Hall on Saturday and Sunday, with a souk and café in the Main Hall to ensure that students had somewhere comfortable between sessions. A Teachers Show on the Saturday evening and a Student Showcase on the Friday night to complete the experience.

In the early years there were two festivals a year. Nowadays the demand has reduced and this has changed to one, in October. Up to 2019 Chris and Mandy have run 26 JoY’s (as the events have come to be known) and have kept going through thick and thin. Even the eruption, in 2010, of a volcano in Iceland that grounded European flights didn’t stop the event – thanks to the teachers who managed to make it to the UK, or lived here, stepping up and stepping in to ensure that the students were not disappointed.

Only Covid-19 has managed to stop the event. As big events were banned we put the Festival on hold; happy to do our bit to help prevent the spread of the virus. We have missed two years now but hope to be able to restart in 2022, all being well.

The Festival Activities

The Workshops

We run around 35 to 40 workshops at each JoY. This is dependent on the rooms available at the time. Victoria Hall is linked to Shipley College and the rooms are sometimes changed to suit the needs of the students. But we usually have 5 or 6 rooms available over the weekend, which means we can put on a good choice of workshops for each time slot. Long workshops are usually around 2 hours, and short ones for 1 hour. We allow a 15 minute interval between each workshop so you will not be having to rush to your next one. Just enough time to pick up a coffee in the café! We limit the numbers in each workshop, however popular they are. There is a set number of tickets and when they are gone, well they’re gone.

The Shows

Since the very start of JoY we have run a show on Saturday evening. This gives the students a chance to see their teachers performing, and we sometimes include teachers who are due to give workshops at the next festival. This show is not intended to be like a professional stage show. The stage at Victoria Hall is not a full theatre stage, and we would have to bring the teachers over a couple of weeks in advance for rehearsals to take place – which is simply not affordable. But we have found that the Saturday Show never fails to please as there is always something for each watcher to enjoy. Ideally you should buy a ticket for this Show when you make your booking. To control numbers in Victoria Hall we do not sell tickets on the night.

We were asked to provide some entertainment for those students who travel to the event on the Friday. After experimenting with a number of formats we have ended up with a Student Showcase. Anyone who is a student at JoY (by which we mean they have booked for at least one workshop) can ask to perform in this show. When we start taking bookings for the upcoming JoY we put out a message saying that students can apply. The applications arrive very quickly after that! When you book for the JoY weekend you can buy a ticket for the Student Showcase; and there is a bonus! Access to the Student Showcase also means you will get first look at the Souk!

The Souk and Cafe

We make the Main Hall of the building over to our café and souk. We decided when planning the first JoY that there needed to be a central area where people could meet, relax, and chat between workshops. The café and souk remain open most of the day and we make no charge for entry. Enjoy a tea, coffee or soft drink, have a snack or light meal, or just some chocolate to keep you going. Then wander the souk where you will find a wide range of oriental and tribal-style items suitable for everyone’s budget. On the Sunday we run a ‘left luggage’ service on the stage. You can leave your travelling bags here, at no cost, and we will watch over them for you instead of having to drag them around from workshop to workshop. We cannot run this service on Saturday as the stage is set up for the show, we do not have spare staff to look after your bags, and there is no other suitable area to leave bags without causing an obstruction.

Our Venue

Victoria Hall, Saltaire

We are lucky to be able to use Victoria Hall in Saltaire, near Leeds and Bradford, as our venue. It has the perfect combination of facilities in a wonderful Grade II listed building. Built in 1871 by Titus Salt, a Yorkshire mill owner, as part of his ‘model village’ for his workers it was described at the time as a ‘centre for recreation, culture and learning’.

It features a variety of different sized rooms we can use for workshops and a large Main Hall where we can set up an extensive souk and café. There is a small stage, originally intended for piano recitals and educational lectures, but which is just big enough for performances.

Remember, the address of Victoria Hall is different from the address you may have posted your booking to. If you go to the postal address all you will find is a terrace house! There is also another Victoria Hall in Keighley – Mer Majesty must have been a very popular Queen! The address of our Victoria Hall is …

Victoria Hall, Victoria Road, Saltaire, BD18 3JS

How to Get There

Parking and public transport information

Saltaire and Surrounding Area

The immediate streets around Victoria Hall are the houses that Titus Salt built for his workers. Down Victoria Street, towards the river, lies Salt’s Mill and New Mill. Salt’s Mill is free to visit and now contains a restaurant, bookshop, antiques shop and some historical displays. It also contains many of David Hockney’s artworks. There is a local railway station, Saltaire, near the mills that brings you within a five minute walk of our venue. Up Victoria Street takes you to local shops and restaurants.

There are some small car parks in Saltaire around Victoria Hall but it is in the middle of a residential area and most of the streets around the hall are Resident Parking only. Your best option may be to get a taxi from your hotel or B&B where you can be dropped off, or picked up, right outside the building.

Talking of hotels, if you need to make a search then use the keywords Saltaire or Shipley for the location. There are quite a few small B&B’s and family Hotels in the area, and several chain Hotels. All within a short taxi ride, or – in the case of the Ibis Hotel on the Quayside, Salts Mill Rd, Shipley BD18 3ST that we know is popular with JoY students – there is a path by the canal that is a pleasant walk on a sunny day from this hotel to Salt’s Mill and Victoria Hall.

© 2021 Jewel of Yorkshire Festival.

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