May 20, 2024

Independent Food and Drink Academy launch their first forum: ‘Leeds: Past, Present and Progress’  

Starting today (Tuesday 25 April), Leeds’ Independent Food and Drink Academy (IFDA) will launch a season of four forum events designed to assist the small businesses and SMEs of Leeds’ food and drink industry.

Carefully designed by Thom Hetherington, forums will be for members and non-members alike, offering professional insight, guidance and direction in the food and drink industry from some of the field’s leading UK experts. Topics will be as broad as capitalising on tech innovation, strategising for future-proof business development and looking at the past and future of Leeds’ food and drink scene.

The first forum, entitled ‘Leeds: Past, Present and Progress’, will be hosted by The Tetley on Tuesday 25 April from 4-8pm and will feature in the inaugural Leeds International Festival. All forums will be free to members, or £25 each for non-members.

Bella Gamsu, IFDA lead, says: “We are thrilled to be launching the next phase of the IFDA and extending our membership benefits through the forum events. Working with Thom to create the forums has continued our industry-focussed activity and we feel that we are creating events that directly respond to what our members want and need from our membership. We fully support the independent food and drink scene in the Leeds city region and hope that our members and the wider food and drink sector will find real benefit from the wealth of knowledge and practical advice that will unfold from our conversations with our handpicked industry panel.”

Thom Hetherington, Consultant to IFDA, says: “We felt that with the IFDA Forums it would have been too easy for the events to turn into simple cheerleading, focusing on what Leeds does well, but ultimately changing nothing. Instead we knew that we needed to make a disruptive statement with this first forum, by taking a very honest look about where Leeds currently sits in a broader context, and yes highlighting what it does well, but also focusing on where it could learn or improve.

“So IFDA Forum 1 – ‘LEEDS: PAST, PRESENT AND PROGRESS’ is about combining an honest perspective on where Leeds is, with ideas and inspiration from a top-class panel as to where its aims, aspiration and ambition should be. I think it’s a quality of panel and discussion that attendees wouldn’t get anywhere else, and it’s the first step to unlocking the talent and potential of the city’s burgeoning community of indie food and drink operators.”

Andrew Cooper, Chair of Leeds International Festival and Chief Executive of LeedsBID (Leeds Business Improvement District) which is funding the festival, said: “Independent food and drink play an important economic role in the city’s regional, national and international offer, which is reflective in its inclusion in the new Leeds International Festival.

“LeedsBID, which financially supports the IFDA in collaboration with Leeds Beckett and Leeds City Council, is delighted to see this initiative continuing its great work to strengthen the reputation and profile of the sector in the city.”


The first forum will focus on Leeds itself. To enable the further growth of its innovative and pioneering food scene, the city must be honest about limiting factors as well as being aware of its strengths, achievements and opportunities. It must also benchmark against comparable cities at home and abroad to analyse progress and continue to inspire and innovate.

The forum will address questions like:

  • What are Leeds’ Unique Selling Points?
  • Who or what are the key organisations/individuals in the local food and drink ecology?
  • Where is Leeds going?
  • What does Leeds need and where are the opportunities for food and drink entrepreneurs?

After the event, the lobby will be open for drinks until 11pm.


Josh Nesbitt – Hey! Stac


Jamie Campbell, CGA Peach;

Lucy Noone, Allied London;

Martin Wolstencroft, Arc Inspiration.

Tuesday 25 April

The Tetley, Hunslet Road LS10 1JQ

The next three forums are all to be revealed but will feature on the following themes:

    Tuesday 27 June;
    Tuesday 5 September
    Tuesday 17 October

Each forum costs £25 for non-members. Full IFDA membership costs £100, the cost of all four events. To become a member and get all four events for free, visit

The forums are free to members – members simply enter their code once they select the ticket.

Thom Hetherington was a founding member of the PPA award-winning Restaurant magazine, and the 50 Best Restaurants in the World awards. CEO of Holden Media, he creates nationally renowned events to celebrate the food scene in the North of the UK, and has recently been appointed as advisor to the IFDA.

The IFDA provides a unique service to small independent enterprises, from street food traders through to established small businesses, offering advice, support and training to help their businesses grow. Developed and delivered by industry experts, the Academy is a joint partnership with Leeds Beckett University and Leeds City Council. The Academy’s objective is to help to professionalise, sustain and grow the independent food and drink sector in the Leeds city region by providing a blend of contextualised learning and development opportunities.

Leeds International Festival 2017 runs Saturday 22 April – Sunday 30 April 2017.