Leeds, 1970s-80s | Photographs by Peter Mitchell

“I’ve been a fan of Peter Mitchell since I first saw his photograph of Mr. & Mrs. Hudson outside their newsagents in Seacroft, Leeds, in 1974. It is a brilliant image that is part of Peter’s body of work documenting Leeds from the 1970s onwards.”

Colour Photography

Peter’s striking images were an essential part of the colour documentary scene in the seventies and eighties and often featured shopkeepers and factory workers outside their places of work. I was interested in talking to Peter about his days back then and how he came to photograph the changing face of the city which he now calls home.

Mr & Mrs Hudson. Leeds, 1970s.
Mr & Mrs Hudson outside their Newsagents. Seacroft, Leeds, 1974.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.


Born in Hope Hospital, Salford, in 1943, Peter lived briefly in the North West before relocating with his family to London during the 1950s. He grew up in Catford and attended Hornsey College of Art. Following a brief period working as a trainee travel agent for Thomas Cook, he worked for a number of years in the Civil Service as a draftsman. Later, he found steady employment as a graphic designer.


Peter moved to Leeds in 1972, into the house in Chapeltown where he still lives and works today. Whilst having a stint working as a delivery driver around the city, he started to photograph the shops, houses, and factories that didn’t have long before they were to be demolished – or “goners,” as Peter referred to them.

Sir Yanks Records & Heavy Disco. Leeds, 1970s.
Sir Yank's Records (& Heavy Disco). Leeds, 1976.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

After posting one of Peter’s images on our Instagram page, it sparked a debate about the image being photoshopped. The image in question was taken in Leeds in 1983, showing a derelict row of terraced houses on Elford Place with the words “Rave On” daubed across its walls.

 “I’m a Buddy Holly fan, that’s why I took it. The single Rave On was released in 1958, it’s one of my favourite Buddy Holly tracks!”.

Rave On

The argument among some is that the term ‘Rave On’ didn’t originate until the acid house and rave explosion in the late 80s. I did my best to explain that it was popularised during the rock and roll and jazz eras of the 1950s. When I caught up with Peter, he found this hilarious. “I’m a Buddy Holly fan, that’s why I took it. The single ‘Rave On’ was released in 1958, and it’s one of my favorite Buddy Holly tracks!”

Rave On. Elford Terrace, Leeds, 1983.
Rave On. Elford Place, Leeds, 1983.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Alan Bennett

Peter told me a story about a recent meeting he had with the playwright Alan Bennett. “I attended an exhibition in London, but due to the event’s large scale, I felt a bit out of sorts. It was blazing hot, and everyone was sweating, so I decided to step outside for some fresh air. I had a copy of my book, Strangely Familiar, with me, and since I used to live in Camden, I had an idea where Alan Bennett lived.”

Primrose Hill

“I made my way to Primrose Hill and saw a row of Georgian houses that looked familiar. I knocked on his door, and his housekeeper answered. I explained who I was and that I had come from Leeds. Alan came down the stairs, and I told him that I am a photographer and wanted to give a copy of my book to people who have inspired me during my lifetime without knowing it. Alan was intrigued by this concept and sat down for a chat and a cup of tea with me. A couple of days later, I received a postcard saying, ‘Dear Peter, I apologise for not recognising you. I feel bad about it. It’s such a lovely book. Hope to see you again.’ It was a special moment.”

Cabin Cafe in Leeds, 1970s. Taken by photographer Peter Mitchell.
Mr Gower outside his café. Upper Wortley Road, Leeds, 1975.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

The day I visited Peter, he had been invited to attend the Methodist Church in Seacroft, where he took his famous photograph in 1974. It was a celebration of the excellent Chapel FM, who have turned the space into the first-ever arts center in East Leeds, where they also host their radio station.

Saint Etienne

“I tagged along with Peter, who was invited to talk about the photograph which put the church in the limelight. I noticed a copy of the brilliant compilation album ‘English Weather’ by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Peter Wiggs, hanging proudly in the arts cafe. Peter’s image was used for the album cover. It was another proud moment for him.

Peter told the audience the story about that day in 1974 when he made his deliveries. He also shared how Mr & Mrs Hudson kept in touch with him for many years after the photo was taken.”


Fish Bar. Leeds, 1970s.
Fish Bar. Leeds, 1970s.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Westlock Terrace, Leeds, 1970s.
Westlock Terrace, Leeds, 1970s.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Robinsons' Fisheries. Leeds, 1970s.
Robinsons Famous Fisheries. Leeds, 1970s.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Harold Terrace in Leeds, 1970s.
Harold Terrace. Leeds, 1970s.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Harehills, Leeds, 1970s.
Bayswater Road, Harehills, Leeds, 1970s.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Royal Fisheries. Leeds, 1970s.
Royal Fisheries, Meanwood Road, Leeds, 1970s.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Nosey Tw*t. Leeds, 1980s.
Nosey Tw*t. Leeds, 1980s.

Photo © Peter Mitchell.

Peter Mitchell at is home in Chapeltown, Leeds, 2019.
Peter Mitchell at his home in Chapeltown, Leeds, 2019.

Photo © Paul Wright / British Culture Archive.

All images © Peter Mitchell, all rights reserved.

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A BCA Feature by Paul Wright




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