Where I Live …. Stuart Giddens of Blackbeard's Tea Party on York

Where I Live …. Stuart Giddens of Blackbeard's Tea Party on York

STUART Giddens of Blackbeard's Tea Party shares his thoughts on where to eat, the best places to shop and where to take a walk in York.

I live in…

York city centre, just a stones-throw from the city walls.

I moved to this area to…

Study English Literature at the University of York. I finished studying in 2008 and then found a job here, as well as being asked to join a great band. The rest of the band migrated here for the same reason – to study various subjects at one of York’s two universities.

One of the best things about living here is…

York is small and contained, so it’s easy to get around and see the city in just a day or two. There’s lots to see in a small space. At every turn you bump into stunning architecture from throughout the last thousand years or so.

One restaurant I love to go to is…

Meltons Too on Fossgate. It does great bistro bar food, all of which is seasonal and locally sourced. They have their own seasonal festivals – including an Asparagus Festival and a Lobster Festival. And you get to enjoy the food in a nice setting too – an old 17th Century building still displaying loads of period detail.

My local is The Golden Ball and I love it because… 

It’s a little gem of a CAMRA heritage pub. York has a brilliant real ale scene and The Golden Ball, just off the beaten path in Bishophill, is fantastic.

It dates back to the 1880s and the original layout is still in place, meaning there are several rooms and snugs for relaxed drinks and chat. The pub recently became a Community Pub, with locals being able to buy shares in the business, and all profits going back to the community.

On my downtime I love to go to…

York’s City Screen cinema. It’s got a little café overlooking the river, and a basement bar that hosts some intimate gigs. Smack bang in the centre of York’s high street, it’s a busy destination for locals and tourists alike.

An insider tip on my area would be…

If you have a few hours to spare on a nice day, take a walk all the way round York’s historical city walls. You get to see the entire city without spending a penny, including some brilliant unspoilt views of the Minster.

And at almost every bar (or gate) in the wall, you climb down the steps and find a fantastic drinking spot. If you’re not driving, it’s a great bar-crawl!

york city walls-n 'If you have a few hours to spare on a nice day, take a walk round York’s historical city walls,' says Stuart Giddens

Best place to go for a first date would be…

Rowntrees Park, the perfect place for a picnic and to feed the ducks. It’s great here for romantic walks down to the Millennium Bridge.

One place not many people know about but I love is….

Mansion on Micklegate hosts a great House and Acid House night called ‘Freakin’ which features two rooms of dance music, four resident DJs, plus guest DJs. It’s one of York’s best kept secrets. For something more wholesome, York’s Quilt Museum on Peasholme Green is Britain’s first museum dedicated to quiltmaking and textile arts.

If you try one thing in York try…

A cocktail in The Blind Swine on Swinegate. These drinks are beautifully crafted, include weird things like tobacco and pork scratchings, and make going for a drink with mates feel like a real event.

The place that I love to bring visitors is…

The quirkily named ‘Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate’ is York’s shortest street, and well worth the photo opportunity if you’re mooching in York for the day.

Many of the streets in York are called ‘Something-gate’, showing the city’s Viking heritage, as ‘Gate’ is the Old Norse for ‘street’. ‘Whip-ma-whop-ma’ is medieval, and thought to allude to the small size of the street. It’s often translated as ‘Neither-one-thing-nor-the-other.’

My favourite shops are…

Rebound Records on Gillygate is a fantastic indie record store with a very knowledgeable and friendly owner. As well as rock and pop, there are well stocked jazz, blues, folk and world sections and a room full of vinyl. You can spend hours flicking through the racks and discovering something completely new.

York also boasts a few independent retail ‘quarters’ like Bishy Road in Clementhorpe – home to an antiques shop, deli, two great green grocers, a brilliant cycle shop, an art gallery, a family run DIY shop and lots more. It gives the area a unique community vibe, nonplussed by the “big boys” of retail. The area was recently compared to Notting Hill in The Times.

My biggest extravagance is…

Chocolate. York is England’s home of chocolate, with Nestles and Rowntrees both finding their first homes here, and chocolate is still well and truly alive in York today, with York’s Chocolate Story on King’s Square – a museum dedicated to the history of chocolate in York – as well as a plethora of chocolateers dotted around the city centre.

If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll end up spending a small fortune on all the treats here.

If there was a soundtrack to my area it would be something folk because….

York is a favourite spot for buskers, and on a warm summer’s day in the town centre you struggle to walk 100 yards without bumping in to someone performing, whether it’s a human statue, an acrobat or a band. Blackbeard’s Tea Party began as a busking band, and I like to think our music is the perfect fit for York.

The mix of old folk and contemporary rock arrangements is not unlike the way old buildings in York jostle up against new high streets. With its rich and diverse history, York is pretty epic too, not unlike the in-your-face rock of our music. And we pride ourselves on having a lot of fun when we perform too, and York is certainly a great place to find that!

Stuart Giddens is the singer and melodeon player with Blackbeard's Tea Party. The York-based concert and ceilidh band play Swanage Folk Festival on September 5-6 and Bromyard Folk Festival on September 12-13