Skip to main content

Why Leeds?

Other than being "home" to the Hercules Project leader, Emma Stafford, Hercules has strong artistic and dramatic links with Leeds.

To listen to Emma Stafford reflect on why Hercules is the hero of choice when later ages choose to (re-)examine what constitutes heroism in her talk "The Afterlife of a Hero" (20 minutes with downloadable pdf slides and handout), go to the Classics Talks site.

Hercules as a keystone over a window on Leeds Town Hall

Hercules on Leeds Town, by John Thomas (architect), c.1858. (c) Robert Elliott, 2010.


Architectural sculptures by John Thomas (c.1858) on Leeds Town Hall. Heads of Hercules appear as a keystone decoration over the rear entrance (opposite The Victoria Hotel, Great George Street) and a side window (on Oxford Place, among other mythological and historical heroes).

Painting of "The Choice of Hercules" by Paolo di Matteis (1712) at Temple Newsam. A talk about this painting is available as a streamed recording with downloadable pdf slides through our Resources area, under Art.

Theatre and Performance

The Wife of Heracles (a version of Sophocles' Trachiniae by George Rodosthenous and ensemble: world premiere at the University of Leeds, May 2010). The series of pre-performance talks is available as streamed recordings with downloadable pdf slides through our Resources area, under Performance.

Mister Heracles (a version of Euripides' The Madness of Heracles by the West Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage, commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse: world premiere at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2001).

The Labourers of Herakles (play by Leeds-born poet and playwright Tony Harrison, world premiere at Delphi, Greece, 1995, with sponsorship by the Herakles General Cement Company, a staged reading, directed by George Rodosthenous was part of the celebratory events surrounding Tony Harrison's 80th birthday in 2017, see our news item).

Herakles (musical drama by the West Yorkshire composer Tim Benjamin, live world premiere in Todmorden, 2017, film premiere in Leeds 2017). The Hercules Project supported the compositional process and has developed a number of resources to support performers and audience members.


Reg Park, born Roy Park in Leeds on 7 June 1928, holder of the Mr Universe title (Amateur: 1951; Professional: 1958 and 1965) followed in Steve Reeves’ shoes as the cinema-goer's Hercules. He played Hercules in four films (1961-1965) and was an inspiration to Arnold Schwarzenegger, to whom he lost the Mr Universe title by only ½ a point, and whom he encouraged to star in Hercules in New York (1969)...

Edutainment - Walking Leeds with Hercules

Part of the legacy of "In the Footsteps of Hercules" (Light Night 2010) is a factasy walking tour of Leeds that links Hercules' twelve labours with the public art and architecture and local history of Leeds. It included meetings with story-telling costumed characters. The walk itself is available through the original project website and as a downloadable route with location information from Classics Talks.