The collection contains programmes from the following years:
1886 [1 vol.]; 1889 [1 vol. bound with 1895]; 1892 [1 vol.]; 1895 [1 vol. bound with 1889]; 1898 [1 vol.]; 1901 [1 vol.]; 1904 [1 vol.]; 1907 [1 vol.]; 1910 [1 vol.]; 1913 [2 different vols.]; 1934 [2 loose programmes]; 1937 [4 loose programmes]; 1947 [1 vol.]; 1950 [1 vol.]; 1953 [3 loose programmes]; 1967 [1 vol.]; 1970 [1 vol.]; 1972 [1 vol.].
Concerts largely took place at Leeds Town Hall – the venue for the first festival in 1858 - or an unspecified venue likely to have been Leeds Town Hall. Festivals from the 1960s and 1970s also used a variety of other venues, in addition to the Town Hall. Extra venues used include the following: Grammar School; Parish Church; Temple Newsam House; ABC Cinema; Great Hall, University.
There were typically eight concerts per festival, two a day running Wednesday to Saturday. However, form 1934 the festivals extended, and the programmes from the late 1960s and 1970s extended to over a week, with three events per day. The festivals were chiefly from October, though programmes from 1967 onwards indicate that the festival occurred in April and May.
The festival programmes largely represent orchestral works, large-scale choral works including oratorios and operatic selections. They contain a
reasonable amount of British music, including a significant amount of Elgar; from 1967 festival included some chamber concerts and religious services.
The personnel used at the festival varied. Early programmes do not specify an overall name of orchestra or choir, but list each constituent member. Significant conductors for the festivals include Charles Stanford and Arthur Sullivan. Later, orchestra title is given: this was frequently a visiting professional orchestra. Though the orchestra varied from year to year, the same orchestra participated for the duration of the festival. By the 1960s, this was no longer the case; a variety of orchestras took part in each festival.
The programmes are arranged chronologically.