Leeds Creative Family Tree –
A Creative Treasure Hunt
Perspectives · 1st March 2017
Published in: Independent Leeds
The Leeds Creative Family Tree is an ongoing not-for-profit project we run to showcase the huge range of creative individuals and organisations in our city and to help us all find other like-minded creatives and collaborate more locally. In the run up to the launch of the 2017 issues, we gave Independent Leeds an insight into some of Leeds’ best kept creative treasures:
On the outside, Barkston House has to be – hands down – Leeds’ most ugly building. Inside, however, it has to be one of the most welcoming places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting during our research. The community of makers, crafts people, artists and community organisations is as diverse as they are inviting. Contemporary arts organisation East Street Arts occupy enough space to cover 40 studio spaces, a ceramics facility, a classroom and residency spaces – so big is their offer here, it doesn’t come even close to fitting on the page. (Sorry guys!) They will, however, feature in full on the family trees themselves.
You could head out of Leeds through Mabgate, just as the Tour de France did, and not think twice about what was there: A Maplins; a couple of furniture showrooms; A garage that sells shit Costa; nearly 100 artists, creatives, studios, co-working spaces, galleries, workshops and venues.
The streets of LS9 and LS7 must currently lay claim to the city’s gritty, DIY, artistic heart. A perfect example of this has to be Hope House – occupied by the charity Music and Arts Production, or MAP. MAP exists to offer at-risk young people access to education in the arts and music. They help fund their work, and simultaneously provide experience to the young people they work with, by hosting art exhibitions, club night Cosmic Slop, and by providing studio spaces for a range of creatives – artists, screen printers, illustrators – who in turn work with the young people, offering real-world creative experience. Its a truly wonderful model.
How long this fragile, DIY community project (and others like it) can last in the face of the ever-encroaching gentrifying affluence of the city centre’s big boys is yet to be seen, but here’s hoping the city can hold on to its independent grit for a long while to come.
Aire Street Workshops
Aire Street Workshops couldn’t be a better example of a creative space hidden away in plain sight. A spit and a throw from the train station, it’s about as central as it’s possible to be. But until Tom (AKA Hand Drawn Pixels) showed me around, I couldn’t have appreciated the scale and breadth of the independent creativity tucked away behind all those unassuming bright blue doors.
Designers, tailors, community and education organisations, digital wizards, jewellers, film makers, fine artists, interior designers, screen printers – all cracking on and making great work together.
Sadly, even through this rich mix is all the things the city should be proud of heading into a bid to become Capital of Culture in 2023, the council may be forced to evict them in 12 months time to sell the building, and so they are left fighting for support and investment to help keep this particular creative family together. (See: airestreetworkshops.co.uk)