East Leeds Project featured on Leeds 2023 website

Thanks to Leeds 2023 for featuring the East Leeds Project and talking about the area from a cultural perspective on their website. The ELP mission is to put our area on the map and we are delighted with the support from our friends at Leeds 2023.

Read the article below, or click on the link to read on the Leeds 2023 website:

Did you know that there are no road signs in the whole of Leeds pointing to Gipton? Built in the 1930s as a ‘garden suburb’ to offer residents a better place to live, this part of Leeds is little known or understood by people outside the area, even Loiners.

The East Leeds Project, supported by Leeds 2023, wants to change that, to offer an opportunity for the communities based in the suburbs of Gipton and Harehills, Killingbeck and Seacroft, Cross Gates and Whinmoor, to come together in artistic exploration. The project plans to put East Leeds firmly on the map, as experienced through the lens of its resident cultural community which includes producers Kerry Harker and Claire Irving.

Over the past 18 months, Kerry and Claire have been building and strengthening local connections through a programme of research and development projects, the outcome of which will be disseminated in the autumn. An extensive, far-reaching joint research project has been carried out with Leeds’ architecture practice Bauman Lyons and the local community. Taking many forms, the project included holding events at Gipton Gala and East Leeds Makers social; community-led mapping; an online survey of ‘East Leeds Makers’ and site visits, e.g. to Knowle West in Bristol.

They have discovered that there is a rich seam of creativity in the local community and a desire to help shape its future. Many local people are producing and making fantastic work, but currently there is no dedicated creative ‘maker’ space where they can share and collaborate.

The East Leeds Project is building towards creating a physical hub, a Pavilion, designed and built by local people, using the pioneering MassBespokeTM system created by Bauman Lyons.

By 2023, the East Leeds Project wants the temporary Pavilion to be located next to Fearnville Leisure Centre in Gipton. This community space will be a social place; somewhere to learn and work together, to share skills and to learn new ones. A physical space in which to help build a sustainable future for creative practitioners in the area, currently working away in their sheds or around kitchen tables.

Academic research uncovered by the East Leeds team suggests that eastern sides of cities worldwide share characteristics as a result of the fact that pollution blows to the east, and many have been neglected or ignored. Each part of Leeds has its own distinctive sense of identity, with its own history and challenges, and it’s through supporting projects like this that we will help shine a light on the amazing creativity and talent in all our communities in the city.

Pavilion Research Trip – Sunny Bank Mills

East Leeds Project Team visit to Sunny Bank Mills on Saturday 8th February 2020
Joanna Jowett

The Sunny Bank Mills Estate is owned by the Gaunt family, who have been converting the old cloth mill buildings into workplace units suitable for a range of businesses, from offices to artist studios, maker spaces, a play gym and an acting school, since the mill ceased creating cloth in 2008. There is a busy onsite café, Art Gallery and shop and creative enterprises such as SCRAP, a Centre for Creative Reuse, that we visited on the East Leeds project team research trip on 8th February. 

The repurposing of old mill buildings and within them creating spaces for creative businesses and artists, is something seen across our region and the visit reminded many of us of the vast Salts Mill in Saltaire, but on a smaller scale. The buildings themselves are full of wonderful historic features, worn down stone steps and old Yorkshire stone. The Art Gallery had beautiful daylight streaming in through huge windows, creating a very different ambience to most white walled galleries. The gallery shop stocks a range of work from local designer makes and has a small tearoom serving hot drinks and cake. On site there are a small number of artist’s studios and a project space with textile printing available to hire for a half or full day. The mill also hosts small performances and concerts and can be hired as an event space.

Sunny Bank Mills sits at the very heart of Farsley. Founded in 1829 by a group of local weavers, the Mills developed into one of the world’s most important fine worsted mills. As it has always been such a central and iconic site for local people, it was wonderful to hear that some of the employees from when it was an operating mill are still employed there today. The mill felt incredibly grounded in its sense of place as part of a village community. The site is open and welcoming and the mix of different buildings, businesses and the position of the site, results in it simply feeling like part of the town itself and easy to dip in and out of. Having said that, making such historic buildings fully accessible is undoubtedly no small task. Modern toilet facilities and lifts have been installed but creating full access to all will be certainly an area with lots of challenges for the management. There does seem to be a real and genuine commitment to make sure these buildings will continue to be occupied and an important asset to Farsley for years to come by the Gaunt family.

There is also an onsite Archive, which houses an historic collection of mill items, including textiles and weaving looms. Open for the public to visit and to be used for research, the archive really acknowledges and celebrates the mills history and its legacy.    

On our way to visit SCRAP, I noticed School of Sew, who offer tailored sewing lessons and courses. Seeing a space dedicated to one craft was brilliant and the possibility of having multiple studios and dedicated spaces for a range of creative practices seemed very natural and at home in the mill buildings. They are really making the most of the opportunity that such a large estate offers, with a range different buildings and sizes of space to play with and configure.  

SCRAP itself is full of possibility for any creative, continuously stocked with discarded materials originally destined for landfill, sold on at very low prices. This a wonderful resource for individual artists as well as community groups, schools and students. ​As well as the ScrapStore SCRAP also has an eco-friendly refill station and hosts a community craft café. They create ScrapSheds for schools and educational settings and also run creative workshops and training. It is a brilliant example of a social enterprise that really engages with the local community in several ways. 

Some proposed further research for the Project Team would be to speak to some of the studio holders to find out more about the creative community that exists around the site and if any activity or collaboration takes place that is artist lead or managed in any ongoing way by the estate. There is clearly huge potential for collaboration across art forms and to grow the creative output and engagement of the mills, but as a private business this might not be something considered or prioritised by the management. It would also be useful to get a sense as to how tied into the wider creative community across Leeds the mill is and what, if any conversations are happening with other creative organisations in the area. With local businesses, including HR, engineering and digital marketing companies all within the same complex, there is something quite refreshing and exciting about just how easily these different industries occupy the same space and how embedded the arts are throughout these buildings, providing an asset and helping to make Sunny Bank Mills in to a real destination, rather than simply a place of work, or office block, but part of the community and somewhere people want to be, live and work. 

Matt Green appointed as lead artist for the East Leeds Pavilion research and development

The East Leeds Project and Bauman Lyons Architects advance their ambition to co-create the East Leeds Pavilion, the first ever Maker Space in east Leeds, with the help of artist Matt Green, local residents and makers, and funding from Arts Council England.

Visual arts organisation the East Leeds Project [ELP] is delighted to announce that Leeds-based Matt Green, who was selected from a national open submission, has been appointed as Lead Artist on the next phase of the East Leeds Pavilion project. The project seeks to realise the first dedicated Maker Space in East Leeds, partially closing a gap in provision left by the near total absence of creative workspaces across inner and outer east Leeds, which has a population of over 180,000.

The Maker Space will be co-created and co-owned by, with and for people in east Leeds, providing access to space, equipment and knowledge for experienced Makers and beginners alike. The project will make use of MassBespoke, an innovative and sustainable digital system for modular construction devised by Leeds-based architectural practice Bauman Lyons. MassBespoke aims to democratise the design and build process for self-builders and communities. Local authority-owned land at Fearnville Fields in Gipton has been identified as the preferred site for the Pavilion.

The project already has support from Leeds2023, but the funding of £21,740 recently secured from Arts Council England creates capacity for a focused period of Research and Development from November 2019, including embedding a Lead Artist in the process. Matt Green will work with the Project Team, which comprises the East Leeds Project, local residents, Artists and Makers and Bauman Lyons staff over the next 10 months, creatively testing the technology, shaping the vision for the Pavilion, and ensuring that creative voices remain at the project’s heart.

Matt Green said, ‘I’m very happy to be working with the East Leeds Project on the research and development of the East Leeds Pavilion. Over the next ten months, through social and site-specific practice, I look forward to getting to know Gipton and east Leeds. My intention is to utilise my skills with digital technologies to provide engaging platforms for local people to share their knowledge and thoughts about the local area, and collaborate with the East Leeds Project team on designs for the area’s future. The outcomes of this activity will be brought together in an artwork that recounts the histories, perspectives and ideas shared, which I hope will enthuse a wider public, and through such, initiate further action to benefit Gipton and east Leeds’.

Kerry Harker and Claire Irving, Directors of the East Leeds Project, said, ‘We are all delighted to be working with Matt on the next phase of this ambitious but much-needed project to ensure that people in east Leeds have access to a dedicated space for Making, and where social and creative networks can be nurtured. The interview panel were immediately drawn to Matt’s enthusiasm for the project’s aims and excited by the potential for his practice as an artist working with sound and digital technologies to reveal and amplify as yet unanticipated aspects of the project and the MassBespoke system’.

Irena Bauman, Director of Bauman Lyons architects added, ‘we are looking forward to the creativity and the new ways of seeing that Matt will bring into the rich mix of local skills and cultural activism and the delivery of practical outcomes at the end of this exploration phase.

There will be opportunities for the wider public and partners to get involved across the 10 month R&D period, with more news on these events to be released in the New Year.

Matt Green

Matt is a producer of site-specific art: artwork that is conceived for a specific space, in response to a specific social and environmental context, and takes into account the cultural, historic and political significance of the hosting site. Each work is the outcome of an extensive programme of situated activity that includes audio-visual documentary; community collaboration; and onsite research, design and development.

As is expected of site-specific practice, the theme of each of Matt’s artworks is drawn from the conditions of the locations this work regards. However, a common theme has been the correspondence between, and often friction between, cities and nature. Furthermore, soundscapes, listening and place have tended to be a focus of Matt’s work, reflecting his education and experience as a musician and sound designer.

The form of Matt’s artwork varies but common to all forms is the application of digital technologies. Matt has produced soundscape compositions, multichannel sound installations, short films, video installations, interactive installations, mobile applications, VR experiences, live multimedia performances and workshop events. He has also shown work at various festivals and conferences throughout the UK and further afield including Dislocate (Tokyo, Japan), Medialab-Prado (Madrid, Spain) and FutureEverything (Manchester, UK).


Are you coming to the East Leeds Makers Social?

The East Leeds Makers Social

4pm-7pm, Thursday 27th June 2019

Upstairs at Gipton Methodist Church*

Makers of all kinds across east Leeds are invited to our first East Leeds Makers Social on 27 June. We’ve commissioned Bradford-based artist Andy Abbott to create a new participatory project about ‘making’ for this year’s Gipton Gala, funded by Leeds Inspired. Andy’s project builds on our ‘East Leeds Makers’ research project and survey, and we’d love to get people based in east Leeds involved.


Artist Andy Abbott talks about the East Leeds Makers Social.

Whether you’re an artist, designer, craftsperson, gardener, baker, or a maker of anything else, come along to our Social where you’ll be able to:

  • Meet and find out more about other makers based in east Leeds
  • Showcase and share skills
  • Have your handiwork 3D scanned and added to our makers archive – bring something you’ve made with you!
  • Find out more about the ‘What Makes Gipton?’ showcase at Gipton Gala and our plans for the East Leeds Pavilion maker space

Artist Alexandra Francis 3D scan an item for the Makers Archive.



Everyone’s welcome – drop in any time between 4 and 7pm. The event is free to attend and refreshments will be served. We’d love to meet you!

For more info please email Kerry Harker at kerry@eastleedsproject.org

Andy Abbott is an artist, musician, writer and arts organiser living and working in West Yorkshire. He has exhibited and performed internationally as an individual artist and in various collaborations including the art collective Black Dogs. Recent projects include a participatory map looking at Bradford Common Spaces for the National Science and Media Museum, and a Virtual Reality video game set in Luton for the town’s Pilot Year of Culture. www.andyabbott.co.uk

* We are sorry that there is no lift access to the first floor of the Church. Please contact us to discuss any access requirements.

Blog: Are you a Secret Maker?

Considering Making and Makers for the East Leeds Makers survey

It’s a mixed weather Sunday in mid March, and I have just emerged from an hour-long bath. My neighbours trees now just tap lightly on the bathroom window, as opposed to the past few days where, thanks to storms Gareth and Hannah they have battered, with a sense of unusual urgency, upon the side of the house, as if sending a tree morse code.

Batten down the hatches, the winds are here.

The dulcet sound of James Shakeshaft (a Leeds musician, a maker of music) wafts up the stairs, as I contemplate what it is to be a maker.

Engraver - Wood working

My initial thoughts are; we are all makers. From the moment we wake up, we are making decisions. When to get up, what to wear, when to leave the house, or indeed whether to stay. We make our beds, (well, not all of us but let’s not get distracted here) we make breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper, a snack, a cuppa.

We collectively make a community come together, or separate. We collectively make decisions as to whom we might honour with speaking on our behalf, and, similarly, many make the decision to abstain from the debate. We make our way in the world.

Making is inherent in our language as something we do.

However, when asked, “Are you a maker?” so many people immediately translate that as something ‘other people do’.

So what if we take the dictionary explanation of making: a person or thing that makes or produces something.

Does this change our perception of what a maker is?

Perhaps we don’t acknowledge that a large part of our daily lives is a creative process? Perhaps a maker is a person or thing that makes or produces something, which in itself, is not necessary for survival?

Perhaps it is because we are not taught to relish something that doesn’t turn out as well as we’d planned in our heads?

The sewing machine and item of clothing

So here are a few maker myths debunked…

  • An artist is not necessarily just someone who can paint.
  • A musician is not only someone who can play an instrument.
  • A singer is not someone defined by whether they can sing in tune.
  • A writer is not exclusively someone who has had a piece of work published.
  • A craftsperson is not confined to someone who sews, knits, welds, saws or attaches things together.

Yes, they are all makers, but they have learnt by trial and error, by giving it a go, by stepping outside their comfort zone, by hanging out with others and sharing knowledge. There are no right or wrongs in the world of making, which is why so many of us make things just for the sheer delight of doing so.

However, confidence, accessibility, encouragement and dedication can often be the elements separating those who do, from those who believe they can’t.

Whatever you think a maker is, of this you can be sure, there is nothing more pleasing than standing back and looking upon something you have made just because you wanted to, and enjoying your creation, flaws and all.

And whilst I still believe that we are all makers in one form or another, there are only some of us that do it to satisfy a creative urge that goes beyond the day to day.

Creativity is inherent in us all, whether we choose to take it to another level is completely the choice of the individual, but there is room for us all to follow our dreams, make mistakes, pick ourselves up, and start again.

Right, I’m of to make a cup of tea…

Claire Irving
Communities Director
East Leeds Project

P.S. If you are a Maker – please have a look at our survey below – it’ll only take a couple of minutes!



The East Leeds Makers survey is now live and will gather data over the next couple of months, with the intention of publishing our research in the summer of 2019. Please go to the survey by clicking the link below: