Makerspace Workshops at Fearnville Leisure Centre

run by East Leeds Project at Fearnville Leisure Centre

Making as Meditation

On Wednesdays 4th, 11th & 18th October 6.30pm-8.30pm
Pre-booking required Limited to 6 adults

Find your focus with guided experimental drawing and printmaking exercises: gentle making exercises with music, colour and conversation. Good for relaxation, wellness and focusing the mind and body. Learn relaxation methods you can use at home using drawing and printmaking.


Mindful Making Mondays

On Mondays 9th, 16th & 23rd October 10.30am-12.30pm
Drop In Sessions Limited to 8 adults

Experience easy, creative, mindful exercises in printmaking and collaging.
Create original artworks by following simple steps and developing your ideas. Explore themes of balance, colour, form and texture.

Chat with others or quietly work, younger children and babies are welcome at these sessions.

Lanterns & Shadow Puppets

Sunday 5th November 11am-3pm
Drop In Session Limited to 8 adults

Storytelling with Light: Making Lanterns & Shadow Puppet Animations.
Follow an outdoor trail map and assemble materials to make your own story-telling lantern for the coming winter nights.

Make a moving shadow puppet and make a projected stop frame animation video.

Makerspace Workshops at Fearnville Leisure Centre, Oakwood Lane, LS8 3LF
Please email for access information

Crossing the Threshold from Guild to the Guildhall: Some reflections on hive minds, silos and community power

Kerry Harker, 31 May 2023

Last week started with back-to-back conferences: East Street Arts [ESA]’s Hive on Monday 22 May, which took place at the Carriageworks, Leeds, in the context of the organisation’s ‘Guild’ support programme for artist-led initiatives, followed by Stronger Things 2023, organised by independent think tank New Local at the city of London’s Guildhall. (1)

While Hive specifically sought to foster a participatory and generative space for augmenting UK-wide networks among artist-led spaces, with the aim of increasing their sustainability, Stronger Things drew on multi-sector case studies from across the UK to demonstrate the acute need for accelerated devolution in fostering self-governance, hyper localised decision-making and positive change for communities. Here I offer some personal reflections and take-aways from these related but not yet connected events.

Hive began with provocations from researchers Dr Susan Jones and Dr Benedetta d’Ettorre alongside ESA’s Artistic Director, Jon Wakeman. The speakers introduced some barriers to sustainability among artist-led spaces: from the dominance of neoliberal ideology and a situation in which, in 2019-20, only 1.5% of Arts Council England funding was awarded to individual visual artists (Jones); to the shock and impact of Brexit and the necessity of property ownership that crucially provides a glimmer of resilience (Wakeman); and the language of ‘business planning’ (d’Ettorre) pervading an economic landscape into which artist-led initiatives may occasionally stray, only to discover it a bad fit for their alternate desires not fixated on economic growth.(2) Gloomily, for Wakeman the contemporary situation feels tougher than any in ESA’s history – and the organisation will turn 30 this year.

These framing presentations were followed by glimpses into more in-depth research on allied issues. Firstly, Dr Ashleigh Bowmott of The Uncultured presented findings exploring labour conditions in the artist-led sector. This includes analysis of redacted applications (99) to the Guild programme as well as a wider 2021 survey exploring barriers to sustainability in artist-led spaces. The data was analysed by independent consultants Trust Data and the resulting report, Open Doors: The Real Cost of Artist-led Spaces, released to coincide with Hive.(3) For Bowmott, this new research sits alongside and complements other recent contributions including Unlimited’s ongoing Nothing for Nothing survey and Structurally F*cked, the report into artists’ pay and conditions in the public sector published jointly by AN and Industria in March.(4) Open Doors makes similarly stark reading. Over 50% of artists surveyed carry out unpaid labour for their studios, and 44% of respondents think those studios would cease to exist if unpaid labour was withdrawn.

The multiple impacts on the bodies, psyches and livelihoods of predominantly young people (56% of respondents were aged 16-44) staffing these initiatives have been emerging with greater force over recent years, not least through Glasgow-based initiative Transmission which has now questioned the unpaid committee model that it played a major role in popularising from the mid-1980s. This before even considering the structural exclusion of all those for whom unpaid labour is simply impossible. Quoting one Open Doors respondent (‘We’re all working until we’re ragged and bitter’) Bowmott ended by questioning how much longer this broken and unsustainable system can endure – one that benefits a notional ‘sector’ at the expense of flesh-and-blood individuals.

Continuing the theme, Quinn Garrison (In Session) and Ed Compson (Pause or Pay UK) shared insights from research to be published this Autumn under the title Shifting Sands on the professional practice content of Fine Art degree courses in England and Scotland. How well does such content prepare graduates for life after study? Currently, not well at all as it turns out – something that may come as no surprise to those who (like me) have recently had first-hand involvement with such provision. Quantified mainly in terms of what students lack after graduation (a general absence of specialist knowledge, relevant experience, local networks and practical know-how), the research finds a persistent disconnect between studio practice and professional practice in current provision. With student placements often erecting barriers to those unable to take on unpaid labour, it’s no surprise (as the research concludes) that further and higher education simply reproduce structural inequalities at work across the creative sector.

Cut to: the opulent surroundings of London’s Guildhall, home to the City of London Corporation and its traditional centre of government since at least the Middle Ages. Constructed between 1411 and 1440 for an elite merchant class, the building has survived the Great Fire and the Blitz, echoing the centuries-long tenacity of systems they once designed to produce and reproduce wealth – but only for some. A slightly jarring setting then for the aims of Stronger Things, a massive gathering of over 1200 people more aligned with growing a ‘rebel alliance’ of ground-up, small-scale and situated community-led initiatives across the UK focused on public goods.

As Churchill, the Duke of Wellington and Sir John Cass gazed down from their stony, if newly precarious, perches on the Guildhall walls, the day offered up one rich case study after another demonstrating community power in action. One that particularly resonated for us here at the East Leeds Project was Kindred, a membership network of STOs (socially trading organisations) active across Liverpool City Region.(5) The network builds expertise through peer-to-peer support and invests – ethically and with ‘patient’ money – for social benefit. Programme Director Erika Rushton explained how Kindred bases its value system, and actions, not on the traditional banking model of business plans, spreadsheets and risk analysis but on collaboration, community-building and the production of social value. From the founding 150 members, the network has now grown to over 700 organisations. Positive stories abound, such as Craig’s live music venue in Birkenhead that now employs 42 people – real success stories, tangible and relatable for many working in the artist-led field.

Across the day, speaker after speaker, including Civic Square’s always compelling Imandeep Kaur, offered an impassioned plea for new thinking: for devolved decision-making and strategic practices that recognise the simple but inarguable logic that local people know more about the places where they live, and what communities in those places need, than anyone else. For recognition that historically, development has happened to people and not with them. And for the realisation that only a radical and revolutionary shift away from the traditional paternalism of public services, towards what Kaur described as a ‘big imagination moment’ of a new ground-up, practice-first-theory-later economics will enable us to decarbonise at the speed and scale required to address planetary catastrophe.

Two days, two conversations. Two entirely different rooms of people (attendance at Stronger Things felt heavy on local government, health and care, and development rather than arts and culture) all passionate about systems change, decentralisation, sustainability and the right to self-determination. About what we might call ‘community power’, even if understood in other terms. About changing the dynamics of our current situation deemed so dire by Stronger Things keynote speaker and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Lisa Nandy, that ‘even the winners are losing’. Yet Hive and Stronger Things remain disconnected due to their quite different discursive frameworks.

It felt important to be in the room at Hive and yes, it’s always valuable and galvanising to reconnect with old friends and build new networks with others interested in the specifics of artist-led practice. ESA are bringing to visibility research that demonstrates the acute nature of the challenges to on-the-ground practice. That is work of critical importance. But I also want to explore the opportunities on offer when we step into other spaces, other discourses, other networks. What radical new alliances could we build, what tactical practices might unfold? At the East Leeds Project we’ve been building relationships in the health and care sector for several years now, so Stronger Things’ emphasis on addressing health inequalities came as a welcome opportunity to soak up some deep learning from others with greater expertise. We already know that cross-sector working can be challenging due to different processes, systems and language. But if we retune our ears, leaning in to values shared with other sectors can lay the ground for long-term, meaningful partnerships and reap real social benefits. Far from ‘instrumentalising’ artistic practice (a lazy assumption) this can inspire a renewed purpose beyond what Suhail Malik has identified as the ‘predicament of professionalised criticality’.(6) This, he claims, is a dominant paradigm recently afflicting fine art degree courses that promote a stylistic dogma of ‘critically engaged’ work to the expense of all else. This is surely a major contributing factor to the issues identified by Shifting Sands – a siloed fine art pedagogy that has been largely adrift from the lived daily realities both of the vast mass of practising artists and communities up and down the land.

So yes, let’s have Hive. Despite the deeply alarming statistics of one research finding after another presented on the day, there was great joy in gathering with peers and indulging in the allure of the hive mind, even for a day. But let’s also continue to reach out and beyond to other sectors, even or especially when that makes us feel uncomfortable at first. Let’s tune in to radical new thinking emerging through platforms including Stronger Things – on health and care, economics, urban development, climate emergency, community wealth building and more. Given the very real state of emergency for so many artist-led initiatives, that is surely a necessary move for uncovering new and innovative formations and the fellow travellers to better tackle – collectively – the structural injustices that impact so deeply on such initiatives everywhere.

 (1) For Hive, see and for Stronger Things 2023, see

 (2) Susan Jones, ‘Fair Enough?’ in Art Monthly No.461, November 2022.

 (3) The Open Doors report is available at

 (4) For Nothing for Nothing see The Structurally F*cked report is available at–cked.pdf.

 (5) See

 (6) Suhail Malik, ‘Art Education and the Predicament of Professionalised Criticality’, in Politics of Study ed. by Sidsel Meineche Hansen and Tom Vandeputte (London, Open Editions: 2015), pp.49-68.

ELP May Update

Healthier Working Futures celebration this Thursday at 4.30pm – all welcome!

Join us this Thursday – the 25th May – to celebrate the completion of our major partnership project with Leeds Health & Care Academy and Lighthouse Futures Trust. Drop in any time from 4.30pm until 6.30pm when we’ll be screening a short film about the project and the role our KIOSK makerspace played in engaging the young people involved. Refreshments will be served – come along for a chat and to see how our makerspace at Fearnville Leisure Centre is developing too!

Open House

Did you know you can drop into the makerspace every Wednesday during term time from 9am – 3pm? Bring along a creative project to work on, make use of the free Wifi, browse our growing art library, or just come along for a brew and a chat about your creative practice. No need to book and everyone’s welcome – you’ll find us in Squash Court 1 on the ground floor of Fearnville Leisure Centre. Free hot drinks available from our brand-new kitchen facilities funded by Leeds City Council and Arts Council England. Watch out for news on our weekly artist residencies coming soon…

Art groups for men and women in Harehills

Our free sessions at the Nowell Mount Community Centre run weekly during term time and are led by professional artists. Join Kevin Hickson (men’s group) Thursdays 11am until 1pm and Herfa Thompson for our new women’s group on Fridays 12 noon until 2pm. Food and all art materials are also provided, and there’s support from Bellbrooke Surgery’s patient ambassadors too. No need to book, just bring yourself along and have a go in a relaxed and friendly setting.

Curator’s Tour, Arcadia for All? Rethinking Landscape Painting Now

We’ve arranged a tour of this exciting exhibition (check it out online) at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery with co-curator Judy Tucker on Tuesday 6 June at 12 noon. Brimming with wonderful paintings by artists including Hurvin Anderson, Lubaina Himid and George Shaw, there’s so much here that is relevant to life in East Leeds. If you’d like to join us, please get in touch on We can cover transport and have 10 places available.

ELP Team News

Congratulations to our friend Jessica Bennett, who has recently taken on the role of Director at Paradise Works, an artist-led studio community and gallery in Salford. Jess is on our board of Non-executive Directors and was previously part of the team at Manchester International Festival. We can’t wait to see what she gets up to in her new role and look forward to visiting soon!

Which spaces matter to you?

The University of Leeds and Leeds City Council are carrying out research into the spaces that matter to people across all 33 wards in Leeds, to inform future cultural policy. Contribute via an online survey and interactive map or take researcher Dr Jo Hawkins on a walking tour of a space that matters to you. Contact We’d love to hear lots of East Leeds voices getting involved! To go to the survey click here

© Katrina Cowling, Roughcast, 2018, from If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain, 1960 – 2022 at The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield.

Recommended: If Not Now, When?

Finally, we recommend a visit to If Not Now When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain, 1960-2022 which is now open at The Hepworth Wakefield. Co-curated by our Artistic Director Kerry Harker, with Anna Douglas, the show tumbles through time to suggest new narratives and connections about sculpture by women during this period. The exhibition is on until 24 September but tickets are half price (£6) until 25 May. Click here to see what’s on at the Hepworth

What’s going on – the ELP February 2023 update

We have had a brilliant start to 2023. Read on to find out more about projects in development and how you can get involved.

We’re starting the year with the fantastic news that we’ve secured Arts Council England funding to pilot a makerspace at Fearnville Leisure Centre.This will enable us to test a creative programme from March, co-produced with our community. If you’re new to the project and would like to get involved, contact us or pop along to our drop in session on Wednesday 22nd February from 4.30pm-6.30pm. No need to book, friends and family are welcome. 

We’ll have volunteer roles available soon and can cover expenses such as travel and access requirements, so please do get in touch for a chat.

We also want to thank Leeds City Council for their support to equip the space with a small kitchen area for hot drinks and snacks, so we can create a warm and welcoming space for our community. Special thanks to Councillor Salma Arif for her ongoing support! 
We’re thrilled that we’ve also secured funding through Leeds Community Foundation to run Healthy Holidays activities for children and young people in the Nowells area of Harehills in East Leeds. This incredible support means we’ll be able to offer free fun sessions combining creativity and healthy eating during the 2023 school holidays, starting from Easter. 
This is the year we’ll be bringing to life a mobile observatory from East Leeds to the world, in partnership with artists Heather Peak and Ivan MorisonLEEDS 2023 and Smeaton300, with the support of Leeds City Council,National Lottery Heritage FundBurberry and others.

Special thanks to Leeds Astronomical Society for sharing their incredible knowledge, enthusiasm and telescopes with us.

Updates will follow soon along with details on how to get involved. We can’t wait to get the project on the road from June!
Leeds Men’s Art Group
Men in East Leeds are invited to join our free, relaxed creative sessions led by Harehills-based artist Kevin Hickson. Come and have a go at printing, pottery and more over a friendly chat. Lunch and materials included and no experience necessary. The sessions are at Nowell Mount Community Centreevery Thursday from 11am-1pm. No booking or referral required, just bring yourself along.Thanks to our partners Bellbrooke GP Surgery and to Burmantofts, Harehills and Richmond Hill Primary Care Network for funding these sessions.
The East Leeds Shop
We’re a small but growing social enterprise based in the heart of Gipton. We’re constantly fundraising to ensure that we can keep on making good things happen in East Leeds and beyond. These striking hand-made screenprints by artist Emma Hardaker are available through our online shop. Why not take a look and consider supporting our work if you can – 100% of profits are reinvested into our artistic programme. Thank you.

Visit the East Leeds shop

September 2022 update: KIOSK and more

It’s been a busy… no hectic summer for our mobile makerspace KIOSK, as we’ve engaged hundreds of young people in creative activities, plus new Non-executive Directors have been appointed… and well… a major announcement is brewing!

KIOSK on tour

In late June we wrapped up the KIOSK role in the ground-breaking Healthier Working Futures project, funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund, with our partners Leeds Health & Care Academy and Lighthouse Futures. We’re working on a short film about the programme, which aimed to engage some of the most disadvantaged young people in Leeds with careers in the health and care sector, to be shared later this year.

Through August we piloted a programme of KIOSK activities at Nowell Mount Community Centre in Harehills, in partnership with Bellbrooke GP Surgery. We’re really proud that we were able to engage over 150 children and young people with creative activities and to provide healthy food during the school holidays.

Also in August, we worked with East Leeds-based artist Joanna Jowett to deliver a cyanotype workshop on Killingbeck Fields as part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s family fun day. During the gorgeous sunny day over 50 people came along to make their own print to take home, using only the power of the sun and the beautiful flora of the Wyke Beck Valley. 

Thank you to all the artists who’ve worked with us on KIOSK during this first year on the road. Thanks to future funding from Leeds Inspired and Leeds Community Foundation, we’ll be rolling out more creative sessions across East Leeds soon!

Introducing our new Directors

We are thrilled to welcome on board Jessica Bennett, Leo Carrie, Hannah Clapham-Clark, Laura Lulika and Kiu Yu Mok as Non-executive Directors of the East Leeds Project after an open call earlier this year. They join us at a really exciting time for the organisation and we can’t wait to work with them.

Meet them all here.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our outgoing Directors, Aidan Moesby and Jason Hird. Aidan and Jason joined us in early 2020 and we hugely appreciate their support and friendship in helping us steer the organisation through the last two years.

Community Building in Leeds – film launch with Same Skies

Everyone’s welcome to join us at the Hyde Park Book Club on Tuesday 11 October from 6-7.30pm for the launch of three West Yorkshire Walks films made for Same Skies, the regional democracy think tank for West Yorkshire.

The films capture the spirit of this ongoing series of walks organised by Same Skies, and explore unorthodox ways of community building in Leeds, covering Chapeltown Co-housing and Frontline Self Build alongside the East Leeds Project. The event will include introductions from film makers Rochyne Delaney McNulty and Toni Lee, and a Q&A with self-build pioneer and Same Skies organiser Claude Hendrickson.

FREE but booking required via Eventbrite

What’s the social value of the artist?

Our Artistic Director, Kerry Harker, will be contributing to a research workshop exploring this issue next week, organised by the Centre for Cultural Value at the University of Leeds. What is the role of the artist in society, and how can we capture their social value?

This online event is free to attend – find out more and book your place here.

And finally…

Stay tuned for an astronomically exciting announcement coming later this month! 

Kind regards
The East Leeds Project Team