Lesley Guy caught up with Pippa Hale and Kerry Harker, the Directors and founders of Project Space Leeds (PSL), to talk about their ambitious project to transform the historic Tetley brewery into an exciting hub of artistic activity for Leeds.
Lesley Guy: What is The Tetley and how did the idea develop?
Kerry Harker: It came out of conversations about why Leeds didn’t have a venue like Cornerhouse or Ikon. Although PSL was founded as an artist led organisation we were very clear at the beginning that we wanted to move the city onto the idea of having a space like the Tetley, even though we had no idea back then it would be that building or that project.
Pippa Hale: And that very much came from Kerry and I being trained as artists in Leeds and born out of our need as much as anything else. We were asking ‘where are the stepping stones for artists based in the region, what’s going to get them from their artist led project in an empty shop unit to their exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery?’ There were just those gaps missing in the cultural ecology in Leeds and that’s something we very much wanted to plug!
LG: you mention Ikon whose remit is to support mid-career artists, would you say you are more focussed on working with artists at the beginning of their career?
PH: We are still very much interested in working with early and mid-career artists and being that stepping stone and taking forward that project space ethos. So whilst there will always be an element of exhibitions in a more traditional sense, we still want to carry on that way of working with artists and being experimental. It’s our job to make that accessible to a wider audience and to enthuse and excite them about contemporary art.
LG: What have you done to the Tetley building in preparation for the opening?
KH: We’ve tried to be as light touch as possible because there are so many amazing architectural and historic features in the building, we want to keep and maintain those as much as possible. The atrium gallery was filled in back in the 1960’s to make more office space, so we wanted to restore it back to its former glory.
PH: There’s an amazing collection of oil paintings and art works, silverware and grandfather clocks and a whole range of ephemera to do with brewing – God only knows what half of it is! It’s the kind of stuff that artists find hugely interesting, and will form the focus of A New Reality, which will be in three parts. It’s a nine month long programme with the building as the starting point of some sort of artistic intervention. We are looking forward to working with artists such as Emma Rushton & Derek Tyman, James Clarkson, Simon Lewandowksi & Sam Belinfante, and Rehana Zama.
KH: There’s a big opportunity here, the scale of the building enables us to have a crack at that, we feel like it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to take on an amazing landmark building which comes with all that heritage that is really interesting to people, as well as being in an area that is a massive regeneration focus. It’s now or never!
PH: With the green space towards the front of the building, which is probably the largest green space in Leeds city centre, it will be available to those wanting to access the city centre, especially families. The aim for things like this is to make the Tetley warm and welcoming – a nice place to hangout!
Image by Ian Beesley.