Quarry Hill Leeds- Cultural Quarter; does it matter? to who?

Joanna Loveday, 5 October 2012

Discussion on 6 October, attended by Joanna Loveday, Amanda Trickett, Dick Bonham, (Phelim also chipped in)

Worth considering the history of the Quarry Hill site - there could be a project/piece of theatre to made about this, as it has such an interesting history- Phelim remembered that when the West Yorkshire Playhouse first opened, residents of the flats used to come in to the theatre and hang out, really interesting characters. Strong associations, memories of the place.

Quarry Hill and the collection of arts orgs on it, doesn't make it a very public place. Many of the building aren't actually open to the public and you would only go there if you had a reason to, you wouldn't just ‘pop in’. This makes it quite an exclusive area, and if you don't work in the arts in Leeds, you probably don't even recognise it/identify it as a ‘cultural quarter’.

The steps up to the theatre are the main way reason you recognise that you're on a hill. these steps lead to the theatre and the large government building Quarry House,but not to the other arts orgs. These steps are not very welcoming, feel grubby and a bit daunting. Not a lots of signage which make you think of ‘culture’ or what's just around the corner. Why would you go up these steps? Building site hoardings also don't help.

The routes around the back of the theatre, the pathway behind leading to the BBC, Leeds College of Music building are also a bit uninviting, lack of any real signage, makes navigating the ‘cultural quarter’ difficult.

So how do we get action? How do we get movement on improving any of this? The CEO of the WYP is in ongoing talks with the council about some of these issues, but maybe if the other cultural orgs worked together more, and made a joint up approach things would happen quicker? Organisations that could join forces:

• West Yorkshire Playhouse
Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre Yorkshire Dance
SAA and Red Ladder
Munro house (and independents it houses) BBC
Leeds College of Music
Restaurants and Bars (Wardrobe, Aagrah etc)

There is a strong economic argument that over time improving the area will increase visitors, return visits and those who come to this part of the city. It would be great to try and improve collectively:

• Lighting Car Parks Pathways

Litter Signage Landscaping Hoardings

Making a special effort, like with Unlimited and WYPs co-pro The Giant and The Bear, made a huge difference to the area, just simple things like the bunting and activity happening out and about around the site.

The Quarry Hill Social has started a great networking between orgs on the Hill - with huge potential for exciting collaborations and ways of working together - with our creative and non-creative neihghbours and buisinesses. Just need to make more of this now.

Quarry Hill festival - not sure if this is continuing, but is a good example of all the orgs working together, and co-ordinated approach helps with audience development.

Being known as a ‘cultural quarter’ is not really that important - what is more important is that this area is a friendly, welcoming and safe place to be and a destination where you would WANT to be. Having more restaurants and bars would really help turn the area in to more of a destination, as well as having a variety of cultural output throughout the year.

Aim now: Try and get as many of the orgs who are based on Quarry Hill to read this report and to start talking about it at next Quarry Hill Social and beyond!


City, Cultural Quarters, city, Councils, buisness, collaborations, Quarry Hill, arts organisations, destinations, Leeds

Comments: 1

Nicky Taylor, 7 October 2012

In 2005 West Yorkshire Playhouse produced a show on the Quarry stage called Once Upon a Quarry Hill. It explored the history and experiences of the people and place over the years and was performed by a community company of well over 100 performers including representatives from all our community projects including Heydays (older people), Beautiful Octopus Club (adults with learning disabilities) and Community Network (various community groups).

It ran for 2 weeks and was the main summer show that year - really well recieved and still very fondly remembered. Maybe it's time for a revival?