Why Leeds? Are we perpetuating power structures?

Iain Bloomfield, 5 October 2012

Participants whose names I know/can remember Dick Bonham, Tim Wheeler, Caroline Eden-Bradley, Mark Hollander, Matt Rogers, Mez Galeria, Pauline Meyers, Ian Morley, Simon, Anthony Haddon, Ben but with another 10 or so footfall at various points

There are gravitational pulls, London etc (but not just in Britain - Barcelona for example) Is this natural and is it damaging? There is a narrative, a buzz around Leeds but (other discussions around this Devoted and Disgruntled would suggest) that the perception of the city internally and externally are different.

There is a perception that ACE funding is Leeds heavy - it was however pointed out that if one were to take Opera North out of the equation (they are a national not a regional org) the spike is less significant. It was also important that Leeds City Council were engaged, their arts were prioritised and strategized in a way that was significantly different to those of Bradford or Barnsley. Leeds also has two Universities churning out a wide range of arts graduates.

Does accepting this, however, create a perfect storm for unprepared cities? They do not (unlike Leeds) have the critical mass that will draw artists to them and change adapt the narrative.

It was pointed out that artists did have relationships with venues beyond Leeds but that did not mean that they were engaging with the cities in any meaningful ways.

We asked the question, did the power lie in the infrastructure (the venues etc) or did it lie with artists themselves? We further asked what drew artists together, what made them locate with each other? Was that money or did they flow to encouragement or support in other ways? Confidence is an issue.

We asked if art was a middle class activity, were post industrial, working class communities being abandoned? ACE have invested heavily in venues in Barnsley, Wakefield and Doncaster but were we investing in middle-class tourism into working class areas? Were we making the wrong art in those (and other) places?

Pointed out that Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore were working class, the artists not the issue.

We discussed children's work (and later teenage work) in the move towards inclusivity that children have to see work that is made for them. Pointed out that n

Was pointed out that all young peoples work was inclusive, some was captive. We wondered if we were creating a range of work?

We spoke about cost and value, thought that cinema's were more accepting than theatres and it was that attitude rather than price for many people - “If you put theatre on front you might as well be writing ‘fuck-off’”

However 30 years ago cinema was dying on it's feet. And then they changed the spaces and places and through that the experience. The language surrounding cinema was easy, the language around theatre was difficult. there was a broad range

of work on offer and much ‘public’ space surrounding the actual film experience. Theatre is perceived as hard work when it very often isnt and we don't allow people to taste before they buy.

Place, class, perception, experience all loaded. How do we change the narratives/the language/the names?


cinema, cities, leeds, class, children, Leeds, Class, language, Theatre, theatre, teenagers