Emmerdale and Heartbeat mill opens new music, comedy and theatre venue

A completely derelict mill building has been restored to become an entertainment venue at Sunny Bank Mills, where Yorkshire Television’s Emmerdale and Heartbeat were filmed.

(left to right) Dick Bonham, John Gaunt, Choque Hussain (Trouble at Mill), William Gaunt and Howard Bradley (Trouble at Mill).

Sunny Bank Mills said that The Old Woollen will host an “ambitious and eclectic” mix of music, comedy and theatre.

Upcoming acts include music journalist and DJ Mark Radcliffe, Sunderland post-punk band The Futureheads and comedian Arthur Smith.

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The Old Woollen is run by William and John Gaunt, owners of the award-winning Sunny Bank Mills, in conjunction with Yorkshire events company Trouble At Mill.

William Gaunt said: “Bringing the Old Woollen back to life has been a true labour of love.

“The building has been completely derelict for 50 years and had fallen into an advanced state of dilapidation. So far we have spent £150,000 on bringing back a section of the ground floor into use.”

He said that there are ambitious plans to redevelop the whole building, once funds have been secured.

“We have intentionally left the Old Woollen in a state of ‘arrested decay’ which gives the audience a direct connection with the past,” he added.

“We have been absolutely delighted with the acts we have been able to book so far and the reaction to them. It has been a great success story and maintains the mill’s proud connection with the arts, as both Yorkshire Television’s Emmerdale and Heartbeat were filmed here, and we have a thriving art gallery on site, too.”

Dick Bonham, a director of Trouble At Mill, said: “We are the company behind the popular Farsley venue, The Constitutional, and it made perfect sense to join forces with Sunny Bank Mills to launch a new collaborative space, The Old Woollen.

“We’re delighted to be coming home to Sunny Bank Mills. We started the Trouble At Mill journey with a series of pop-up events at the mill, which featured a whole range of great shows and acts. The team there have always been incredibly supportive, and we’re thrilled that they’ve decided to work with us to re-purpose and re-energise The Old Woollen.

“Working together we know it will have an incredible vibe, with some brilliant acts. People always say to us they can’t believe things like this are happening in a place called Farsley - well, this is only the beginning and we can’t wait to share some of the great events we have in store.”

Mr Bonham is also a director at production company LittleMighty, whose offices are now based at Sunny Bank Mills.

He said: “Sunny Bank is a fabulous base from which to launch our tours across the country. As it’s grown and developed over the past few years, it’s become a real creative hub, with lots of interesting artists and companies. That’s a really nurturing and energising environment to be working in. Plus, it’s only five minutes from my house.”

The Old Woollen was one of the first mill buildings at Sunny Bank, dating back to 1830. It was built by a group of men who included John and William Gaunt’s ancestor John Gaunt.

It was originally used for a process called “scribbling” and “fulling”. Scribbling was the process of combing the wool fibres in order to straighten them. Fulling was the process of washing and shrinking the cloth after it had been woven. This made the cloth thicker and stronger.

The building – until recently – had no toilets. That’s because, before the advent of modern chemicals, urine was collected and used to clean the wool in the “fulling” process.

There are now 75 companies with more than 350 employees on site at Sunny Bank Mills.

Sarah-Jayne Lishman of marketing agents Dove Haigh Phillips, said: “The owners of Sunny Bank Mills took the brave decision to invest heavily in their mill and this decision has paid dividends.

“This is one of the most significant mill regeneration projects in Yorkshire. Steeped in history and with massive potential, Sunny Bank Mills is now one of the prime employment, retail, artistic and community locations in the Leeds area.”