Approval for £1m fund to transform Leeds Media Centre, Leeds Arts Hostel and Hope Foundry venues

An influential group of councillors this week gave its support to a new £1m fund that it says will help creative businesses in the city.

Hope Foundry will be one of the fund's recipients.
Hope Foundry will be one of the fund's recipients.

Members of the Leeds City Council’s executive board gave the green light to the authority’s new Creative and Digital Workspace fund to support Leeds Media Centre in Chapeltown, Leeds Arts Hostel and Hope Foundry in Mabgate.

The authority says the £1m fund was set up to help new creative businesses and artists who are struggling to find affordable work space in and around Leeds City Centre.

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But a senior opposition councillor warned that the hubs had to benefit the communities around them, warning against creating a “hipster paradise” in the city.

Hope Foundry will be one of the fund's recipients.

Speaking to a meeting of the executive board this week, Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake (Lab) said: “We are keen to ensure success of the city doesn’t mean the innovation and enterprise isn’t squeezed out for commercial reasons. We have a commitment to supporting different spaces.

“I hope you have the opportunity to recognise the work that is going on in those locations – there is some really extraordinary work in those areas.”

The council’s Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Stewart Golton said: “One thing I did think was missing [in the report] was how these can become anchors in the areas they are to deliver inclusive growth.

“They will attract people with a particular artistic or digital talent, but how will they help the communities around them?”

“I want to make sure these don’t create a ‘hipster paradise’ and actually have outreach into the area.”

Coun Blake responded: “We do not want to go down the route that organisations working with young people are priced out of the area – this paper gives concrete support to charities and businesses working out of the space, but we want to encourage more to do so.”

Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan added: “They are great examples of organisations hitting a different cohort to the one you describe – they are changing peoples lives. I understand the point, but I think these organisations will be at the forefront of making sure that doesn’t happen.”

With help from the fund, social enterprise Unity Property Services plans to revamp and upgrade The Leeds Media Centre in Chapeltown which currently provides space for small businesses in the creative, digital and voluntary sectors.

East Street Arts will relocate their Leeds Arts Hostel to a new premises close to their St Patrick Studios headquarters in Mabgate.

Their original Arts Hostel venue proved a big hit, attracting more than 6,000 bookings a year, but is closing as the site is being redeveloped by the property owner. The new site will provide affordable temporary accommodation for visiting artists and performers.

The fund will also support the Music and Arts Production (MAP) charity in securing the long-term future of Grade 2 listed Hope Foundry.