Plans afoot to turn Leeds’ greatest industrial monument into “major arts and cultural venue”

Click on pic to see more fab photography by Jim Moran.

Click on pic to see more fab photography by Jim Moran.

New plans are afoot to turn Leeds’ greatest industrial monument, Temple Mill, into a major arts and cultural venue.

Finished in 1840, the Grade 1 Egyptian-style flax mill has suffered such serial neglect from its owners that it’s long been in the national top ten of Victorian buildings at risk.

Enter local developers Citu. They’ve struck a “conditional agreement” with the building’s current owners to buy it from them, and are now looking for the support of Leeds City council as they rush to meet a 30th November deadline to bid for cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

So council bosses are being asked at a meeting next week (Wednesday 19th November) to agree in principle to work with Citu to get the building restored.

That means not just backing a funding bid, but agreeing to Citu “acquiring” and developing council-owned property/land in the area for housing, leisure and public space, with a view to channeling the proceeds towards the redevelopment costs.

According to a report written for the meeting, we’re talking “an eight figure sum” to secure the building and fit it out for use.

What kind of venue have they got in mind?


The Mill roof

Details are pretty sketchy, but the report says that Citu’s plan is to create a “mixed use, cultural and learning venue”. There’s talk of attracting international touring modern art exhibitions; of showcasing and promoting the Mill’s heritage and using the building as a “major learning centre for heritage”.

“The vision also includes proposals for a public artwork commissioned from an artist of global standing,” the report says.

But, I hear you art and culture lovers ask, won’t this be in direct competition to other arts/heritage/culture venues in the city, including one nearby?

Fear not.

The report speaks of a refurbed Temple Mill attracting “events that current facilities do not attract”. And it says that as the plans get refined over the coming months, the council will be to looking to see “how the proposals best complement existing facilities in the city”.

Between now and next April (when council bosses will get to look at more detailed recommendations) there’s going to be “dialogue with existing cultural organisations and partners from across the city to ensure that views of a broad range of stakeholders are considered as proposals (for a) venue in this location evolve in greater detail”.

Citu’s plan is to set up a charitable trust that would own and run the building once it’s been refurbed. It would be the Trust that would put the bid in to the HLF. Given that the deadline for the bid is 30th November, that’s got me confused.

They’re going to set up the Trust and get whoever ends up on its board to write/agree a first stage bid to the HLF, all in under two weeks? Seriously?

Broader strategic outcomes

wpid-slide9Ahead of any final commitment in April, the council wants to see more detail of the plans, it wants to be confident that the project can operate and survive without any public subsidy, and – presumably as a quid pro quo for its support – it wants to look at …

“… how a venue at Temple Mill might best fit into the city’s long term vision for cultural and learning facilities, and how it achieves broader strategic outcomes and objectives for the city.”

For “city” read “council”.

Which leaves one big question.

What is to become of us? And them?


Strategic outcome at Temple Mill

Many/most of us love the Mill not just because it’s an important and beautiful building (it is), but because we’ve been invited in to enjoy/use its shabby grandeur by the inspired crew who have been running it as a venue-cum-film location since 2009.

We’ve been there to see properly independent exhibitions and films (that you probably wouldn’t see anywhere else in Leeds), we’ve danced all night to African, Death Metal and Jungle beats, we’ve donned fetish gear, we’ve eaten street food, we’ve done the ramshackle tour, we’ve learnt stuff, had fun, and frozen with a fag in the courtyard.

What is to become of us, the punters of the not ordinary? And what’s to become of them who have organised the not ordinary for us? And what’s to become of the not ordinary in Leeds?

Ragged_Kingdom_Web-418x590Will there be room for such popular carrying-on after land deals are done, beans are counted, and the Mill moves into the warm embrace of “the city’s long-term vision for cultural and learning facilities”?

The report is circumspect:

It speaks of the need for “clarity on the potential role of the existing organisations who have a licence to operate the building”.

And it says that “dialogue would be required to better understand the views of existing organisations and communities who operate cultural activities from the building at present and how they could be involved in the proposals and maintain a presence in the city”.

Maintain a presence “in the city”.

It was fun while it lasted.


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7 Responses to Plans afoot to turn Leeds’ greatest industrial monument into “major arts and cultural venue”

  1. Mick McCann says:

    Thank you Mr Citizen for keeping us up to date. I’ve also had some absolutely spanking nights there thanks to the ‘existing organisations and communities who operate cultural activities from the building ‘.

  2. A great piece. It’s a good crew that currently run this place. It’s going to need about £10 million to refurbish properly (it’s currently actually owned by the Barclay Bros of Daily Telegraph and Sark infamy), and that’s simply for it to be usable again. Yes, I’d like to see it as an arts and cultural venue, but that’s exactly what it fucking is right now. Get the building right, by all means. That’s an investment in Leeds, in the history of this town. For us, the people who live here, not for some Londoners to come in and dictate our cultural content. People in Leeds make art. Let’s give them a place to do that and experiment, like, oh, I don’t know, like Temple Mill is now…

  3. Nice piece, but also, you’ve used my rather lovely photo of Temple Mill. Would you mind crediting it please?

    Temple Works

  4. wadiadoc says:

    Look, I’m a Londoner who could never be bothered to go to the North as it didn’t seem to have much, but when I was told about this building a month or so ago, and found out how it needed sheep on the roof, to cut the grass that held the roots in the earth that insulated etc etc, on top of the maddest ancient Egyptian copy in the west, I mean, fair play, that is architecture, that is art.

    So why are you trying to cock it up? All it needs is the sheep back. Stick them back on the roof and let the tourists and hipsters pay 3x the price for a beer up there. (Do you have hipsters in Leeds? If not, send a van down to London Fields in Hackney, and I’ll cosh a few for you. The side street by the lido hasn’t got any cctv.)

    btw, was it true that one sheep fell through a sky-light killing the worker beneath? If so, you’re lucky that you lot aren’t like scousers or you’d have a minute’s silence every Saturday for the victims.

    Bring back the sheep!

  5. Pingback: Temple Works Development | the culture vulture

  6. Pingback: Temple Works News | the culture vulture

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