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Leeds To Innovation exhibition inspires at Armley Mills

Words: Iola Shaw

Images: Mindy Goose

Leeds, the city of 1,000 trades, risks exceeding its storage limit according to Andrew Lidster, the Keeper of the Museums. 

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If you need convincing I recommend a trip to the Leeds to Innovation exhibition at the Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills.

A bubble car at the exhibition. Photo: Mindy Goose

Mindy Goose and I went to the opening night on the 26 October, so she could take pictures and I asked some of the many staff who have collaborated to create the exhibition what their go-to items were.

John McGoldrick, the curator of industry, outlined how he and Chris Sharp have spent the last eight months working to showcase how inventive Leeds people have always been and inspire the next generation. 

Andrew Lidster, speaking at the launch event. Photo: Mindy Goose

His go-to item is John Smeaton’s lathe, which he built as a child in the 1730s from scraps and tools borrowed from his parents. 

Bulit from scraps: John Smeaton’s lathe.

John sees a line from this early creativity reflected through the show, leading everyone to the Innovation shed. 

This is the most interactive area – when you can share ideas you have been inspired to create with others, perfect for those of us not blessed with access to a parental shed to create a legacy.

The shed is learning officer Coulin Meikle’s favourite feature.  You can check out the “good idea/bad idea” hanging baskets to be inspired by wacky ideas and develop skills such as problem solving. 

He hopes they have created the ideal fun thinking space for everyone’s inner inventor.

Lucy Moore, a member of the curatorial team for Leeds museums pointed out the computer on display from Systime as her go-to item. 

An old Systime computer. Photo: Mindy Goose

This company, once at the heart of Leeds computing, was brought down by the cold war. 

Lucy was responsible for commissioned a portrait of Betty Beecroft from Ping Kelly, a local artist, for the exhibition.

Artist Ping Kelly with the Betty Beecroft painting. Photo: Mindy Goose

Betty was behind the success of Kirkstall Forge around 200 years ago and until now there had only been one poor image of her hidden away.

Ping spent weeks researching Betty’s diaries and studying period appropriate items to bring her to life.

This painting alone is worth a visit. 

It sits alongside a painting of the Monkbridge works from 1854, on display for the first time. 

Paul Murray looking at Andrew Lidsters ‘go-to’ piece Photo: Mindy Goose

This was Andrew Lidster’s go-to item as the rarity of a work of that period bringing to life the enormity of heavy industry, provides a perfect context for the many items on display. 

When looking at this painting I was lucky enough to meet Paul Murray Thomas, a direct descendant of Matthew Murray.  He describes his ancestor as a technological junky –passionate about any new tech, and a key inventor in the industrial revolution. 

Paul is clearly very mechanically minded himself and has lovingly renovated the flax heckling model, on display, build by Murray. Its design revitalised the British flax industry from 1809 onward. 

Paul Murray’s loan to the exhibition – a flax heckling model. Photo: Mindy Goose

My whistle-stop tour of the exhibition came right up to date when I spoke to the assistant community curator, Chris Sharp who said his go to display is the one showcasing Pyramid.

Chris Sharp’s fave thing was the Pyramid display, this is the printing press that they used for their work. Photo: Mindy Goose

This organisation is a partner of the show, and the innovative ways they support people living with learning disabilities has made them core to Leeds being the innovating city it is known as today in the field of health and wellbeing. 

To find your inspiration visit the exhibition between now and 26th September 2021, and look out for further related events such as a Wikipedia editathon coming soon. 

Entry is included in general admission to the museum.  Further details, including admission times and charges, can be found here.


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