Words: Jo Cadell
Armley’s newest community arts space is now well and truly up and running at Armley Community Hub and Library – and its founders have lots of exciting ideas for the future.
One thing about Armley I’ve always loved is, despite the challenges, there is a strong community of people who work tirelessly to make the area a better place to live.
There are people who care for the green spaces, people removing rubbish, people to support those in need – I could go on.
But since the demise of the West Leeds Family Learning Centre there has been a notable lack of an indoor space for people to come together to pursue hobbies and interests.
I was therefore excited to learn about the Collective art space and headed down to find out more.
The venue is fairly hard to find, tucked away inside the library. You could miss it if you didn’t know where to look. The entrance is on the right hand side of the ground floor hall and you need a member of staff to swipe you in.
Once through the door I entered an unexpectedly large, pleasantly decorated area which contains all the amenities you would expect, including a kitchen where you can grab a drink.
The art room was full of people working on their projects. There was a table at one end piled high with various art materials and yet another table contained a selection of books providing instruction for all levels. The space and all the equipment is completely free to use.
On my arrival I was warmly welcomed by co-founders, Louise Atkinson and Victoria Kortekaas. I was also lucky enough to speak to Louise to get a bit more information about Collective.
Louise told me she has previously been involved with creative projects in other areas. However, these were often short-term projects and left the participants asking what they could do next.
The aim now is to provide a collective art space which is embedded in the community and can continue for as long as the community want it to.
Louise is clear the arts space is not a defined programme, but the provision of a space for the community to use creatively and develop the way they want to.
The Armley Library space is currently used by people ranging from professional artists to those who want to try out a completely new area of creativity.
Whilst there, I met Anthony Walsh who was learning calligraphy. He found out about the facility from a leaflet through his door and now goes every week.
He told me how impressed he is with the enterprise and describes the founders, who have managed to acquire the specialist nibs he needs, as “amazing”.
While people enjoy the peaceful environment and access to the materials, there is also a social aspect. It is a space where people can meet others who share their interests.
So what next? There has been a lot of interest from local people wanting to run workshops and classes and they have already run a successful taster bookbinding workshop so they are hoping to do more of these.
Specifically mentioned was a session on how to print your own wrapping paper.
Further into the future the founders would like to help people use art to create merchandise they can sell.
They would also like to find other space locally where it is easier for people to access when walking past and where they use the wall space to display artwork.
The sessions run every Tuesday from 10am to 4pm at Armley Community Hub and Library. If you are interested, I’m sure they would love to see you. I could not have been made more welcome.
Collective is supported by funding from Leeds 2023 My World, My City, My Neighbourhood.