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GRAFTERS SPACE: A New Open Network for Creatives and Communities in Leeds

Hard graft is at the centre of our ethos as a company, and we know from our own journeys into the creative industries just how much work, pain and sleep-deprivation goes into developing and maintaining successful creative or cultural projects. Here at Graft, we believe that open, honest and unusual collaborations are the way forward for the creative sector in Leeds, with more partnerships, community engagement and interdisciplinary approaches needed now in a post-covid world, than ever before. Lockdown has isolated us enough, and it’s time for our city’s creative community to open up those doors, pull down those barriers and get out there to help others!

Grafters Space is an open networking platform, online and (eventually) at physical pop-up events, connecting creatives from across Leeds with residents from their communities. Our aim is to use this space to engage conversations about important social issues that affect us, and how we can tackle these difficulties we face through unified and creative responses.

In partnership with our PLAYGROUND: projects, we will be running and joining online campaigns, offering opportunities for all voices to be heard.

To launch Grafters Space, we will be exploring #MentalHealthAwareness across October, with today marking the international Mental Health Awareness Day, part of a full month to discuss, explore and share our stories and experiences of mental health difficulties.

Funded by Leeds City Council through the Inner West Community Committee Wellbeing Fund 2020/21, and supported by Interplay Theatre, we will be interviewing community leaders from Armley who will be laying the foundation stones of our rockery for PLAYGROUND: Exploring Mental Health Awareness.

These interviews will be posted online, as part of MindWell’s campaign #LetsTalkLeeds to end stigma and shame around speaking out when we are struggling with our thoughts and headspace.

All of this will then be stitched together to create a documentary, exploring Armley and the affects of mental health difficulties on its community and residents. This documentary will be live streamed for free, and available to everyone to watch.

If you are a creative or resident in Armley and would like to get involved, be interviewed, or share your work, stories or opinions through Grafters Space, follow and contact us through Instagram or get in touch through the contact page above. Make sure to start painting those stones and rocks ready for our launch in the half-term week!

Featured

PLAYGROUND: Exploring Armley

When I moved to Armley in 2018, I knew nothing about the area. Over the past two-years I have explored and discovered so much about this amazing place, from its history and industrial heritage, the wealth of individuals who have lived and worked here, and the community I am now proud to be part of spreading all that Armley Good Stuff! When lockdown began, I knew I wanted to do something, however small, to help people in isolation feel connected. What a better way to do this than to share all the interesting facts and stories I have found with you all, and I am so happy that so many of you out there have taken part in PLAYGROUND: Exploring Armley, and would like to thank everyone for their support and kind feedback! 120 of you scanned the sign in the Rose Garden over the past four weeks, despite the rain and lockdown, and our online posts have been seen by over 20,000 people! So to everyone who liked, commented on and shared each daily discovery, thank you for making this project such a success!

I’d like to give a special shout-out to Councillor Lou Cunningham for their support and helping to fund the project, to everyone at Leeds City Council and Wade’s Charity for making this happen, and to The Leeds Sign Co. for installing the sign so quickly, it’s certainly outlasted the weather!

I will now be working on a more permanant version of this project to provide a hub for our community, and to hopefully create a space where Armleyians can take pride in where they live, share their stories and find out more about this wonderful place we all call home! In the meantime, you can find each and everyone of the 35 discoveries below, click on the links and find a few bonus facts too! Enjoy!

James Gray, Project Lead, Director/Secretary 2020/21

Day 1: Support Local Musicians!

We loved this cover of “True Colours” by Armley based Musician That Lad From Armley dedicated to everyone fighting against Covid-19 so check out the link below, give it a listen and check out their other videos too! It’s important we all come together during this time of isolation and show off our true Armley colours as a community! Get involved in local projects, volunteer if safe to do so and make sure to keep our public green spaces clean and litter free! Make sure to like and subscribe, and support independent creatives in Leeds especially at this time when many venues have been closed. Armley has a fantastic history of musicians, bands and singers, find more below!

Day 2: Discover the Past!

This day’s discovery was the Leodis Online Photographic Archive, a collection old photographs of Leeds showing our history, heritage and the changes to our communities. This search showed images of Armley Park or Gotts Park and the now lost village of Redcote, demolished to make way for the Kirkstall Power Station. Why not take a walk and see if you can match these photos up? Did you know Redcote existed? What parts of the park have change the most or not changed at all?

BONUS DISCOVERIES: I will be adding some extra links throughout of photographs of Armley locations so keep an eye out!

Day 3: Protect Our Past!

This day’s discovery was the Grade Listing for Armley House in Gott’s Park on the Historic England website, with a ton of information about the building’s past the and all the incredible people responsible for its construction. More on them to come! Dating back to the late 17th century, there have been many changes and additions, though the original House and Walled Garden (now the Rose Garden) remain intact, which is incredible considering how much our city has grown over the last 200 years! Did you know Robert Smirke who added the East Front to the house also designed the facade of the British Museum? Someone loved a good column! Discover more Grade Listed buildings in and around Armley including more in Armley Park itself, by clicking here!

Day 4: Think Local!

Looking for gift ideas? Why not support your local independent creative community and buy something unique! We love these prints from Armley based Artist Graham Pilling or “Army of Cats” and hope you enjoyed discovering their Etsy shop. You can see more of their work on their website too. Help your community further, make sure to like or follow them, and share around with friends and family. Think locally, think Leeds and see what you can find from grafters on your doorstep! Any other Armley based creatives out there want a shout out? Get in touch and we will be happy to showcase your work!

Day 5: Get Back Up Again!

How could we explore Armley without mentioning Chumbawamba and their classic Leeds anthem?! Here are some of the extremely talented Breeze Leeds youth coming together for a lockdown rewrite of “Tubthumping” to get us through Covid-19 and get us back up again! Thank you to all the singers and musicians who put this together! Make sure to follow Breeze and find out ways you can get involved. Chumbawamba was one of many punk bands to form in Leeds in the 1970s, but did you know the band shared a house in Armley whilst gigging around Leeds and writing their first Album in the early 1980s?

Day 6: Enjoy the Views!

Ever wondered what it would be like to take a boat ride down the canal? Well here you can digitally from your own home during lockdown with this fantastic photographic guide of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. Start at Oddy Locks and work your way up stream, past Armley Mills and under Redcote Bridge on your way into Kirkstall then Bramley Fall Woods and beyond! Did you know the canal took 47 years to complete, and was the first transpennine waterway to be built, costing five times the intended budget!? Kind of a HS2 of its time! Thank you to Canal & River Trust and all their volunteers for protecting and preserving our heritage and nature in Leeds and across the country!

Day 7: Help your Neighbours!

What’s a community without our volunteers?! Big shout out to everyone at local charity heroes Armley Helping Hands for their continued and dedicated work over the past 25 years! Find out how you can give back to your neighbours and visit their website.

Day 8/9: Celebrate Local Heroes!

We’ve celebrated some present local heroes, so let celebrate some local heroes of the past as well! Did you know there has been two ‘Armleyians’ to received the Victoria Cross for bravery?

We found out about William Boynton Butler thanks to this fantastic article by Leeds own Royal Armouries Museum! William Boynton Butler shielded fellow soldiers in their trench from a misfired shell, only just surviving the blast. In a letter to their parents in 1917, on receiving the honour, they humbly remarked “…it will only be for what other men have done, or what is being done every week of the year.”

During the battle of Paardeberg, on February 18, 1900, Armley born Sergeant Alfred Atkinson lost their life under heavy fire carrying water to the wounded. Their father, Farrier-Major James Atkinson, captured the cannon the original VC medals were cast from. An amazing person our community can be proud to call a hero!

You can find more information about some of the brave hereos from Armley from the Imperial War Museum and this informational page about Armley Park’s WW1 memorial. If you’re looking for a specific name, you can use the IWM database here, with over 80,000 searchable memorials from across the U.K.

Day 10: Speak Out!

Not all heroes are soldiers, some are just ordinary ‘Armleyians‘ standing up for what is right! June Hancock and Arthur Margereson were both children during Armley’s successful asbestos trade years. The dangers of asbestos being widely ignored, the fibers were free to become airborne, with local children playing in the ‘snow’ unaware of the damage being done. Hancock and Margereson vs. J. W. Roberts in 1996 was a landmark case, meaning owners of asbestos factories that did not provide protective equipment were responsible for negligence. In the end, T&N, the parent company of J. W. Roberts, had 263,000 personal injury claims brought against them, leading to bankruptcy. Unfortunately both June and Arthur passed away from Mesothelioma, a lung condition caused by asbestos exposure, but their willingness to fight for their fellow ‘Armleyians’ and those who also lost their lives is inspiring, and should not be forgotten. Since 1997, the June Hancock Foundation has raised over a million pounds towards medical research for treating and curing Mesothelioma. The factories may be long gone, or left to rot, but the legacy these two heroes left behind is definitely something worth celebrating!

Day 11/14: Think Local!

From local heroes to local businesses, we are celebrating some of the amazing independent places on our doorstep! Now lockdown is easing, it’s important we support our community and Think Local so look in Armley before going elsewhere! This day we looked at the amazing Porterhouse Cake Co. who specialise in sweet treats for events, celebrations and other businesses. They have an amazing range of vegan and gluten-free cakes, making them the perfect gift for friends and family, especially those with intolerances. You can visit their website via the link, make sure to like and share their page. Oh, and good news, they’re back open for orders!

With the rain finally clearing the sunshine on its way, make sure to pop by Gotts Manor Tea Room in Armley Park for a great range of ice creams, cakes and freshly made food, hot and cold, including some proper breakfasts for all you early risers. Open 7-2pm weekdays and 7-4pm weekends, ditch the chain stores and overpriced drinks, support your fellow Armleyians instead, get some decent, local roasted Leodis Coffee and well-priced grub on your doorstep instead! Takeaways only till lockdown lifts fully, but with the lawns, parkland, forests and, of course, rose garden, who cares! Think Local and support our independent businesses! Please like their page, give it a share and leave a review if you’ve been, it doesn’t cost you anything but goes a long way in supporting them!

We continue our celebration of local businesses with Leeds Wood Recycling. Based just off the Armley Gyratory, you can find all the wood you’d ever need, whether you’re building, gardening or making, they’ll have what you need.

“Leeds Wood Recycling offers an ethical, cost effective and convenient wood collection service. We work in a similar way to a skip hire company, but offer a sustainable alternative to waste disposal as 100% of our collected wood waste is sorted, repurposed and recycled in some way.”

So don’t go to big branded supply stores, Think Local and support a small independent business as well as the environment!

Speaking of saving the environment, if you’ve had a clear out during lockdown or have some old furniture you’re wanting rid of, make sure to Think Local before going to the tip, and donate to The Feel Good Furniture Shop in Armley! This local charity provides work opportunities for adults with learning disabilities, offering training in restoring and reusing unwanted furniture, homeware and electrical items.

We couldn’t possibly cover every business, but there are plenty to choose from, so look in Armley before going else where! Do you own an independent business in Armley? We would love to hear from you, the more we can feature the better!

Day 15: Love Where You Live!

Did you know there is only one other Armley in the world? Apart from a few street names, this small farming hamlet in Canada is the only alternative. So next time you hear someone say there is nothing to do and nothing good about our community, remember this tiny, isolated place in the middle of nowhere and tell them, “actually there is plenty of #armleygoodstuff we can celebrate!” It’s easy to get caught up in the problems, and only seeing the negatives, and sure, Armley has plenty of social issues that need solving. But we can only bring about that meaningful change with a positive and appreciative attitude. Hopefully through these first two weeks of PLAYGROUND: Exploring Armley you’ve made some new discoveries, learned a few facts and maybe even been inspired to go somewhere new!

Day 16: Celebrate Together!

It’s film week! After a beautiful Midsummer sunset last night, it looks like the rain might finally be over! Did anyone celebrate the middle of our year? There was a time when the whole community would have been marching through the streets together in their Sunday best for such a day. Need proof? Then watch this amazing film from 1904 of a Walking Day Parade in Armley and Wortley! Walking Day processions were extremely important to communities, and marked the passing of each year celebrating the changing seasons. There would often be a Rose Queen, picked by the local Mayor, to lead the procession on a float, followed by a brass band and everyone from the community adorned with flowers and ribbons. Unfortunately most of the country, including us here in Armley, lost these carnival traditions. But how incredible that we have surviving footage to remind us of what community spirit can look like, and thanks to BFI you can it watch online digitally, for free!
Were you a Rose Queen or had someone in the family who was? Does anyone have any memories or stories of these Walking Days? Share and tag us in!

Day 17/18: Discover the Past!

What links Jeremy Irons to Armley? This day’s film week discovery of course! This fantastic animation, narrated by Irons, brings to life the incredible watercolour designs of Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) for Benjamin Gott’s new mansion in Armley. You’ll be amazed at how much of Repton’s original designs from their Red Book, now part of Oak Spring Garden Foundation library, still exist in the park today! We are so lucky to have such a wonderful park and grade listed building on our doorsteps, especially considering the Wither Grange Estate just opposite Gott’s lands was demolished to make way for housing. So check out the animation and go for a walk! Discover what the Mansion would have looked like in it’s prime, walk the old carriageways, find the views that Repton designed and take pride in where you live!

Speaking of Benjamin Gott, we also discovered this brilliant little clip from Leeds Museums and Galleries of a Spinning Mule in action at Armley’s own Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills! Our Mills have a long history, and was once the largest woollen mill in the world! It was also the first to use metal beams rather than wood, a design element owner Benjamin Gott, also used in the redesigns for their Mansion just across the canal. After almost loosing everything when another of their mills set alight, it was a pretty smart business move and one that quickly caught on across the country. We think is amazing that this building has been kept alive, and our heritage protected, so that future generations can see machinery like this still being operated. Its a reminder of our nations industrial past, but also a way to connect with our family trees, seeing how our forbearers lived. So whilst we are unsure when the museum will reopen, make sure to go follow them, and keep an eye out for your opportunity to go visit! Oh, and we should probably mention, it’s only £1 to visit if you live in LS12 and under 5’s go free! Bargain!

BONUS DISCOVERIES! There is another video of the Spinning Mule in action here! You can also check out Leeds Museums and Galleries’ digital content in repsonse to covid-19 here!

Day 19: Think Forward!

This day’s film discovery was this incredible VHS footage of a car ride around Whingate and Armley from 1994. Maybe doesn’t seem that long ago, but keep in mind when this was filmed, I wasn’t even born yet! It’s amazing to see how much and how little has changed, and am sure it will make some of you feel very nostalgic. So let’s discover the past, but let’s also think to the future. What would we want Armley to look like for future generations to look back on? What changes as a community can we make? How can we get more involved in keep our lovely local area clean, friendly and thriving? Food for thought!

Day 20: How Times Change!

What were you up to in the summer of 1976? Well for these two lads, Russell and Victor it was a lot of mischief! This is a much watch short documentary available for free with British Film Institute!

“With school over and a long summer ahead, two boys from Armley take us on a tour around their favourite outdoor hideaways. Overgrown graveyards, derelict buildings and a deserted section of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal form an inexhaustible adventure playground. The semi-feral existence of the boys set against the stiff approach of the reporter is inadvertently telling of its times. The film was well received when it was broadcast. Six years later the Yorkshire Television crew revisited the lads for a Calendar Special programme and found them both married, one working as a builder, the other as a church organ tuner.”

Does anyone know these two? Anyone one else get up to this much trouble? Anyone know who’s rhubarb they were stealing!? Drop a comment below! (We had a lot of responses from friends and family of both lads and Jimmy who also appears, so thank you to all that commented and shared this film!)

Day 21: Take Pride and Listen!

From film to music! Those who scanned yesterday thought I might have gone mad, posting a Christmas Carol in June, but there is good reason! Schulze is a name synonymous with organs, having being commissioned to build one for the Great Exhibition by Prince Albert. That’s why T. S. Kennedy had one built by them for their wife in their new mansion, Meanwood Towers, in the mid 1860s. Due to failing health, the organ was eventually put up for sale. After a brief stop at St. Peter’s in Harrogate, the Schulze Organ eventually found its way to St. Bartholomew’s having being purchased by local textile giant Henry Williams Eyres. St. Bartholomew’s is the largest church in the whole of the Ripon and Leeds Dioceses giving the organ its unique, rich sound. It has almost 4000 pipes! So large is the organ that the water pressure in Armley wasn’t sufficient to power it, so they converted it to gas; this was eventually converted backed to water, then electricity, due to parishioners passing out from the fumes during hymns! If you’ve never heard the organ in action here is your chance! There’s plenty of other recordings too, go have a search and see what you can find!

BONUS DISCOVERY: Did you know St. Bartholomew’s was built on the site of a much smaller church from 1630 now demolished?

Day 22/3: Armley in Pop-Culture!

More music! We’ve already celebrated Chumbawamba but they’re not the only punk band with a connection to Armley. The Mekons formed in Leeds in 1976, a uni band that’s still on the go today, here’s a song from their 1987 album Honky Tonkin’ all about our own Charlie Cake Park! Named after a local peddlar of popular cakes the park is an iconc part of Armley, even appearing in an episode of “A Touch of Frost” and other TV shows. These cakes were so popular even Queen Victoria tried one whilst on one of her many visits to Leeds, and loved it! If punk’s not your thing maybe give it a miss and check out this song instead…

It’s been many years since Armley lost both of its railway stations, and thanks to Dr Beeching, our county lost over one-third of its railways in total. Here is a wonderfully nostalgic and calming number from iconic comedic composers Flanders & Swan. “The Slow Train” lists many of the stops used by holiday makers and day-trippers around the country, and reflects on the sad loss of such a large part of our national identity. Enjoy, listen out for Armley getting a mention, and stick to the end for some classic Flanders & Swan banter. This discovery was also a clue for the next, can you guess what the link might be?

Day 24: Discover Prehistoric Armley!

Did you get the Flanders & Swan clue? It was Hippos of course! Did you know that Armley was once home to Hippopotamus? Around 130,000 years ago, these Hippos roamed across the country, though this is the most northern these animals have been discovered. In 1851, workmen came across the remains, and after being identified, more excavations were carried out. This specimen housed at Leeds City Museum is one of the most intact, and is still on display today. There is also a marker on Town Street if you’ve spotted it?
With museums posed to reopen its important that those of us who can safely go visit them, show our support and donate if we can, or else risk loosing this vital community asset. Do it for the hippo!

Day 25/34: Discover the Past!

For all you history buffs out there, The Thoresby Society has a fantastic website jam-packed will all kinds of interesting Leeds based facts, go check them out!

After the 130,000 year old Hippo, we moved forward in time and discovered the origins of Armley over a 1000 years ago. Armley was originally a small settlement, owned by a Danish Chieftan called Erm or Orm. It literally means Erm’s Hill, though some local stories say the name refers to the elbow like shape of the River Aire that borders our town. There are even remains of a Danish Fortress on what is known as Giant’s Hill, by Armley Mills. The ruins were thought to have been the home of a local giant that liked to throw boulders at neighbouring villages. One of these, the greystone, still survives to this day in Burley. The fields these Danes worked continued to be fertile right up till industrial revolution, when the landscape change from farms to mills, though the signs of our past are all around us, in street names, in our parks and in the old stone boundary walls that still survive all over our community. We have come a long way since the times of Danes and Giants, but its important to keep our local stories alive. Makes you think of all those people to walk these fields and hills!

Speaking of which, have you ever wondered who lived in your house in the past? Armley has lots of old cottages with a wealth of family histories. This discovery uncovered some of these with this brilliant list of the 1871 census for Armley! The link will take you through to the list of those who lived at Gott’s Manor, Armley Ridge Road and Dead Lane, now the site of the ‘Edinburghs’ Estate. But if you explore you’ll find listings for the whole town including lost locations like Botany Bay, Redcote and Far Fold. Go see what you can find, you might even find a relative and track down your own family past!

All these old places and census records might leave you feeling a little lost, after all Armley has changed massively over the past 200 years. Did you know that the National Library of Scotland has an online digital archive of old ordnance survey maps? Even better you can access them and explore them in detail for free! Be transported into a story of our town’s development and get lost in the now paved over streets, farms, mansions, parks and halls that used to exist. There are five maps to choose from, from 1847 1894 1909 1933 and 1945, see if you can spot the before and after for when your house was built!

We also discovered the West Leeds Boys School, built in 1907 in Armley! Although the building still exists, a new building was constructed to celebrate the schools centenary which is now Dixons Unity Academy. This amazing archive has the entire history of the school, and I mean entire! It’s honestly one of the best online archives I’ve seen, and is well worth the exploration! Learn all about the house names and meanings, the many teachers and students, and a complete timeline of all sorts of stories and memories. From Fred and Ethel’s tuck shop selling scones for tuppence, to Oedipus Rex, Cricket and Mediterranean School Trips, you’ll find all sorts of good stuff here!

Another building down the road has a hidden past. Many of you will know of St. Mary’s Hospital in Armley, but did you know that it used to be the Bramley Union Workhouse? Built in 1872, the workhouse on Hill Top could house up to 220 inmates, housing those who were disabled, homeless, suffering from mental illness and ‘disorderly’ children. Expanding upon in 1895, much of the original building survives, except the Chapel tower. In 1925, workhouse across south and west Leeds were consolidated and eventually converted into hospitals or schools; new social infrastructure and understanding of disabilities and mental health brought an end to the many workhouses across the country.

Goes to show that not all of our history is visible, and without even knowing it, right under our feet, lies an unexplored world of abandoned buildings and structures. Did you know that Armley had two air-raid shelter’s built during World War 2? Both kept civilians safe during the Leeds Blitz, and were built quickly and cheaply out of concrete, mimicking the design of most across the city in public parks. What you might not know is that both air-raid shelters are there today still! Rather than demolish them they were simply covered over with soil and turf. If you look closely on ariel maps, you can still make out the distinctive patterns in the landscape. Luckily for us, someone managed to grab these amazing photographs of the inside 65 years after they were last inhabited! These photographs were taken of the west air-raid shelter, situated close to the Mansion. You can still see the painted signs on the walls, the small stoves to keep civilians warm and fed, and even an old pram left behind. It’s hard to imagine everyone crammed into this tiny space whilst over head bombs fell. True community spirit. Just a quick disclaimer, these photographs were taken by urban explorers, and whilst the results are impressive, urban exploring is extremely dangerous, and often trespassing, so a criminal act. We do not share these photos to condone urban exploring, but to highlight a hidden aspect of our heritage. Since these photographs were taken, both air-raid shelters were filled in and entrances blocked permanently. Please do not attempt to access this site or any other abandoned structures anywhere!

BONUS DISCOVERY: Air-raid shelters were built across Armley, here are some pictures of them being built! Just click here, here or here!

If you’ve ever walked down the canal, you may have seen a shipwreck by the Mills. Some of you might know this is a sunken ice breaker, used to break up sheets of ice during the winter months. The barge was left unclaimed and remains there today. What you might not know is this whole area was once known as Botany Bay.The bay was a landing and mooring site for goods coming to and from factories in Armley. This included wool from Australia to be spun at the Mill, hence the name. With the newly built Armley Canal Station, this area became a central point for trade and travel in the community. With street names of Pickering and Whitby, you get a real sense of the Victoria lifestyle for coastal days out. Factories, Mills, houses and pubs are still packed together down there, though a lot have been destroyed or abandoned, partially to the end of the canal and railway, but also the Armley Asbestos Disaster we’ve already covered. If you look close you’ll notice an old stone doorway by the icebreaker, and other warehouse foundations, giving you a glimpse of what this area would have looked like. In fact, if you walk the full length towards city centre, you’ll notice all sorts of old platforms, drains, staircases, chimney stacks and tunnels from Armley’s industrious past. You’ll also get a sense of just how important this Bay must have been. There are even records of people living on boats there in census records! It’s funny to think that this whole area started with a small Danish farm on a hill near a river.

Speaking of Armley Mills, here is a brilliant little write up from The Yorkshire Reporter with a brief history, and a glimpse at the average life of a worker. Check it out!

We’ve already mentioned Benjamin Gott, the owner of Armley Mills and Gott’s Manor, but here is a better insight into this amazing Armleyian. A truly remarkable figure of the 19th century, the Gott family would spend the majority of their fortune on Armley and its community.

This painting by Thomas Laurence of Gott gives you some sense of the importance and wealth this Calverley-born self-made individual accumulated in their lifetime. Born in 1762, by the time they died in 1840 at the age of 77 they were a millionaire, with an empire of Mills, had a stint as Mayor of Leeds and even presided over the founding of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. Not bad for an apprentice from Pudsey! The Gott family are responsible for many of the buildings in Armley, some of which we’ve already covered, including both St. Bartholomew’s and Christ Church, including the school, the Chapel that is now Interplay Theatre and whole red brick housing complex in Upper Armley. Benjamin’s son, John, even had Armley Ridge Road expanded to provide work and an income for empoverished Mill workers during the winter months when wool trade was slow. The traces of the Gott’s family legacy can be felt across the city, but nowhere more so than Armley. The Park was built on land donated by the family to create a recreational ground for the community, including a fountain, three bandstands, a cricket and football pitch, bowling green and ornate garden. The iron bridge crossing the river aire on Redcote Lane was built to provide better access to Armley, and even had a toll booth build to provide money to the workers at Redcote. Schools, workhouses, hospitals, churches, halls, parks, houses, streets, bridges, libraries, I mean, the Gott’s practically built the Armley we know today! Eventually, even their house was given to the war effort as a hospital for injured soldiers, and then donated to the citizens of Leeds, to be used purely for our recreation for 999 years, meaning even LCC can’t built houses on it! Even their book collection was donated. It’s an amazing legacy, and one of the few examples of a truly philanthropic industrial family. Goes to show, never forget your roots!

BONUS DISCOVERIES: The Gott family have their own burial plot at St. Bartholomew’s Church, and there is a memorial statue of Benjamin Gott inside the church, sculpted by his cousin, Joseph Gott, but it’s missing a finger! There is also a blue plaque to Benjamin Gott at the house, which was crowdfunded and unveiled by one of the last living Gott decendents, historian and journalist Richard Gott.

We couldn’t possibly have explored Armley properly without mentioning one of Britain’s most celebrated writers, Alan Bennett, another Armleyian who didn’t forget thier roots, and with the recent production of Talking Heads on the BBC, it’s a perfect time to reflect on this brilliant individual! Bennett lived as a young boy on the Hallidays Estate in Upper Armley, the son of local butcher, and these early years can be discovered through a letter written to Christ Church Primary School in celebration of their 150th anniversary, and yes, for those of you keeping up with our post, the Gott family were responsible, funding both the school and Christ Church, Upper Armley itself! Click on the link in the bio to read this wonderful write-up by Yorkshire Evening Post and if you fancy a good read, get hold of a copy of his autobiography “Keeping On Keeping On” to find out more!

BONUS DISCOVERY: Alan Bennett had these wonderful words to say about Local Hero June Hancock mentioned above!

Day 35: Love Where You Live!

This project was always meant to be about providing some entertainment for people during lockdown, and now we have some more freedom to go outside, we want to encourage as many of you as possible to make use of our public green spaces, keep them tidy, be respectful and love where you live! So here is a guided walk for you to have a go at over the weekend! It follows the old tithe boundaries and is a great way to see what Armley would have looked like in the mid 19th century. For those who don’t know, tithes were a donation to the church, a tenth of whatever you produced, which everyone paid. In 1836, a law declared that tithes could be paid in coin as well as goods, so maps were drawn up in amazing detail, and would be a precursor to ordnance survey maps. Click here and download the guide as a pdf file!

On this trail you’ll pass through the old village of Redcote, and make your way up to now lost Wither Grange Estate, later a hospital, then loop round Houghley Gill before coming back into Gott’s Park. We really recommend checking out the Leodis photographic archive too, see if you can match up some old pictures to our modern world! This guide also has loads of facts for you to enjoy whist you get some fresh air and enjoy nature! Make sure to stop by Gotts Manor Tea Room for some refreshments as well!

BONUS DISCOVERY: There is also this guided walk which starts at the same point, why not give it a go as well! You can also find other walks around Leeds and across the U.K. with Casual Ramblers.

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THANK YOU KEY WORKERS: Download your Free Activity Pack here!

Every Primary School in Leeds has now received our Activity Pack for free to keep the children of Key Workers entertained whilst still in lessons, and those currently at home. We’ve already had some fantastic responses, and hope they have spread a little bit of joy during this difficult time!

Now we are spreading the joy a little further, by making our Activity Pack downloadable, for free! Just click on the link below, and feel free to print and share:

We are aware that not every has access to a printer, so we have a few picture files below that can be coloured in digitally with a PC, tablet or phone. You could always trace if you’ve got a marker pen too! We’d also love to hear from anyone or a local organisation, group or business that would be happy to help print packs to send to families around Leeds!

Make sure to post your completed drawings online, and tag us @graftcollabcic #graftcollaborative #thankyoukeyworkers

We are also partnering up with The Trussell Trust, a national charity that runs Food Banks across the U.K. including two here in Leeds. They have been working hard during this crisis to ensure families and children get the resources they need.

Although this pack is free, we would really appreciate it if you would consider a small donation to The Trussell Trust, to keep the dedicated graft they do every day going, and make sure that those in need get the support they deserve.

Follow the link below for more information:

You can also Text your donations, simply text “TTCOMMUNITY 5” to 70450 to donate £5. This costs £5 plus a std rate msg. Alternatively, you can opt to give any whole amount up to £20.

You can also send a bank transfer using the details below:

  • The Trussell Trust
  • SORT CODE: 16-00-21
  • ACCOUNT NO: 41129077
  • REF: GraftCollab

We’d really appreciate your support, so please share this pack and if you can, print off an extra copy for others. Together, we can make a real difference in our communities, and show what makes Leeds a brilliant place to work and live in. Stay safe, stay positive, and THANK YOU KEY WORKERS!

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Top Five Tips for Struggling Grafters in Leeds: A Short Guide for Emerging Creatives, Entrepreneurs and Freelancers

Leeds is fast coming one of the best places for creatives across all disciplines in the U.K. and internationally. With the past decade of expansion and growth throughout the creative sector, and the North of the city quickly becoming a University campus within its own right, you’d think it would be easier than ever for emerging and early-career freelance creatives to gain opportunities and ‘make it’, whatever that means.

We Grafter’s have been at the heart of these changes, having studied and started our own pathways in the creative sector here. This journey has never been easy, constantly juggling the responsibilities of hectic city life, work, studies, money, relationships, the usual, as well as doing all the things we have to in order to try and break out, find an audience, and climb the ladder towards self-employment.

As part of our campaign towards transparency as we grow Graft Collaborative CIC and prepare to launch our projects, we want to share some of the mistakes and trials we have experienced on the road so far, and the lessons we have learned. Not everyone will agree with what we have to say, and if we do point the negatives, it is not to complain or be controversial, it is to recognise the issues we all face so we can work together for a better future. Hopefully, in doing this, we can help others out there on the same road, share in our experiences together and reassure all you Grafters reading, you’re not alone and help is out there if you need it.

One: Institutions aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be…

Leeds is home to some incredible companies, organisations and institutions, and this has been one of the main reasons for the rapid growth of wealth within the creative sector. Whether you’re an artist, dancer, performer, musician, designer or sculptor, you can find a temple to your craft somewhere within the city centre. But beyond the wealth and importance, and the hard work of dedicated outreach officers, producers, community curators and other professionals, these institutions still have unbelievable barriers that prevent access to much needed opportunities.

We’re not just talking about the obvious price of tickets, entrance fees, exhibition fees, stall fees, registration fees, any and all fees or other financial barriers. There is also nepotism, supporting your friends first through backdoor channels, the culture of supporting the safe choices with the proven track record or established voice that reduces risk, offering of placements or employment to those with the huge name-dropping CVs, and positive discrimination/tokenism that avoids the serious conversation about equality and diversity.

These practices place unnecessary pressure for emerging creatives to run themselves further into the ground, spreading their time and energy to thinly as they work multiple zero-hour contract jobs, as well as volunteering, attending networking events and buying tickets they can’t afford. After all this pushing and sacrificing, their is still no guarantee that this will pay off or be rewarded, or even respected. We Grafter’s have heard too many stories of dedicated and hard-working creatives on the brink of a breakdown missing out on everything they’ve worked towards and left with nothing to show for all that effort.

Institutions should be credited for the effort they have put in to making sure that they connect with the local communities that make up Leeds, and the emerging talents that reside within them. But it has to be acknowledged that there is still far too many opportunities that favour safe choices, putting those with better financial means and less responsibilities ahead regardless of their skills or abilities. This most seriously affects the working class and younger creatives, who do not have the luxury of living rent free with parents, or holding down multiple low paying jobs, or spending ridiculous amounts of money of shows, events and training. Emerging creatives can spend years in these cycles before getting any recognition. It’s unhealthy and unnecessary.

When an institution defines “emerging” as having already had professional engagements, or produced plays, or exhibited in major galleries, they are creating a culture that promotes unhealthy and unsafe pathways into the ‘industry’ and keeps unemployment rates within the creative sector at ridiculously high proportions, especially among the disadvantaged.

In 2020, Leeds should aspire to more than this, and freelancers should not feel forced to play into a system that is clearly not working as well as it should. We can do better, and institutions looking at widening their reach should seriously reflect upon the pressure they unwillingly impose on well-meaning and vulnerable individuals trying to pursue their dreams.

So here is our first tip: Avoid running yourself into the ground or wasting money trying to get your foot in the door of institutions, and if you feel you’re getting nowhere, it’s not your fault, it’s theirs!

Two: Collaboration. That’s all.

No one is capable of going down this road all by themselves, and every professional we have so far spoken to openly admits they had plenty of help and support on their way into the creative sector. Leeds is full of creatives from all backgrounds, each with a unique idea for how they can tackle an issue important to them, or share their work with others.

Every week there is some sort of networking event going on, whether it is an open mic night, exhibition, showcase, scratch night or just a group meet up in a local pub. These are great chances to find others who are looking for collaborators or contributors, helping everyone to find ways to gain audiences, sell their goods and services, or make contact with professionals who can offer great advice and details on opportunities.

So why try and get your idea up and running off the ground without using the best resource you have? Make use of the other creatives around you! Share ideas, share space and most of all, share the stress. People are always looking for those opportunities to engage in something they are passionate about.

So here is our easy second tip: Don’t keep your ideas and stresses to yourself, share and make use of those around you.

Three: Funding is worth the hassle…

Money will always be a sore point for creatives, because loath or love the current financial systems we live in, anyone looking to become a serious, dedicated and successful freelancer, entrepreneur or employed within the creative sector, needs to have a business hat to wear on occasion.

To many of us Grafters in Leeds get used to using our own money to fund our creative passions and projects, as well as giving away our time for free, putting on further pressure to find a living through part-time work at major-corporations. How many us have been in that place of working behind bars or checkouts for pennies and then going home to carry on working on our creative projects for free at 4am?

One of the main reasons why emerging creatives fall into these habits is because of the red tape and barriers around funding. Small grants are fairly easy to come by, and you can often source £500-£1000 to cover the costs of running a project, leading to a better quality of work, less burden and more income to go towards yourself and not flyers, labels or paint brushes. So if you’re unsure about how to go about putting in an application for funding, or where you can start looking, its worth putting in the time and research to grow your confidence. For a head start, check out Funding Leeds, where you can search for grants and funding locally and nationally: idoxopen4community

If you’re a student, make sure to make the most of the your university’s opportunities. Most of them or their unions provide workshops or events for freelancers. They are there, use them!

You also need to make sure that you price yourself correctly, not just the work you produce, but your time. Quick exercise, figure out all your monthly living costs, everything from rent to food, round up if you need to, and see what you’re projected to spend for the year ahead. Then figure out your annual income, anything you know you’re going to make. Regardless of whether you’re in the red or have oodles to spare, this will give you a clearer view of what you should be aiming to make being self-employed. If you want to know how much you should be charging for every hour of your time, figure out your productivity for the year ahead; find out how many hours can you realistically work and then take off at least 20% because everyone over estimates themselves! Now you can divide your income by hours and figure out what you should be charging. This might take some time but its worth it to make sure you’re not underselling or overpricing yourself.

And for all you “I do art for the love of it not the money” types out there, we hear you! Honestly, we do. Almost all creatives do what they do for the passion regardless of the financial ramifications. But if you’re going to succeed and find a sustainable way to live without having a mental breakdown, you have to think seriously about earning enough from your work to keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach. It doesn’t have to be much, but you need to have a strong base to work from, and you cannot ever put your work above your health and sanity. Tough love, but true.

Okay, tip three: Love it or hate it, you need money to create your work, so put your business hat on and source it, don’t bankrupt yourself in the process.

Four: If you build it, advertise it!

Marketing is a huge learning curve for any emerging creatives, especially for those with an aversion to technology or social media. Word of mouth can be a great tool, but you still need to be taking the right steps to engage with your audience.

Here is where us Grafters might struggle to give advice, as branding and marketing is not our strongest asset, but take it from us, you need to make sure you are sharing your work in the right places and with the right people.

Poster and flyers can be useful ways to attract interest and share information, but its very easy to go overboard and order that extra box of 500 business cards you will not use regardless if they have a limited time 25% off. Don’t waste precious finances on printed materials that will just go to waste.

Before you head to the printers or go to checkout, do a bit of research around Leeds. Find some places that you feel your posters and flyers will really stand out, that people will have meaningful engagement with, and then figure out how many you truly need. Purchase for a reason. Don’t buy and dump across the city.

The same goes for social media, there is no point dumping posts or information that is going unseen, so make sure you’re using the best platform you can, and make your projects stand out for all the right reasons. There is also something to be said for not having dead spaces, something we are definitely guilty of and need to improve! Make sure you are bragging about your successes and get tagging, so that people can discover your work and take interest in your mission. There are so many creatives out there, make sure you stand out, and talk from your own unique point of view.

For this reason, networking can be your greatest advertising tool, and a quick conversation with the right person can do a lot more than expensive and wasteful billboards, posts and signage. Make sure to sell yourself and your work at every chance you can get. If you’re lacking the confidence or feel that you can’t access theses events, try to keep searching and find the right event for you. Networking doesn’t have to be in fancy arts spaces, a group in a community centre, pub, studio or park can be just as rewarding.

Nice and simple, tip four: There is no point doing the work if you’re not going to advertise it.

Five: Your Community Needs You!

With all of this said, there is one tip more than any other we can share that will help you on your journey. No matter where you live, you are part of a local community, so stand up and us it! Leeds is built upon the graft and collaboration of individuals and groups that put their differences aside to better their prospects. Be part of that change and use your skills for some social good!

Whatever your passion is, from the environment to mental health, there are loads of residents across of the city in need of spaces to discuss and tackle these issues. Arts and culture can play a huge part in successfully facilitating these needs, but because of access barriers, financial, isolation, mobility or stigmas, they do not get used as they should. It’s up to us creatives to solve this.

Graft Collaborative CIC wants to help emerging creatives to access their potential and grow their careers by turning their passions and skills towards communities in need. We want to find a way to help those creatives avoid or gain access to barrier-ridden institutions, gain access to funding, gain skills and networking opportunities, and find sustainable ways to live, work and collaborate, all whilst giving back to society. Big task, we know.

But this is the joy of founding a Community-Interest-Company. It allows us to create the work we wish to see, tackling the issues we feel are most important, whilst always changing by finding new collaborators, communities and issues all the time. It gives us financial structure and security, allowing us to access funding and pay ourselves properly whilst making sure our profits go to benefit those that needs it the most. We get to help ourselves whilst helping others. Nothing could be more rewarding than that.

So if you can see an issue where you live or belong, whether its litter, isolation, poverty, health, discrimination, lack of cohesion or little in the way of accessing Arts and Culture, do something about it! Turn your skills, knowledge and craft into a force for good, and start climbing that ladder towards freelancing by doing something positive for your community.

Make sure to follow us on social media to keep up to date with our projects, and if you would like some advise, please get in contact with us!

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Meet the Grafters: The Board of Directors 2019/20

Graft Collaborative is a non-profit Community Interest Company established to support emerging creative practitioners from a range of artistic and performative disciplines through the development of engaging projects involving Leeds-based communities to highlight and engage residents with important social issues. This will be achieved by creating and developing opportunities for communities to engage and participate in artistic projects from emerging artistic and performative practitioners.

The Board of Directors for Graft Collaborative CIC are Leeds-based emerging artistic and performative practitioners with a desire to help support others, whilst giving back to our local communities, finding creative solutions to difficult issues.

Liam Robbins: Artistic Director 2019/2020

Liam Robbins is a co-founder of Graft Collaborative CIC and is our current Artistic Director for 2019/20. An interdisciplinary director, actor and writer from Leeds, Liam has trained in Performance Practitioning (BA, Teesside University/Leeds City College) and is a current member of the Young Company at the Leeds Playhouse, having previous being a member of the Youth Theatre there. Their credits as an actor include; ‘Doctor Faustus’ by Christopher Marlow and Colin Teevan, 2013, ‘Enjoy’ by Alan Bennett, 2014; and as a director include; ‘Women of Troy’ by Euripides, Candle Jar Theatre Company, 2015.

“I am currently really interested in verbatim theatre and creating performances in non-traditional spaces, making it more accessible for members of the public to watch. I hope to use my skills and training to engage audiences with important, local issues and help residents and other artists to raise awareness of their social concerns.”

James Gray: Director/Secretary 2019/20

James Gray is a co-founder of Graft Collaborative CIC and is our current Secretary as well as a creative Director for 2019/20. An interdisciplinary practitioner, curator and writer residing in Leeds, James has trained in Performance Practitioning (BA, Teesside University/Leeds City College) and currently studying Curation Practice (MA, Leeds Arts University) focusing on storytelling. After being chosen as a Do It For Real Volunteer for UnLtd for Social Entrepreneurship 2015/16, they are keen to share their skills with other emerging artists.

“Storytelling is key to all my projects, and believe passionately in creating spaces where important issues can be discussed freely. As a facilitator, I hope to use the skills and knowledge I have gained to inspire emerging artists to really connect with residents, business and organisations in Leeds, using their voice to make changes.”

Beccie Allen: Director 2019/20

Beccie Allen is a creative Director for Graft Collaborative CIC 2019/20. An actor and writer from Wakefield, she is currently training in Acting (BA, LIPA) and is a member of the National Youth Theatre. She is also a previous member of the Leeds Playhouse Youth Theatre. Their credits as an actor include; ‘Children of the Sun’ by Maxim Gorky, ‘Seascapes with Sharks and Dancer’ by Don Nigro, ‘Shakers’ by John Godber, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by William Shakespeare.

“Coming from a working class background, I am excited to be a part of collaborative that with share stories with audiences who don’t usually or are unable to access arts, especially theatre. I hope this will make a real change to our local communities. I am keen to find new writers that understand our regional communities and let different voices be heard.”

The Rockery is Ready! Help us raise Mental Health Awareness in Armley…

So despite the lockdown setbacks, we are very excited to announce our PLAYGROUND: Exploring Mental Health Awareness project is set up and ready for the community to use! Interplay Theatre in Armley have allowed us to use their outdoor garden space to build a bench and rockery for everyone in Armley to use for mindfulness, wellbeing and memorialising our lost loved ones.

Made up of painted stones, this rockery is a space for all residents to share their experiences of mental health difficulties and offer hope and support to those currently affected. So many in our community experience anxiety, depression and grief alone in isolation; it is important that we tackle this issue by creating friendly, calm and creative spaces to connect with others. There is also information about various services and groups you can join to connect us better with our communitiy and the organisations that help us grow.

We’d like to thank our foundation team for providing the first few stones, with special shoutouts to Natasha Joseph, Artistic Director of We Belong Here, Councillor Lou Cunningham, Russ Giles, Mental Health and Wellbeing Coach for Touchstone as part of Armley Primary Care Network, and Emma Bearman, Founder of Playful Anywhere, who will be featured in our upcoming documentary for our Grafters Space project.

We look forward to spending the next year working with as many groups as we can to build up the rockery. We are particularly looking forward to the spring when our daffodil bulbs will pop up, thanks to the hard work of the urban task force team from the New Wortley Community Association, who also helped us build the bench.

We’d also like to thank Leeds Community Foundation and Interplay Theatre, for funding and supporting this project, and everyone who has volunteered, offered support and helped us develop this amazing opportunity.

Want to get involved? Paint a rock!

Painting rocks isn’t as hard as you’d think, and it is a great way to spend these cold and rainy afternoons, letting out some creative juices and having fun. First things first, find your rock (or get in touch with us as we have plenty!) and give it a proper scrub clean. Once dry, you’ll want to seal it, we’ve found Mod Podge/PVA glue works well, though the thinner the glue the more layers you’ll need! Now it’s time to paint away! Best to use acrylic paints, although marker pens do the job too; you can even get special acrylic or chalk paint pens that are perfect for this! All that’s left to do is make sure it’s dried and seal again. You can find clear coat sprays for outdoor use that will make sure your designs won’t wash away, or give it a good couple of layers of glue again, just make sure it’s all dry first, or you risk it running and smudging! Now you’re ready to place outdoors at our rockery, or join the Leeds West Rocks group on Facebook, to hide your painted stones around the area for others to find and rehide. You don’t have to be an artist, and you don’t have to recreate the Mona Lisa, just do what you want and get some of that energy out there!

Hopefully next year we can look towards starting up some pop-up painting stations and workshops across the area, so make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to keep up to date with all our projects! If you run a group or are involved in a service in Armley, and would like to get involved, please get in touch via email: graftcollaborative@gmail.com

Grafters Space: Interview with Maddie Fleming

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are asking creatives and residents in Armley and the wider West Leeds area to share their experiences and journeys with mental health difficulties.

Maddie Fleming is an multifaceted creative, a keen artist and graduate in English and Drama, who has very generously agreed to open up and share their personal experiences of anxiety and depression.

Have you ever experienced isolation, or felt alone in your mental health journey, and how did this affect you?

I feel truly fortunate to always have been surrounded by an unconditionally supportive family unit. Poor mental health is as hereditary in our family as hazel eyes, so the understanding and advice I have received has always been readily available and of top quality. That is not to say though, that it has been a comfortable journey. I have always been a ‘Worrier’. An intense worrier. I would worry obsessively about almost anything from an early age. Getting answers wrong in school, saying the wrong thing to a friend, getting into trouble, a member of my family feeling upset; you name it, I worried about it. Being a ‘Worrier’ may have been cute when I was five- not so cute at seventeen. The first time I remember feeling truly isolated on my mental health journey was when I decided that enough was enough and I needed to seek medical advice. The GP I saw was completely unhelpful- even a bit scornful- an eye-roll response to an overdramatic teenager. “It’s just hormones, you’ll grow out of it.” Ouch. I left the surgery with a library book recommendation and a burning sense of shame and embarrassment. I felt abandoned by a system that was supposed to provide help and vowed to keep my mouth shut about the worrying from then on. 

What support do you rely on the most in your mental health journey? 

I completed my A-Levels, went to university, entered the world of work and lived in Vietnam for two years, all whilst battling my anxiety problem unaided. Though I am partially proud of myself for this, it makes me sad to think that my quality of life and the enjoyment of these achievements could have been so much better if I had received the correct medical support.

At the start of 2020 I visited a new GP, determined to fight my corner and have my concerns taken seriously. This GP was wonderful- calm, understanding and interested in what I had to say. It was incredible feeling, to hear my problems being validated and getting confirmation that there should have been medical intervention years ago. I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression and started taking antidepressants. Now, I can’t remember how I functioned without them!

Taking correct medication has made me feel so much more me again. I feel alive, energetic and passionate about my goals and hobbies. I am a huge advocate for breaking the stigma associated with mental health medication. The brain is as much an organ as the heart, lungs or liver. Why is it deemed so embarrassing to take tablets to regulate the brain’s function? As well as my wonderful family, I now have a fiancé who offers whatever support I need. Whether that be tissues and a soothing chat on meltdown days, or a firm push in the right direction on days when I need to be present and on top form. My meds and the people who love me are the support I need most on my mental health journey.

Why do you think it is important to talking about our mental health?

There is a bizarre and archaic idea that talking about our mental health somehow makes us weak or complaintive. I think that this is exactly why it’s so important to talk about it. I feel the more normalised that conversations about mental health become, the closer society will move towards discarding the stigma. You don’t get a medal for suffering in silence, and it truly doesn’t make you less of a person for needing mental health support. 

What barriers prevent us from talking about our mental health?

I think I accidentally answered this in the last question! There is an element of shame that comes with talking about mental health, far more so than when talking about physical health. It is the ridiculous idea that by admitting you have poor mental health, you are a weak person. I actually believe it to be quite the opposite. If you can make it through every day, battling your mental health issues, I think you are exceptionally strong. 

How does mental health affect us as a community and is there anything that we can do to help those with difficulties feel included?

I think most people would be surprised to find out how many individuals in their social circle struggle with some form of poor mental health. Once I had disclosed to friends that I was taking antidepressants, so many of them revealed that they had their own stories to share. I think it would be great if as a community, we could feel more open about sharing our mental health journeys. I believe that this would lead to healthier and happier communities, with more open channels of communication and expression.

With regard to helping those with difficulties to feel more included, I think the paramount thing to do is to be considerate. You can’t always see poor mental health. Be kind always and consider that perhaps you don’t know what is going on beneath someone else’s surface. 

If you have any advice for anyone currently in crisis, what would it be?

I’m not a medical professional, so I don’t feel that I can fully provide helpful advice. I would however encourage people struggling with mental health issues to see their GPs. Doctor’s clinics are still up and running despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Please don’t be afraid to fight for yourself and make your voice heard! Your happiness is important, no matter what your mental illness tells you. In cases of extreme crisis, if you feel you are a danger to yourself, call 999 for immediate help.

Thank you Maddie! We are extremely grateful for your openness and honesty, which we hope will give others the courage and support they need to speak out. We wish you the best of luck in your journey and hope the future ahead of you is bright, safe and creative! Keep grafting!

If you would like to share your experiences and take part in our interviews please get in touch with us! You can drop us a message on our social media channels or email us: graftcollaborative@gmail.com

New Grafter! Meet our latest team member…

We are very excited to announce that we have a new member joining our board as a director of the company for 2020/21. Sophie Warner is a Leeds-based creative, illustrator (Sophaluna Studio) and current student at Leeds Arts Univeristy. We are pleased to be growing our team, and are glad to have them onboard to help us deliver all the amazing projects we have lined up next year.

Sophie Warner, Graft Collaborative CIC Director 2020/21

“My passion is in creating illustrations to make people smile as well as inform, illuminate and educate. My practice investigates anecdotal narratives from personal observations to bring light, life and colour to social and cultural issues I find important. My illustration stems from image making to poetry so I am very open minded to the execution of a project. I thrive in environments which are people orientated, and achieving common goals, whilst equally comfortable working independently.

I’m joining Graft to bring communities together and to introduce people to creativity as a medium of self-expression. Illustration, theatre, music and writing are all wonderful ways to collaborate and understand who you are as a person and support others around you. I want people to feel the joy and pride I do when I step back from my own work and think ‘I made that.’ I love working with the young community and am most excited to gain experience working alongside schools to bring some colour and fun into classrooms. I’m joining Graft because I AM a grafter!”

We welcome Sophie to the team and hope we can provide them with some valuable skills, advancing their career whilst bringing our communities together to celebrate arts and culture.

If you’re interested in joining us as a member or interested in becoming a board director, get in touch with us and we will send you all the information you’ll need to know and how we can help you create successful community centred arts projects!

Grafters Space: Interview with Jack Collins

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are asking creatives and residents in Armley and the wider West Leeds area to share their experiences and journeys with mental health difficulties.

Jack Collins is a poet, spoken word artists, writer, educator and host of ‘Spoken Word + Other Stuff’ at Hyde Park Book Club as part of this years Leeds Lit Fest. They are a Poet-in-Residence at Seven Arts, and have agreed to answer some questions and share some of their work.

Have you ever experienced isolation, or felt alone in your mental health journey, and how did this affect you?

I had to think about this question for a very long time and in the end I must answer yes. I must say that I am fortunate enough to have avoided loneliness (for the most part) but there are times, even when we are surrounded by our loved ones or with family at the end of the phone when we take the things life throws at us and put them squarely on own shoulders. There are reasons people can’t know what we are going through. There are things happening that we believe will alter our image in other’s eyes and we want, even at the expense of our own mental health to conserve this image. In the last decade of my life I have subjected myself and have been subjected to (not least in this pandemic) constant change, constant challenge and much disappointment and hurt.

That is not to say that the highs haven’t been wonderfully high but the lows too make their mark. I think isolation of this kind, the kind in which we hide our stress and upset for the benefit of others, has affected my willingness to keep in contact with my friends and family who are further afield. It means that when someone asks you if you’re okay when you haven’t had a chat in 6 months, even as you find yourself entrenched in a desperate situation, you are inclined to say, ‘yeah, fine’ ‘Not too bad.’ We put up walls to protect ourselves from the judgement of others. I am guilty of this glossing over and am still working to find ways of jolting myself into painful honesty which can garner the empathy and support we as individuals all need to survive.

What support do you rely on the most in your mental health journey?

My fiancée Madeleine is the person who over the last 6 years has bolstered my mental health and I hers. This support is very important to me and without her guidance I feel like there are times in my recent past when I would have felt lost. Her mental health journey differs greatly from mine however as she has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety within the last year. We share advice, strategies for success and an understanding that each day is fresh and with it’s own reliefs and trials. I am also lucky to have a strong family structure behind me to whom my welfare is of paramount importance. I realise the value of these two supports and know that many suffer without them, so for this I am eternally grateful.

Why do you think it is important to talk about our mental health?

I think the discussion of mental health in public discourse is important because the more we discuss it the more commonplace it becomes. We can throw off the idea that if you aren’t feeling good you are weak or if you have emotions outside of the norm you are somehow wrong. Some of the strongest people I know of have been in the most dire states of mental health. As I mentioned earlier I myself find it hard to talk about on a personal level. I disclose things to those near to me and write my pain in to poetry but speaking wider is difficult because in some circumstances it still feels somewhat taboo. The more we create this understanding that what we feel is shared the smaller the gap between us will get.

The artistic medium in which I work luckily exists largely outside of the constraints of commercial interest or ideas about what ‘should’ be discussed. Poetry is seeing a fantastic wave of openness and honesty on the subject of how we are feeling and how our mental health is affected by current and personal events. The events I host around Leeds are often filled with raw revelations and hard admittances that seek to embolden and release our listenership from the worry that its only them who have had bad experiences. That those bad experiences have an effect that often isn’t our fault. By writing it down and saying (whispering, shouting) these things to an audience we exorcise the power that the feeling or event has over us and we can begin again having told the truth.

What barriers prevent us from talking about our mental health?

Other than what I have talked about, I think the stigma that surrounds mental health discussion and the shameful way in which the British Government underfunds therapeutic and medicinal supports and under-publicises the mental health crisis we are currently experiencing.

How does mental health affect us as a community and is there anything that we can do to help those with difficulties feel included?

These are awful times and there are many methods for self-care which I believe have been adequately covered and as I am no expert I do not profess to know enough to advise. What I will say is that if people are looking for any access to free art and poetry which may inspire them (or help them to get started) I know of a few rolling events that are ongoing online during the pandemic. These resilient and marvellous people are hosting and performing at events for listeners and speakers who can hear some high quality rhyme or share their own. Poetry is for everyone and this crisis is proving that.

If you have any advice for anyone currently in crisis, what would it be?

Again as I am no expert or doctor I would advise using all available avenues to get professional advice. I have done research and found some available mental health resources.

There is a new helpline here-

Mental Health Helpline for Leeds on 0800 183 0558

Also these may be useful-

MindWell – the mental health website for people in Leeds. The site includes a coronavirus mental health information hub which brings together information about mental health and Covid-19 for people in Leeds.

Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service – anyone aged over 17 and registered with a Leeds GP can use online therapy courses and self-management tools which are available at any time day and night to help with a wide range of issues including stress and anxiety, mindfulness, depression and bereavement. Help is available immediately at https://leeds.omnitherapy.org/

Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s (LYPFT) Crisis Resolution Intensive Support Service (CRISS) team provides assessment and intensive support to adults 16-65 years who are experiencing a mental health crisis. It’s open 24/7, every day. If someone needs help urgently they should call 0300 300 1485.

Children and young people can visit the MindMate website for information and support about their emotional health and wellbeing.

Anyone whose life is in immediate danger should call 999.

We’d like to thank Jack for taking part and being the first creative to appear on Grafters Space. You can find more of their work on their SoundCloud account, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. You can find their poems “Glottal Stop” and “Strict Routine” on our Instagram page, or keep reading…

“The Questions” by Jack Collins

How Long? How careful? Will it be the same? How are they?

Have you seen any ambulances? Aren’t they listening? Am I miserable?

Am I grateful? Am I spoiled? Was it any good before? How do we come back?

Was it that that killed them?

How much support is there in a round of applause?

What can I do? Too slow? Am I miserable?

Am I grateful? Am I spoiled? Am I broken? Is that just lazy?

Did you know them?

Should I though?

What did we lose?

Can any good come? Who is dying there alone? Am I miserable?

Am I grateful? Am I spoiled? Am I broken?

Did your skin touch theirs?

When does the mo(u)rning begin?

Can you cry for numbers?

Is the spirit sturdy or numb?

Who do we turn to?

Are we okay?

Am I miserable?

Am I grateful?

Am I spoiled?

Am I broken yet?

Enjoyed this interview?

Grafters Space is the place for creatives to connect with communities and discuss or share their work around important social issues. If you are a creative or residents in Armley or the wider West Leeds area, and you’d like to share your experiences and work on Grafters Space, get in touch from the contact page above or drop us a message on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

PLAYGROUND: Exploring Mental Health Awareness in Armley… with a rockery…

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month in October, and we Grafters are launching a brand new ‘PLAYGROUND‘ project in Armley to exploring how our community can tackle isolation, grief and loss by coming together! 1 in 4 people experience difficulties with their mental health at some point in their lives, but despite this, we often suffer alone, afraid to seek help or speak openly about our pain. We think it’s important to change this belief and get us talking to each other honestly and frankly about what is going on inside our headspace. Whilst this project won’t solve everything, we hope it is a small step towards helping our neighbours and fellow Leeds people to step up and join us this month!

Funded by Leeds Community Foundation and Interplay Theatre, this project will see a new green space for residents to connect with each other and share their experiences of Mental Health journies. This garden for wellbeing, mindful reflection and memorials will be created at Interplay Theatre; with a Little Free Library and community planters already there, this is the perfect place for Armleyians to escape from the busy city and unite. As well as new benches and landscaping, we will be building the quintessential British garden feature, a rockery.

This rockery will be built up slowly over time by us all. Some of you may have seen the very popular geo-caching hobby of painting rocks and hiding them, well that is exactly what we want you all to do. We are inviting anyone in Armley and the wider West Leeds area to paint their own rock with messages of hope and support, or memorials to loved ones, be it someone special in your life, someone who has been a rock for you, or someone you have lost, so they can be remebered by us all. There will also be rocks with information about local groups and services you can access, helping us all to feel more connected. We will also be inviting artists and creatives in the area to give rock painting a go, making this rockery a vibrant, positive and quirky addition to Armley.

Once we have got the space up and running, it is yours to use as you need and like, so add as many gnomes, bird feeders, pinwheels or wreaths as you want, because we want the community to take ownership and pride in this garden. We will be holding a number of events for planting, painting workshops and maintaining the space, and are inviting any groups who would like to take part to get in touch. This will include giving away rocks and paints for free!

To launch the space, we will be holding a foundation stone laying ceremony with invited community leaders each placing their own personalised stone, as well as planting daffodil bulbs ready for the spring. This event will be filmed as part of a documentary exploring mental health, more details on that will follow shortly!

Unfortunately with the current Covid-19 restrictions we can not hold as big an event as we would have liked, but we will be asking anyone who is interested to visit on the day to place their own stones. All ages are welcome! Of course, once the space is set up, you will be able to add stones any time you like! You can also post your rocks online, tag us in on Twitter or Instagram and use #playgroundleeds #armleyrockery to get a share!

If you’d like anymore information or would like to get involved, feel free to contact us via the page above or send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

If you are in crisis or having difficulties with your mental health, you are not alone and help is out there for you. You can call the Single Point of Access (SPA) Team on 0300 300 1485 or find out more about available services in Leeds by visiting Live Well Leeds run by Mind, Leeds.

New Grafter! Meet our latest team member…

We are very excited to announce that we have a new member joining our board as a director of the company for 2020/21. Ellie Harrington is a Leeds-based creative, and one of the artists who helped to design our free activity pack for young people during lockdown. Now they are turning their passion and skills towards helping communities around the city and us to grow in our mission of bridging access into arts, culture and heritage.

Ellie Harrington, Graft Collaborative CIC Director 2020/21

“In a time where it feels a little as though the world is falling apart, the building of communities, support networks and the bringing together of people from all walks of life is imperative. I hope that by joining Graft I will be able to use the platform to explore creative-led solutions to the problems surrounding this task, as well as elevating other creatives to help them do the same.”

Ellie will be joining us in expanding our current projects as well as establishing their own, so make sure to get in touch if you have a collaboration in mind. We welcome Ellie to the team and hope it is the beginning of a fantastic future!

If you’re interested in joining us as a member or interested in becoming a board director, get in touch with us and we will send you all the information you’ll need to know and how we can help you create successful community centred arts projects!

PLAYGROUND: Exploring Armley Further!

With the success of our first PLAYGROUND throughout lockdown, we here at Graft are excited to announce we are expanding the project further! Leeds Inspired have awarded us a grant of £1,200 to develop a website for all things Armley, a hub where you can explore local heritage, stories and opportunities to connect with our amazing community! We are partnering up with Assembly House, who will be supporting us throughout this next stage, and with Armley-based creative Charlotte Cullen, who will be exploring Armley’s common land and our rights to it as residents.

Charlotte Cullen is an artist, curator and lecturer in Fine Art at York St. John’s Universtiy, currently researching the history and geography of the local area, exploring mark-making with natural materials. They will be working towards creating an online and downloadable map blending their research and art together. This will provide a highly creative and unique opportunity for residents to engage with public green spaces across the area, celebrating our community assests and wealth of heritage, nature and spirit.

This map will be accessible through a new online PLAYGROUND: Exploring Armley space, a website for anyone and everyone to discover more about this incredible part of Leeds. There will be a range of content including interviews with Armleyians, a timeline of our growth and changes, and information about local groups, businesses and events. Our hope is create a permanent digital archive celebrating the history of Armley and it’s many amazing individuals, whilst looking towards the future of our community, and how we can come together to overcome some of the important social issues we face.

There will be lots of opporunities for you to join us and get stuck in, so keep an eye out on social media for our community callouts looking for your stories, memories and input. Once the website is launched, we will be changing the sign currently installed in the Rose Garden, Gott’s Park, with a new QR code to link you online; we will also be hiding QR codes around the area, so their will be lots to discover with a few surprises along the way!

This will be part of many creative projects coming to Armley thanks to the incredible team at Assembly House, so be sure to check them out and follow them on Facebook or Instgram to keep up to date!

Leeds Inspired is part of the city’s cultural programme that celebrates arts events and projects throughout the year, supporting high quality, accessible cultural experiences for Leeds’ residents and visitors. Founded in 2012, Leeds Inspired supports culture in the city through grants schemes, commissions and a ‘What’s On’ events website. Leeds Inspired is part of Leeds City Council.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, and if you’d like to get involved in this project or have your own creative idea that will help your community, get in contact with us on social media or from the page above!

Being Black Allies: How Community Arts Organisations Can Empower Others…

Yesterday, myself and Liam had the amazing opportunity to meet up and network with other creatives from across the city for the first time since lockdown began. With all of us socially distanced at Assembly House, we had an amazing five hour conversation, facilitated by the incredible Marvina Newton, Founder and CEO of Angel of Youths, and a lead organiser for BLM Leeds.

Socially distanced Creatives from across Leeds coming together at Assembly House to discuss the Black Lives Matter Movement and how to improve our practices and projects.

We’ve both seen our fair share of racism, both online and in the streets, and whilst we have both called out and intervened, there always seems to be this persistent hatred towards people, purely because of their skin pigmentation. It’s such a strange, violent and closed hatred, that it can make you feel numb, like nothing you can do is going to stop racism in its tracks.

Both of us have actively avoided engaging in conversations around race recently, too embarrassed by our whiteness, like its not our place to do or say anything. We’ve been afraid of being called out ourselves, as white saviours and virtue signallers, performative protestors or Marxist terrorists. But we cannot avoid taking a stance any longer, because whilst we are on the sides watching this mess, afraid to take action, so many young people are being failed, and having their futures erased, because they are seen as Black and Black only.

Both of us are privileged. We’ve both gone through so much adversity and had to fight for who we are, but despite all the issues we’ve faced, we’ve never once been discriminated against because we are white. We have to acknowledge this, but we also have to do something about it. We were so inspired by Marvina, who helped us reinforce our passion for empowering others, and using our position of power, however small, to share the wealth, share skills and share platforms with others who don’t have any power.

We talked a lot about how we can use our loves and passions to create works, projects and ideas that can tackle the things we hate and wish to change. We love this ethos, and use it all the time. Liam hated seeing young people in schools afraid of the lockdown and seeing teachers worrying about them. So they created a free activity pack of them with local artists. I hated the negative attitudes some people had in my community of Armley, so I created a project celebrating all the good stuff I could see, to change their view. If more creatives did this, and supported each other, imagine the changes we could make!

We also looked at breaking down invisible barriers, such as the lack of diversity in funding opportunities, by working together to make sure that anyone, especially young people, have a community, diverse, fierce, committed, that they can use and share it.

This community needs to ensure that collectively and collaboratively we achieve the following in all our projects and practices:

  • Listen to Black Voices and Narratives, empowering their stories and making sure they’re heard by a diverse audience.
  • Take active steps to endorse anti-racist views and practices, being leaders and not expecting racism and inequality issues to be solved by Black creatives only.
  • Work in partnership with organisations, charities and community leaders to call out discrimination across the creative sector, making sure access to opportunities is equal for all.

These are steps we are currently trying to aim towards, and will continue to actively review our practices making sure we achieve these goals in everything we do. The community of creatives across the U.K. and abroad need to do the same.

We want to be an active part of that community, and help build for the next generation of creatives, empowering them to keep finding solutions, overcoming hate and making our world a safer, freer, happier place to exist in.

Here is our commitment and promise:

Graft Collaborative CIC is a community-interest-company, that means we have a duty to the communities we serve, with all of our profits going back into the company, making more and more opportunities for engagement. We are not here to make a fortune, or profit of the creativity of others, just to make work sustainable.

Graft Collaborative CIC is yours as much as it is ours, and we are here to share our skills and knowledge with anyone who wants them. For £1, you can become a member of our organisation. You will have access to our structure, including our business account, our social media channels, and our other members. You can freely use our name, articles of association and policies to help find funding opportunities for your projects. We will help you to access training, network with others, find spaces, volunteers, partners, and work through funding applications. The more members we have, the more opportunities we can create, the more finances open up to us, and we can grow together.

We will never discriminate or turn away any inspiring creative. We will always do our best to help you, even if its just an introduction to the right person. We will be honest with you at every stage, and always admit our faults and failures publicly. We will always make sure that your work is properly funded, to the best of our abilities, even if that’s a time bank, where we share our skills together.

We make this promise to all, but we especially make this to the young Black creatives out there, whether you’re a painter, a musician, a story-teller, a photographer, a leader, or still trying to figure out who you are, we are here for you. Black Allies who will make sure that our privilege and power doesn’t just serve us, but anyone who needs a helping hand, a friendly face or just someone to stand and fight in their corner.

Get in touch with us, drop an email, DM us on social media, or visit the contact page up top, and let us know if you need assistance with anything. You don’t have to be a member, just go for it, and let us see if we can do anything to get your ideas up and running. We especially want to hear from those of you living, like us, in South Leeds.

All Black Lives Matter, all communities matter, and each and everyone of us as creatives matter, so let’s put in the hard graft, collaborate, and take a stance! Let’s change!

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