My World, My City, My Neighbourhood

This week we hear from the Leeds Animation Workshop about a creative project about and by the people of Harehills…

Leeds Animation Workshop (LAW) is a not-for-profit organisation run by women, that has been based in Harehills for 40 years. They are based in a back-to-back house where they produce awareness-raising short films on a variety of social and educational subjects. They also organise screenings and presentations, and deliver workshops in basic animation skills to community groups and individuals across the city. For more information, see https://www.leedsanimation.org.uk/films/.

Last year the Workshop was awarded one of the commissions from Leeds 2023, to “Let Culture Loose” in local neighbourhoods, as part of the city’s warm-up programme in advance of Leeds Year of Culture 2023 – “My World, My City, My Neighbourhood.” For LAW, this meant leading workshops and co-ordinating art and film-related events in Harehills.

The fact of being based in a back-to-back house had already brought the group into contact with Joanne Harrison the architect, who is conducting a study of this kind of housing. See https://backtobackhouses.wordpress.com/.  In preparation for their Harehills brief LAW contacted Joanne again to see how her research could help present-day residents feel more at home in their neighbourhood.

In the back-to-back housing of Harehills they found iconic images of the area, a symbol of its community life, and a way to discover the history of the city. 

Working with a group of older people of Irish heritage, they found almost all had memories, going back decades, of living in or visiting family members in these houses: memories that have produced stories, poems, drawings, paintings, embroideries and films. 

Along the way they devised a plan to build a collective work of art – a giant model of a terrace of back-to-backs, standing taller and wider than the average human. As a communal work it would have to be divided into numerous parts of equivalent value. The only possible solution was, knitting. Over the course of the last few months, many many people with various links to Harehills have been knitting bricks and windows and walls. A few intrepid souls have sewn the pieces together and currently the model is being erected in the entrance to Shine, an imposing former Victorian school building overlooking Banstead Park.

In conjunction with this work can be seen a panel exhibition by Joanne Harrison with more information from her doctoral research about back-to-back houses; and a projection of photographs  showing hundreds of different examples of the genre.

All this forms part of the Harehills Culture Show – the culmination of LAW’s project for Leeds 2023 – which includes a public showcase of work by local professional artists, as well as film, music, artwork and writing by local people about the area, together with house portraits, paintings and models by 600 children from the local primary school; and work by local residents created in the course of workshop sessions over the last three months.

The Harehills Culture  Show is designed to be a celebration of Harehills and to tell some of the many stories of this neighbourhood, its homes and the people who live here. 

The exhibition will be open to the public for a week, 28 March until 4 April (Opening times: Mon-Fri, 8am – 8pm)

The launch event is at Shine on Harehills Road on Friday 25 March, 5pm – 7.30pm – free, everyone welcome. 

Joanne Harrison has contributed articles about her research to the Secret Library over the last few years. You can see the full collection by clicking this link.

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