With the purchase of St Patrick’s Social Club at the turn of the millennium, the early years of the new decade were dominated by developments in what had become Patrick Studios, East Street Arts new home.
The social club, which had been a really active community hub in the 1960s and 1970s, was brought to life again as a new bespoke venue for artists. For founders Karen Watson and Jon Wakeman, these developments were the dreams of what East Street Arts could achieve becoming a reality.
In June 2003, the charity moved out of its original home at East Street Mills, to start a new chapter at Patrick Studios. Their old home, while a great flexible space was also freezing and constantly dusty, needing major refurbishment. 20 skips of accumulated stuff was cleared and the move was made, with not all artists deciding to make the move.
Patrick Studios was officially opened in 2004. Artist Pippa Hale had been commissioned to be an artist in residence for a year during its development, so her work (and that of other commissions) were ready as the studios opened its doors.
Opening night speeches were given by the likes of Paddy Hartley (who Jon and Karen handed the programming of Brahm Gallery to) and Bernard Atha from Leeds City Council who had been a supporter since the very beginning. Other speeches were given by an artist who, as part of the performance, had been masquerading as a rich benefactor for the day, chair Claire Thacker and Jon speaking about Wigan Football Club and their rise to the Premier League as a small club.
There was also a reading of a poem written specifically by Ian McMillan for the event, before an evening party to celebrate the opening.
A series of projects and events were also run alongside the launch, including inviting as many people as could be found that had been members of the social club to visit for a conversation and a cup of tea. Many people brought photographs and memorabilia, meeting old friends that they hadn’t seen in a long time. This event connected the building’s past with its future.
As the celebrations died down, East Street Arts was faced with a daunting situation of being a new space with no artists and no programme, very little resources and a staff of three to make it all happen!
Soon enough applications started to flow in and space was allocated artists. In reaction to this a new member of staff, Ken Stratford, was recruited bringing an engaging personality and much needed skills and experience to the team. A plan for the amazing ‘double height project space’ was hatched at this time.
The Project Space hosted its first exhibition, part of a project called Coal Salt Tin, in 2004 funded by Arts Council England and linked with artists and organisations in Newcastle, Cornwall and Leeds. It responded to three cities, their regions and their past industries as part of one of many events that took place that year across the country.
East Street Arts was now in a different place from where it had started in the early 1990s, with increased professionalism and drive, which was a blessing and a curse. The Directors feeling this new situation took away the ability to act quickly, make decisions and respond to opportunities. Ken’s inclusion in the staff brought much needed skills and expertise in finance, charity law and business development meaning Jon and Karen could lead on programming, communications, fundraising and strategic development. A balance had been found to capitalise on this new positivity for East Street Arts.
Some highlights to come out of this period include:
- Last Few days: A group show by the artists included in DCaP (Demystifying Contemporary Art Practice – East Street Arts’ 12-month professional development programme) that brought the project to a close hosted in two empty shop units in the Merrion Centre.
- Artsparkle: A collaboration between East Street Arts and the Dcap group focused on multiples. The first event took place in the Corn Exchange and we sold a range of locally based and international artists multiples. We continued to do several events under this umbrella.
- Vitrine: We were a member of the steering group for this project which was driven by two of the artists from DCaP utilising all the empty vitrine spaces across the city to show work in.
- Artist in Residence: Pippa Hale solo show in the Project Space to conclude the 12 month residency.
- Arts@Leeds: Second project focused on the arts organisations within the city and the artists they worked with.
- Insite: Leeds City Council funded project that enabled East Street Arts to work with schools and communities as part of the launch of Patrick Studios.