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Thriving Farsley art gallery enjoys its best-ever year

The spacious art gallery showcases local artists and provides a creative space for the Farsley, Pudsey and north Leeds community

Sunny Bank Mills Gallery, the acclaimed art, design and culture space housed in a light and tranquil 3,000 sq ft old cloth warehouse in Farsley, has just celebrated its sixth anniversary with its best-ever year.

The spacious art gallery showcases local artists and provides a creative space for the Farsley, Pudsey and north Leeds community.

It is the beating artistic heart of the regenerated Sunny Bank Mills, where Yorkshire Television used to film their hit shows Emmerdale and Heartbeat.

The gallery opened in 2013, when William Gaunt, co-managing director of Edwin Woodhouse, the developers of Sunny Bank Mills, commented: “We want to support local artists in Leeds. The overriding aim is that the mill should be an inspiring place for people to come to work – and visit.”

Jane Kay, a former Leeds lawyer who manages the gallery, said: “That is exactly what we have achieved. I have had my dream job for the past six years and have been delighted with the success we have achieved. We have put Farsley on Yorkshire’s artistic map. The village is now recognized as a genuine cultural destination in the county.

“We have had some fabulous open weekends at the gallery, with more than 2,000 visitors on occasions. Since we opened we have hosted 50 exhibitions featuring more than 400 artists. We have grown year on year and last year was our best with over 11,000 visitors.”

“We are proud and privileged to have provided Yorkshire artists with the space and opportunity to promote their work. We have a growing programme of courses and workshops for all abilities including life drawing, embroidery, print making and ceramics

“The gallery itself is the perfect exhibition space, with lots of room and lots of north light. It is situated on the first floor of Sandsgate, the mill’s old administrative offices, which have been immaculately refurbished,” she added.

The Gallery is the creative hub of the Mill and the local community, playing host to a rolling exhibition programme of art by regional artists, supporting the performing arts and concerts within the mill spaces and providing a venue to hire for small events.

William Gaunt said: “Our ambition is to offer accessible art and design for everyone. We support and encourage local artists, makers and performers and are proud of our heritage and warm welcome.

“Sunny Bank was always a place of makers, for 180 years the mill produced collection after collection to meet the demands of fashion both at home and abroad. The skills of the mill workers, honed over generations, combined to produce some of the finest cloths in the world.

“A whole team of designers and pattern weavers dedicated their time to creating new styles each season. The family traveled the globe, seeking out customers who cherished the elegant cloth to make up into garments that the wearer could be proud of. The whole community was connected to the mill, sited in the middle of the village of Farsley.

“When the cruel march of changing economics forced the closure of the mill ten years ago all these values, all this culture, could have been lost. Key to the regeneration of Sunny Bank Mills was that not only should it remain a place of employment, but also that it should retain its place at the heart of the community.

“The establishment of the Sunny Bank Mills Gallery was a pivotal moment in the regeneration of the mills. Not only did we have artists queuing up for the opportunity to finally get their work in front of an audience in the city, but we attracted talented individuals, who were passionate about making something happen in their community.

“The cultural activities at Sunny Bank Mills have, without doubt, enhanced our offer. The mill has a steady stream of visitors who go out and promote the Sunny Bank story. The whole community has been lifted by the regeneration, and Farsley is now a desirable place to live with one of the fastest moving property markets in Leeds.”

 

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