Gallery: First glimpse of Leeds’s quirky new ‘art hostel’

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WHEN you hear the word ‘hostel’, you probably think of grotty bunk beds, suspicious smells and stumbling to the bathroom in the dark.

One thing you probably don’t think of is art.

Manager Rhian Aitken at the Art Hostel in Leeds. Pictures: Tony Johnson.

Manager Rhian Aitken at the Art Hostel in Leeds. Pictures: Tony Johnson.

But the clever people at East Street Arts are about to turn that notion on its head as they prepare to launch a quirky new stopover for creative types wanting to pay Leeds a visit.

City Buzz got a sneak peak at the venue earlier this week and we have to say it’s very different to some of the hostels we’ve had the questionable delight of staying in over the years.

The new Art Hostel, officially set to open in May, has been years in the making, and takes over the former Bird’s Yard building, believed to be more than 100 years old.

There’s space for up to 34 guests in eight rooms, which have all been individually created by different artists.

The first room, designed by Leeds-based art collective Precious, is eye-catching to say the least.

From the walls to the bedding to the flamingo glasses – and the fur ceiling – it’s a pink paradise.

Manager Rhian Aitken said: “We shouldn’t really have favourites...but this is mine!

“I like everything about it, and the ceiling in particular.

“When people come in, they all say, ‘wow’.”

The pink fluffy ceiling isn’t the only weird and wonderful thing to be found at the hostel.

There are lampshades made from recycled packaging, golden brick walls in the bathroom and even an original winch in the top dorm room, which was used when the building was a seed warehouse.

Then there’s the David Bowie mirror – a suitably off the wall tribute to the great man himself.

“When you look in the mirror, you see yourself as David Bowie, and it sings back to you,” Rhian explains.

“This whole project is just so new and exciting.

“There isn’t another art hostel in the whole of Britain.

“It’s totally original.”

East Street Arts first came up with the concept after wanting somewhere different for their artists to stay.

The arts charity raised £6,000 for the project after setting up a fundraising page.

Rhian adds: “Now the artists can stay here – as can anyone.

“Visitors will get to experience the culture of the city and mix with other like-minded people, and we can help them experience the city at its best.

“We can tell them about open mic nights, where you can get a nice pint and a pie and all the things you need to know.

“We think it will appeal to everyone. We’ve already had Corinne Bailey Rae’s band stay, and have more bands booked in for the Live at Leeds Festival.

“One lady has booked out the whole hostel for her 40th birthday party too.”

During its time, Bird’s Yard building has been a seed warehouse, a tobacconist and a shopping hub.

It’s great to see that the building still has life in it, and is being used as something completely different.

There is still work to do before the launch, with some artists finishing their work and the basement being turned into an exhibition and event space.

But once finished, it will be a unique, creative and innovative project that will really help put this part of the city on the map.