Historic Leeds bus station to transform into cool new arts and music space

The West Yorkshire Bus Station, pictured in 1959.
The West Yorkshire Bus Station, pictured in 1959.
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AS REGULAR readers will know, we’re always keen to see exciting new arrivals in Leeds.

But there are some who fear the city’s heritage will be swept away by endless waves of new developments, night spots and swanky restaurants.

The old bus station as it is today. Pic: Graham Lindley.

The old bus station as it is today. Pic: Graham Lindley.

So you’ll be pleased to hear that for those behind a new venture at one historic city centre building, ushering in the new isn’t going to mean saying goodbye to the old.

The Old Red Bus Station on Vicar Lane is set to become a new multi-purpose venue for art, music, food and drink.

The building – whilst not the most photogenic – is steeped in history. It opened back in 1936 and was an important transport hub for decades until it finally closed in 1994 when the new Leeds city bus station was launched.

It’s also home to the North Bar stone – a post-Medieval carved stone marking one of the north entrances to the city.

Champion Up North are taking over the venue in the city’s Northern Quarter on a five-year lease.

The independent agency flies the flag for music and visual arts in Leeds and sees huge potential in the building.

Nancy Taylor, from Champion Up North, said: “We love how unique the space is.

“It’s pretty amazing to stand in the middle of the bar and think of all the buses and crowds that used to flow through the building.

“We saw bringing back to life such a significant building as an opportunity to reflect our love of Leeds.

“The five years we have is an opportunity rather than a limitation. We plan to [...] be the new creative hub for Leeds.

“Leeds already has some amazing independent venues but we wanted to open a new space that focuses on providing raw, cutting edge music and art entertainment without the price tag.”

The venue, which spans two floors, is due to open its doors at the end of February.

The upstairs space will host exhibitions, music and creative courses. At night, it will transform into a club that will stay open until the early hours.

The building still has most of its original features and it will keep its industrial-type feel with plenty of open space, exposed ceilings, brick walls, steel and reclaimed wood.

Nancy added: “While we want to keep the space minimalist, we will be showcasing some murals from artists who come to visit.

“This will make the space really unique and definitely worth a visit.”

Speaking about the events, she added: “We plan to support local artists and shine light on the talent in Leeds, and we will utilise our connections across the UK to bring in new acts.”

It will open on February 22 with an exhibition by Leeds College of Art called ‘GIDE,’ which runs until February 24.

With the site just across from the hugely successful Merrion Street area, we’re sure it will be a hit.

The sad news is the building could get demolished in five years, as there are plans to turn it into a car park for the nearby Victoria Gate site.

James Hepburn, project manager at Hammerson, which owns the site, said: “Hammerson is pleased the Old Red Bus Station will bring new life to the building in the interim, whilst it considers its future development.”

Let’s hope that others follow this example and while the city continues to look to the future, it doesn’t forget its past.