Briggate Leeds welcomes more than 34,000 shoppers on reopening day after lockdown - with student's street art as new feature

Specialised cameras on Briggate counted a footfall of more than 34,000 shoppers on April 12 - the day in which lockdown restrictions were eased and retail shops could reopen.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 6:00 am
Queues outside Debhenams in Leeds city centre on April 12 (photo: Bruce Rollinson)

The 34,120 people along the Leeds high street compared with 6,442 the previous day on April 11.

According to Leeds City Council, these stats are equivalent to some days in the run up to Christmas, with retailers having reported strong sales.

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Leeds Arts University student Kat Sheath brightened up Briggate with her new street artwork (photo: Leeds Council)

Briggate was not only brightened up by more shoppers this week, but also a new colourful artwork feature by Leeds Arts University student Kat Sheath.

Kat's creations have been put up in the retail hotspot as part of council efforts to make the city centre a 'lively, welcoming space' for visitors.

The artwork was funded and arranged by Leeds City Council who have teamed up with LeedsBID (Leeds Business Improvement District) and the management teams at Victoria Gate Victoria Quarter and Trinity Leeds to bring vacant units to life.

Kat, who is studying illustration at Leeds Arts University, said: “I am extremely excited to be involved in this project and to have the opportunity to contribute to Leeds’s community and be a part of how contemporary illustration brings our city centre back to life by using art to experience our local spaces as a cultural asset.

“The character design of each person is based upon the people who have walked past me while I've been drawing on location on Briggate.

"Symbols scattered between the characters represent the variety of bars and cafes the city has to offer.

"The abstract shapes and patterns are inspired by the local architecture.

"People are shopping, busking, going for a stroll, sipping on a cup of tea and catching up with friends. My design aims to embody Leeds as a thriving community and a welcoming place to live, work, and shop.”

LeedsBID Chief Executive Andrew Cooper said: “Street art plays an important part of the city’s cultural identity.

"Post lockdown, the key will be to work collaboratively in this recovery period and LeedsBID is delighted to partner with Victoria Leeds, Trinity and the city council in supporting Kat on this Briggate project.”

The artwork is among other measures put in place over several weeks by the council which are designed to support businesses and ensure the return of shoppers and visitors is as safe as possible.

There will also be night marshals, city centre ambassadors and Covid marshals across the city - along with 29 new council-granted street café licences across Leeds.

New signage and hand sanitising stations have been put in place along with extensive cleaning of key parts of the city centre.

A new marquee structure on Merrion Street has been approved and plans for the temporary summer pedestrianisation of Call Lane are being discussed.

Parking charges are also being suspended in council-managed car parks and on-road spaces in the city centre and Otley for three weekends in April and May.

Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy and culture, said: “A tremendous amount of dedication and partnership work has gone into ensuring the city centre is as safe and welcoming as possible for everyone returning to shops, bars and cafes this week.

"Leeds really is looking its absolute best and we’re delighted to have worked with a local artist to fund this colourful project and bring Briggate to life.

“It’s been genuinely uplifting to see people back enjoying the city centre too and it’s given everyone a real sense that together, we’re moving in the right direction and getting life in Leeds back to where it should be.

“It’s still vitally important that as restrictions ease, we continue to follow the latest guidance around social distancing, face coverings and hand washing and all look out for ourselves and each other so that we can keep the city safe.”