Historic Sunny Bank Mill is showcasing the artists and creative makers of the future in the heart of Farsley

Plans for an art gallery to celebrate its tenth anniversary alongside what would have been the city's bid to be the European capital of culture in 2023 have not been thwarted, despite Brexit.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 6:00 am

Sunnybank Mills, based in Farsley, is doing more than ever to promote its artists and makers despite lockdown and near complete shutdown of the cultural sector over the last 12 months.

It is still working towards a celebration in 2023 that will focus on artists from the city, and it will all be on the doorstep of local residents in west Leeds at a historic building that dates back to the 1820s.

Originally, Sunnybank Mills was founded by a group of local clothiers who invested together to purchase land and build a woollen scribbling and fulling mill, known as The Farsley Club Mill. The mill prospered but in 2008, production of fine worsted cloth stopped at Sunny Bank Mills after 180 years.

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Jane Kay arts director at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley.

Two years later, John and William Gaunt started a multi-million pound regeneration programme of Sunny Bank Mills as a creative space for business and there are now 75 businesses with more than 350 people employed there - with plans in place for further development.

But, one of the main aims of the Sunny Bank mission is to promote, guide and nuture new talent and that is what is happening behind the closed doors of studios, galleries and exhibition spaces that are hopeful to reopen next month.

Here you will find jewellery makers, textile designers, ceramicists, musicians and writers to name but a few.

Jane Kay is the Arts Director at Sunny Bank Mills and spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post as part of a campaign between the YEP and Leeds 2023 to showcase culture and creativity across the city. The idea is that from dance to design, art to architecture, poetry to pop, sculpture to sport, grassroots community theatre to performances on our world class stages, Leeds 2023 will unlock talent and creative opportunities for people from every district in the city.

Sonia Moran who is part of the gallery team and is also an artist pictured at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley.

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"We support and promote artists and makers from Yorkshire, we give them space to exhibit and sell in the gallery or places to make work in our studios. We have residency spaces which we give away free to artists as well."

Once a year, Sunnybank Mills also hosts a showcase of art students' work, which, last year was not able to go-ahead in person so it created a virtual show and it is hopeful the show can resume - in person - in May.

It is also a member of the Donut Project - which is a collective of organisations on the outskirts of the city centre - taking art into communities.

Artist Eilidh Gilmour working in her studio at at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley.

Ms Kay explained: "We are based very much in the centre of our community - like Chapel FM at Seacroft or HEART at Headingley. We work together and talk to each other but it is about putting stuff on so that people don't have to go to the city centre, they can just come here and see some art."

And plans are still in the making for them to see more and more - especially as the revamped Sunny Bank Mills is set to celebrate its tenth anniversay in 2023 and Leeds is pressing ahead with its showcase of culture despite Brexit meaning the city can't continue with its bid.

She added: "For 2023 we will be very much focusing on artists from Leeds and will do an arts festival, scultpure trail and try and get some famous artists you wouldn't normally get coming to a village. It is early stages but we are talking to Leeds 2023 and hope we can come up with something really special."