Left Bank Leeds: From weddings to an events space filled with community culture

It started as a venue primarily for weddings, and since lockdown it's become a community hub for self expression, creativity, food and drink, and a multitude of events.

Sunday, 6th June 2021, 4:45 am
The hub is open seven days a week operating as a café (photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Located in the heart of Burley, Left Bank Leeds has used the pandemic to reinvent itself.

The large and open space inside the old former church building is nothing but perfect for people to meet inside again safely and express themselves in the way they choose.

The team began their expanded offerings by opening as a café and beer garden outside when restrictions allowed, and now have a full programme of regular events, weekly sessions and themed evenings.

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Sue Jennings is the director of Left Bank Leeds - located in Burley (photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Left Bank Leeds director Sue Jennings says she wanted to make the hub relevant and accessible to its local community.

She told the YEP: “Before lockdown last year, Left Bank was an events space only open when it had bookings, mainly weddings, or exhibitions.

“When we were emerging out of lockdown this year, we thought we might as well have a crack at opening every day as a café to make the hub more accessible.

Ms Jennings hopes to launch a brewery at the hub in August (photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“We bought some benches, found a second hand coffee machine and got it fixed and we just reopened.

“Ever since then, when we can, we’re open seven days a week as a café and events space.

“We hold loads of our own events and we’ve met loads of people who have come in and said how brilliant it is and that they’d like to hold some kind of event in the space as well.”

Left Bank Leeds now hosts band nights, graffiti jams, DJs, artists, roller skaters, knitters and lino printers - to name a few.

Ms Jennings said that there are also numerous workshops on offer which are affordable for those who want to be creative and sociable together.

She added: “One of the things we learnt from the pandemic is that if you rely on a single source of income then you could be in trouble, and with our income mainly relying on weddings, we had to have a rethink.

“We wanted to create a hub for creative projects and individuals to help them develop their practise and be really enterprising.

“The response has been really positive and I think it’s nice that people want to support us and come and work or study in our space.

“We’ve had a lot of people enquiring about volunteering and people really wanting to do things to help others or to share their skills with others.

“It’s great because it means we’re getting busier and busier and if we have a bigger team we can spend more time with people and put on more events.”

Ms Jennings said she has noticed ticket sales going ‘really quickly’ and that it is clear people are now actively looking for different places to go and new things to do.

She added: “People are really enthusiastic about coming to anything we’ve got on, and although people can’t really dance or mingle yet, they can sit around with friends and have drinks or street food and listen to music again.

“Even for me - I’m quite an introverted person and would be happy to leave work at the end of the day and hang out on my own but I’ve missed being around people like this.

“It’s so important to have spaces where everyone is welcome and there’s always something going on and someone to chat to.”

Ms Jennings added that this is even more important as a result of the differing people who live locally to Left Bank.

She said: “There are student accommodation buildings, flats, people living with friends, people isolated while living alone but here’s a space where you can have a safe distance from people but also become familiar and get to know your local community.

“During the first lockdown particularly, our lives went on pause and we were able to reconnect with our creative selves.”

The team at Left Bank are now working on developing a small brewery which hopes to launch at the end of August.

According to Ms Jennings, this is another way of protecting the business for the future and means lots more people will join in with what’s on offer.

She added: “We’ve got the name and we’ve got the gear but we’re developing the room.

“So for now, we want people to find something they like on our website and if they have a different idea and want a space to develop it- get in touch.”