New artwork unveiled for Leeds city-centre park

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New artwork has been unveiled at a park as part of an ongoing improvement scheme for an area of Leeds city centre.

Commissioned by Leeds City Council, 25-year-old artist Melody Sutherland has produced a series of murals for Merrion Gardens, some of which were unveiled on Saturday.

Working with her mum Nicola, who is also an artist, they interviewed people aged between 10 and 26 about their lives and hopes, having been tasked with finding people from marginalised genders.

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The portrait faces of two of her interviewees feature on the gatehouse murals, while metre-square portraits of the other eight will shortly be going up on the site’s perimeter railings.

Melody Sutherland and her mother Nicola.Melody Sutherland and her mother Nicola.
Melody Sutherland and her mother Nicola.

Benches and bins around the site - located between Merrion Street and New Briggate - have also been given eye-catching paint-jobs.

An information board isto be installed that will display a QR code linking to a YouTube documentary about the project and includes extracts from Melody’s research interviews.

Melody, who is originally from Reading but now lives in Leeds, said: “This has been massively rewarding to work on and I’m really pleased with the results - hopefully it makes Merrion Gardens a more welcoming and inclusive space for all.

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Melody with one of her subjects, Nagina Nesar Ahmed, and the portrait of her.Melody with one of her subjects, Nagina Nesar Ahmed, and the portrait of her.
Melody with one of her subjects, Nagina Nesar Ahmed, and the portrait of her.

"A big thank you to everyone who has lent their support, including of course, the young people who spoke so honestly and movingly about their life experiences.

"Talking to them and having the opportunity to tell their stories was incredibly inspiring. It’s great to see people who previously have found themselves in the background of society instead going front and centre in a project like this.”

"I'm so happy with it, it's more than I could have hoped for.”

The scheme is the latest improvement to the area, which has included the construction of a new children’s play area in Merrion Gardens, picnic benches have been put in place in the grounds of St John’s, while a permanent traffic-free space has been created on New Briggate by pedestrianising the lower end of the street.

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Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “We want to make sure that spaces like Merrion Gardens are appealing and attractive to everyone in Leeds.

“The new artwork looks tremendous, it adds a real splash of colour to a much-loved spot in the city centre.”