Pyramid of Arts celebrates 30 years of support

Pyramid of Arts is set to celebrate 30 years of helping people with learning disabilities to express their creative talents.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 3:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 3:33 pm
VISIT: Pyramid of Arts Legends group for older people at Leeds Art Gallery. Picture: Mindy Goose.

Their eclectic projects have ranged from a giant sheep on The Headrow to an art installation dedicated to sausage sandwiches.

The Leeds charity began life as a weekly arts club at Meanwood Park Hospital in 1989. But when the hospital closed in the mid 1990s it morphed into its current guise so it could continue to support people.

Operations manager Sarah Kennedy, who works at its base at Barkston House in Holbeck said: “There are two strands to our work with people with learning disabilities. The first is our group work. We have ten to 12 people with learning disabilities and they all work corroboratively towards quite large scale art projects. One was our big hand, which we did a few years ago for Leeds Light Night and for the Cultural Olympiad. It was a huge flaming torch hand, which we had in Millennium Square. There was also a massive sheep outside Oxford Chambers on The Headrow for Leeds Light Night in 2010.

DISPLAY: Pyramid of Arts giant sheep outside the Methodist Mission on Oxford Place for Leeds Light Night 2010.

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“The point of our groups is we are making big art and big statements aimed at having a big public presence. It means everybody can make a contribution.”

The second aspect of its work is its development teams. These do one-to-one work with aspiring artists who are often plucked from group work.

Sarah added: “Those are people who have real ambitions to become professional artists full time.”

The charity not only supports them artistically but also helps them navigate the arts funding process so they are paid to produce that work.

Exhibition: Pyramids Next Step group for young adults has work on display at The Tetley.

The arts boss said: “We’ve also had some real successes. One of the great ones from last year was Andrew Towse. He got a £15,000 grant from Leeds 2023 to produce his ‘Sausage Atlas’. He’s a photographer who loves sausage sandwiches. He spent a good year documenting every sausage sandwich that he ate by taking a photograph of it before he ate it. From those we produced a huge one metre square sausage sandwich sculpture, which we had in Kirkgate Market through the Beyond Festival last summer. We also made some mini sculptures as well, which we took to all of the different cafes where Andrew had eaten the sausage sandwiches. We had them on display throughout the city.”

Andrew worked with Pyramid’s Anne-Marie Atkinson who supported him to produce his sausage sandwich opus. They have since spoken at conferences and educational events to describe the collaborative process between an artist without a learning disability and an artist who has one.

Pyramid’s latest project is ‘High Rise Bramley’ which will create new inclusive opportunities for people and lead to a wide range of public events and exhibitions. It has recently been awarded £164,958 over three years from the National Lottery Community Fund to help run it.

And Pyramid is also set to use its 30th birthday celebrations to kickstart a fundraising campaign to build a new headquarters in Leeds.

Artwork: Andrew Towse who did The Sausage Atlas with Anne-Marie Atkinson.

It has ambitious plans to raise £800,000 by 2025. Sarah added: “We need lots of support from individuals and corporate sponsors to help us raise £300,000 by 2023 which we can then use as match-funding to attract large capital grant support.”


City charity Pyramid of Arts’ mission is to invest in people with a learning disability through the “discovery, development and disruption of the arts”.

Its goal is to help people with a learning disability to discover the arts and develop their talents to become world-class artists. It also wants to disrupt the social and institutional barriers that prevent them from being recognised, supported and celebrated.

Its vision is that every person with a learning disability will have the opportunity to discover the arts.

The charity also strives to develop creative practices and to support people to realise their potential.

Another goal is to have members celebrated alongside other artists. And for people to face no social or institutional barriers to a meaningful and sustainable career in the arts.

It is currently helping 110 people with learning disabilities. Around 25 freelance artists deliver its work and they are supported by around 30 volunteers.

And more volunteers are needed. Email for more information.

Pyramid runs six weekly art groups for people with a range of learning disabilities, five weekly art groups for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and 13 development teams for one-to-one creative support. See @Pyramid.of.Arts on Facebook for more information.