Leeds' oldest fire station to be illuminated highlighting climate change emergency

The Old Fire Station in Gipton is to be illuminated by a series of light projections to highlight the climate change emergency.

By Alex Grant
Sunday, 28th November 2021, 4:45 am

The event, called Rivers of Light, has been curated by award-winning arts and social change charity Space2 and takes place for one night only on Tuesday, November 30 from 5-7pm.

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The display will feature a light installation centred on the original poles, various exhibits playing with light both in and around the building, poetry, singing, environmental debate, recycled clothing, interactive arts and activities - all delivered with a low carbon footprint.

The Old Fire Station in Gipton was the oldest operational fire station in the city prior to its closure in 2015. Picture: James Hardisty.

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    The station, which opened in east Leeds in 1937, was the oldest operational fire station in the city prior to its closure in 2015.

    Prior to its closure two locally-based community organisations, GIPSIL and Zest Health for Life, approached Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) to see if it was possible to save the building for the community by converting it into a Community and Enterprise hub.

    Discussing the project Space2’s joint CEO, Emma Tregidden, said: “The environmental crisis is woven throughout all Space2’s work – and we are passionate about how the arts can be a vehicle for that. It’s one thing being presented with the facts and figures, but arts and culture enable you to have an emotional response to the situation.

    “We can’t ignore where we are. It’s about taking notice, but it’s very challenging for communities, which are likely to be the most affected. We hope this exhibition will help to open people’s eyes to the situation and be seen as a call to action.”

    Akeelah is attempting to be as sustainable as possible by re-using lighting and materials from previous projects. Picture: James Hardisty.

    The restoration project was managed by LCF courtesy of a significant fund set up by the late Jimi Heselden, a local businessman who was born and brought up in East Leeds.

    Other third sector partners soon came on board as potential tenants, and contractors were appointed - Brewster Bye (architects), Aspect 4 (project managers) and Simpson Of York construction company. The renovation was completed in August 2017, with many of the original features having been maintained including old pumps and the poles.

    Leeds artist, Akeelah Bertram has created a light installation for the interior of the Fire Station, centred on the i poles. They will be clad with LED strips which will be programmed with different lights to suggest the exchange of ideas across the Atlantic and reflecting Space2’s ongoing collaboration with colleagues in South America.

    “I was inspired by the idea of fibre optic cables as a way of communicating," she said “And as we head towards winter I wanted to use light to create something joyous and playful for people to enjoy.”

    Akeelah is attempting to be as sustainable as possible by re-using lighting and materials from previous projects.

    Another local artist, Kevin Hickson, has also been busy recycling and repurposing existing plastic with his group called Heart to Art.

    “Everyone has enjoyed the opportunity to be creative," Kevin said “We’ve been filling plastic containers with coloured liquids and lights and filming them and discussing what makes plastic so seductive, and what the alternatives are.”

    The resulting films will be projected at the Fire Station as part of the Rivers of Light exhibition.

    Other activities on the night are to include a performance by members of Clear Out Your Closet Collective and Voices Heard and songs from the The Old Fire Station Children’s Choir.

    The event serves as part of the "Not Equal" project which has involved Space2 working with a range of international partners in South America over the past 18 months. Led by the University of Leeds, the project examines and responds to the challenges of inequality and social justice which have been highlighted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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