What The Hepworth Gets Right That The Tetley Gets Wrong


What The Hepworth gets right – That The Tetley gets wrong! By Dave, who describes himself as an international man of mystery, currently limited to the North of England for sound ecological reasons …

What is it that The Hepworth gets right, that The Tetley gets wrong?

There’s definitely something. The Hepworth has grandeur, it has presence, it – despite the building looking like it’s doing its best not to be detected on radar – it exudes importance. Whereas, The Tetley by contrast … well, just doesn’t. For me at least.

Don’t get me wrong. I like The Tetley, or at least I *want* to like The Tetley… I’m all in favour of ex-industrial buildings being regenerated as hipster hangouts, and if you look at The Tetley’s response to the Tour de France – hosting the Ghost Peloton (FREE), versus The Hepworth’s response – hosting of an illuminated cycling expedition with artists Paul Hurley and Caleb Parkin to discover a very different city under nightfall (£7). Well it’s clear who the winner is.

But still … something persists. Just what is The Hepworth’s je ne sais quoi?

Perhaps it’s because The Hepworth creates – or at least starts to create – a Wakefield Waterfront, combining waterside living, the chantry bridge and the river and canal basins to make a meaningful “quarter” to complement Wakefield City Centre. Whereas The Tetley feels a little remote from the centre of Leeds, its kind of just around the corner from The Armouries, just over the bridge from Briggate, surrounded by a windswept pay and display car park …Maybe that will change (and maybe Wakefield will get rid of that horrible A61 / A638 junction.)

Or perhaps it’s because The Hepworth creates the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle (along with the Henry Moore Institute and The Yorkshire Sculpture Park) whereas the Tetley… does what exactly?

Or maybe it’s something else?

Then, in the café bar it strikes me. The Tetley – obviously – sells hand pulled Tetley ales. Except that it doesn’t – not really, because it can’t. It only sells ersatz Tetley, Tetley made in Northamptonshire… fake Tetley, corporate Tetley, “sold its soul, moved its manufacturing and turned its HQ into an art gallery” Tetley. And that’s what’s wrong with The Tetley, that’s everything that’s wrong with the Tetley defined in a one pint glass. It’s all a marketing ploy – a ploy to disguise the loss felt by the fact that the quintessential Leeds pint isn’t made in Leeds anymore.

Whereas, by contrast, The Hepworth serves bottles of Masterpiece; a light English Ale brewed by the Ossett Brewery to celebrate a joyous homecoming celebration of Wakefield’s most celebrated daughter! Now -of course- that’s also a marketing ploy, but it’s a good one, a natural one, a real one, an authentic one.
And that’s what The Hepworth gets right – that The Tetley gets wrong. It feels real. It feels authentic, it feels right.

Although I still think it should serve a rhubarb crumble.


  1. Dave? Dave? Dave who? Hello Dave! Be great to credit our authors with their full name. Or did I miss it? I like your views on the Tetley and find myself agreeing. Early days and all that but I agree with the sentiment. As for the Hepworth – never been. Does that say more about me or more about the attraction of the Hepworth. I work and live very close. And I should be their target audience. So why haven’t I been?

  2. As Stuart just said, it is early days, and it’s not perfect (nothing ever is.)

    I actually do love the building, it genuinely is a Leeds icon – and that’s a word I rarely use. I like what they have done with it architecturally, and I have enjoyed many a glass of wine in there (not a big beer drinker, probably owing to early exposure to Tetley Imperial) and the occasional bit of art. And it’s always been a welcoming space – the staff are great. So I suppose I worry a bit when you say they get it wrong.

    I think the circumstances in which they are trying to work don’t help (I can’t even imagine what pressures they are under, from all sides) and they are trying to do the best they can. They are making a go of a tricky building in a difficult space with an impossibly convoluted political and economic situation to negotiate … I wouldn’t fancy it myself. And it is where it is, Hunslet … there’s a lot going on around there soon so maybe that will help?

    Agree with your point about the beer though. I’m not sure what they can do about that.

    I hate rhubarb!

  3. The other difference is about £35m of public money versus about £1m. I may not have my figures exactly right but not far off, and I’m not sure the Hepworth’s 35 times better!
    I like ’em both actually – life’s rich tapestry and all that – and I like beer and rhubarb too.

  4. Dear ‘Dave’,

    Whilst I completely respect your right to an opinion, what I can’t tolerate is lazy fact-finding (you get nearly everything wrong) and lazy assumptions (you know what ‘assume’ makes). The Tetley has been put together by a wonderful team of people who have given blood, sweat and tears over the last 3 years just to get the doors open. Yes it’s early days, no it’s not perfect yet, but we did this for Leeds, because we care about art and artists, about creativity and independence, and about this amazing city of ours. We got off our arses and made something happen and brought Carlsberg to the table with a million pound project for the city. If you actually want to know about The Tetley for real, if you actually want to find out some true facts about what it took to even begin this project, you can email me at Kerry.harker@thetetley.org and I’d be delighted to give you a personal tour.

    I’ve been in this city for 24 years and I’ve slogged my guts out for the last 8 to make PSL and The Tetley happen. Hope you can say the same. Look forward to meeting you soon and continuing the discussion about authenticity.

    Kerry Harker
    Co-founder and Director, The Tetley

  5. It’s a pub lunch venue for people who don’t like pubs.

    Ok, maybe a tad strong. It’s a pub lunch venue for people that want to make sure the right clientele are there; that the old soaks are not.

    I’ve friends who go. I asked what they thought of the art. “Art?” They said. “There’s art there?”. “I went up to the board room. Was that art?”

    And Tetleys was/is a crap pint. Geographically speaking I doubt many could tell the difference as water treatments will be used to make the drinker believe they are drinking it dredged straight out of the aire.

  6. Dear Dave,

    There’s so much ‘wrong’ with your article I don’t know where to start. It’s certainly not about beer.

    The Tetley’s only been open since November and to use an arts term, is still a work in progress. It follows on from where PSL left off – that’s dedication – commitment from a small resourceful group of people who believe in what they do. They have ambition and vision. If everyone had the opinion of there’s nothing there lets not bother building anything where would we be? It’s well known that arts and culture attract other businesses. The Hepworth helped the renaissance of Wakefield, it wasn’t an accident. Plus if you stack up the economies, the public and private investment and put it in perspective – Hepworth vs The Tetley.

    The Tetley is at the beginning of its life and it reaches far wider than the grounds of brewery – it engages authentically with communities not just the visitors dropping by. It invests time and energy in developing people’s skills – it doesn’t have a short term vision – investment goes way beyond money. I am one of those people – i’ll put my cards on the table – I will be working with The Tetley – but as an emerging artist that is such a vital experience. To produce and show art in a fantastic contemporary art space is an amazing opportunity – but it’s also all the advice and support that’s given towards longer term development.Does the Hepworth do that? (Not that it neccesarily should, it has a different function) The Tetley IS doing that for many artists – local and national – they are looking at the potential – investing in the cultural future of Leeds.

    The Tetley has the weight of its history and place in Leeds’ folklore. It has not turned away from that and is trying to do a difficult job of honouring the past and looking to the future. It is getting lots of things right and it knows there are some edges to smooth. But to be so reductionist as to say its in a bad location (it’s actually longer to walk from westgate to Hepworth than Central Stn to Tetley) and focus on the beer is facile to say the least. People want to engage with art in different ways and if that’s over Sunday lunch then fine – it may develop into more of an interest – you see – that developing and investment again.

    So I think The Tetley is getting a lot of things right, I really like going there – to work or visit – and if you want to know about authenticity, passion and a ‘make it happen’ attitude – take Kerry up on her offer of a tour – then you can write your letter of recantation and post it here.

  7. The Artists Books Fair held at the Tetley two or three weekends ago was a first-rate event.

  8. What a stupid, stupid article! What nasty, unproductive way to frame ones response. And I think it irresponsible of the Culture Vulture to publish in this form.

    One reason Leeds struggles to get the venues it deserves is because of carping, sneering, ill-informed responses like this. It should have been assigned to a ‘reader’s letters’ (“disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” only with beer, a fag an’ a whippet) not dignified as ‘debate’.

    The Tetley started out without many of the advantages of the Hepworth (collection, location, purpose-built architecture, sculpture triangle, etc) and it will take time to find its feet. It will do so not by competing with other local institutions but by a whole series of collaborations which build the audience and influence it’s leisure habits.

    I am sure that the Culture Vulture will make room for more enlightened, less snide reflections on their progress.

    1. I agree Lloyd,
      Positivity is contagious, and without the £35 million in public money, this is massively unfair comparison. Leeds will embrace the Tetley, but it will take time. It takes real balls to create something that is so risky, so pioneering and strong. The Tetley has the power to rejuvenate a whole area of Leeds, and turn a ruin into a destination…

      The attitudes behind articles like this are the only thing stopping Leeds becoming a city we can all be proud of.

      Stop moaning ‘Dave’ – what have you risked for your city lately?


    2. I agree it should have been a “reader’s letter” kind of post. And just as soon as we can afford to overhaul the website to provide that kind of feature that’s where it’ll be.

      Trouble with this sort of thing is what do you do faced with a genuine response from a punter – do you publish even though you think it’s misguided? Or do you only publish stuff from the suitably informed and impeccably on-message? This isn’t the only criticism I’ve heard of the Tetley, but it’s the only one I’ve been sent. So I decided to put it on the site.

      It may have been the wrong decision. I’m not sure.

      But I’ve seen “Dave” in the Tetley, once. And I’ve seen the other critics in there too, once. It did seem to me that the Tetley was not getting the message across as well as it might. “Dave” and the other critical voices are totally Tetley market – so rather than have a private conversation in a pub somewhere else I though the best idea was to air the criticism. The Tetley can convince “Dave” to give it another go much better than I can (see Kerry Harker’s comment above.) And the Tetley get another chance to put their story across.

      So, it may have been wrong. But I bet “Dave” will be back for a pint. And I’m sure the Tetley won’t be bothered by a random wrong note. That’s punters for you. Just can’t get the audience you deserve sometimes!

      1. Wherever it however the culture vulture posted Dave’s opinions… It got people talking! And more than anything it evoked positive responses to our wonderful new Tetley! 🙂

    3. ‘It should have been assigned to a ‘reader’s letters’ (“disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” only with beer, a fag an’ a whippet) not dignified as ‘debate’.’

      What a very snobbish response!

      The problem with some of Leeds’ ‘cultural’ clique is that you’re so very insular. Anyone who dares to raise a question regarding something is immediately dismissed as ‘stupid’.

      Is a new art venue just for the ‘haves’ who already are well in there and are going to lap it up anyway, or is it for *any* enquiring mind, who’s gone there looking to be stimulated and has come away feeling less than inspired?

      I don’t think your elitist response helps at all.

  9. You got to question how many art galleries (sorry centres for contemporary art)are actually needed.

    Let me think now place by place and this is only off the top of the head – Middlesbrough: MIMA, Sunderland: erm is it the centre for contemporary art also some sort of Glass Museum?, Wakefield: Hepworth, Gateshead: Baltic, Liverpool: Tate North. Then there is “the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle”

    Of course they are not all the same – some (most) have no permanent collections so they depend on getting in famous name touring exhibitions which means that they can be quite empty if you go on the wrong day.

    A lot of this is art as tourist attraction; the cafes are what count – Block buster exhibitions and celebrity artists.

    Inevitably some of these places are better run than others – how many directors has the Baltic had ?

    I have too many bad memories of Millennium domes, earth centres, centres for popular music and Urbis to have much confidence in what is going on with “Art”.

    PSL was OK with me it filled a need and had some interesting exhibitions although when I went I thought it was much for the “art lovers of leeds” plus students of fine at.

    Personally the Tetley is not really for me – I have been a couple of times and couldn’t actually find any art. There is too much “heritage of the building” stuff and all this hype about the new Leeds South of the river.

    Should have re-used the Yorkshire Post building instead.

    But you just got to have a place like this to be “competitive” along with an arena, a good “retail offer” and a major sports event.

    1. Just as a side note – I love that most cities have a contemporary arts centre cause I know I can always take the bloke there and find a coffee, a bit of art and they’re almost always accessible for the disabled. You can’t say that about most other institutions

      I’m looking forward to going to The Tetley for the first time because I waited for it to settle a bit because things do take time. I’m slightly put off by having to pay to park but I will do, because PSL are great

  10. I think this might the worst article I’ve ever read on Culture Vulture. I understand why you felt you might want to publish it, Phil, but it’s so wrong-headed, it barely makes any sense. I don’t even really know what “Dave”‘s problem is, it’s so incoherent.

    What’s interesting about it is that it reminds me of an old attitude in the city that I think we all recognise – quick to criticise, generalise and to offer nothing constructive or useful. Leeds’s greatest enemy has always been itself. What’s so heartening is that it now feels like an old-fashioned attitude that we are, slowly, killing with creative energy and a sense of can-do. The Tetley is surely part of that renewal.

    I already love The Tetley, though I do understand that it’s a work in progress. It would certainly be nice to see more actual art in the building – there’s not quite enough to ‘see’ yet at times – but I’m guessing that will come in time. As it is, it’s already a joy to spend time in such an iconic building and my kids love it. Hopefully, it’ll grow into something even better as they get older.

    1. I thought you were right about an hour ago, but reading back over some of the comments I’m not so sure.

      I’m really not that comfortable with this “we are right” tone, “go back to Wetherspoons, Dave, you uncultured lout!”

      Dave’s post was quite light-hearted (well, I know him so may be reading into it what isn’t really there, I can see that.) And I know lots of people who have been to The Tetley the once and not gone back. Which is sad. And a missed opportunity.

      I’m completely happy if the Tetley want to keep it to the cultural elite of the city, those who get what’s going on (you and me and Trent and Lloyd and the rest) but I just don’t see the point of lecturing paying punters (punters who made the effort, spent money, investigated but just didn’t get it) on why it’s their fault they weren’t convinced by the obvious fabulousness – aren’t they stupid not to get it!

      Well, actually, no. That sort of cultural complacency is a very Leeds attitude too. The Leeds elite attitude.

      If the Tetley is going to make it as a venue it’s the Daves they need to convince. Not you. Not me. Not any of the other superior people who have commented so far. And if you think you are going to convince the likes of Dave by hectoring and belittling them then Leeds really hasn’t much of a future. Let’s all go pat ourselves on the back, we are doing great! We don’t need Dave or his kind. He doesn’t deserve us.

      If I were Dave I probably would think I’d be happier spending my hard earned money elsewhere.

      See you in Wetherspoons where the crowd is a bit friendlier.

  11. I’ll leave others to debate the quality and possible lack of art in the Tetley, and I don’t see the point of criticising it’s location as there’s nothing can be done about that. I would like to correct the oft repeated and lazy assertion that those bad guys at Carlsberg closed one of the city’s cultural treasures and now make fake Tetley on their Northampton UK base. Simply put Tetley’s current range of beers are still partly produced in Yorkshire at Tadcaster as well as in the home of brewing Burton upon Trent. NO Tetley beer is produced in Northampton and Carlsberg still employ 100s of delivery and office staff in Leeds. Sales of Tetley beet is at an all time high now and by common acclaim, at least outside Leeds, Tetley is a far better pint than in was in its last few decades being brewed in Leeds. The Leeds brewery was actually being kept afloat on lager production for years anyway not its indigenous beers. Time past Tetley by as people turned to better, more complex and reliable ales. There were many crocodile tears shed by the city and region’s small craft ale producers but most if not all have gained from the end of Tetley brewing in Leeds, non more so than the wonderful Leeds Brewery. Just as when an old tree falls in a forest young saplings fight to grow into the light opened up in the canopy, Leeds has a far more vibrant and profitable array of microbrewery than it did before Tetley’ s decline and fall. It was still sad when brewing came to an end but the real independent company died long ago, long live the new local brewers, history keeps going round.

  12. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post and that alone is a reason to publish it cos Culture Vulture is not a place for polite reflection, it’s where we go for rough and ready debate.
    I know Dave (for that indeed is his name) and he’s a decent bloke even if I disagree with him here. I do take particularly violent exception to his genuinely random use of apostrophes, but all of us who have written here and elsewhere will have had pieces that we perhaps think later we could have improved on or been more thoroughly researched.
    I have a warm and cosy feeling about The Tetley partly because I went to a bloggers’ event there the week before it opened and then went to the opening night, so I feel that it belongs to me or maybe I belong to it, I get where they’re coming from.
    I wonder whether the time is right then to do a ‘six months on’ bloggers’ event where we can talk about what works and what is still work in progress in a supportive and constructive atmosphere, as there may well be things I’d change. The crux for me is that there’s a fair chance that if I mention that idea here, CV and The Tetley might make it happen. I have no idea how to influence The Hepworth. It’s just feels a bit too big and remote.

    1. Opps, an apostrophe apology is required – I did remedy the random punctuation but my edit apparently failed to upload … hope all is acceptable now that has been fixed.

      As for the 6 month on bloggers event, I shall see what I can do …sounds like a good idea though.

  13. OH COME ON DAVE. Would you’d rather knock down the thing to make way for more flats? Or do you prefer another brand new, sleek corporate soulless art gallery? Where’s your sense of adventure and positivity and PRIDE? They made this happen with only £1m, in OUR CITY! I’m buzzing about the fact that we now have an ace arts centre, actually supporting artists, in a building that was formerly a Leeds institution, rich with history! and FFS, its not about the beer, mate.

    Ive been to the Tetley. Its a perfect example of what makes Leeds unique, a real life physical embodiment of this city’s identity that I’m always so fascinated by and will always be proud to talk about with to others. The re-utilisation of otherwise empty buildings into collaborative spaces, protecting and celebrating our industrial heritage, a place of ruin into a place of fascination and creativity.

    in internet-speak: Fuck the haters. hats off to the folks who made the Tetley happen in its latest form. to me this is the output of the beginning of a cultural renaissance in this city. I cant wait to see how the Tetley’s programme of activities will develop over the coming months.

    -Trent R.

  14. I do not have an opinion on if the Tetley is better or worse experience than the Hepworth, but what I do know (as a local resident) is that I do not feel inspired to visit.

    The problem with the cultural sector in Leeds is it is often too clique and they often struggle to inspire the members of the general public who are not culturally minded.

    1. Most cities have. But that’s not an argument against art venues. And, as art venues go The Tetley is trying hard to make stuff happen. Can’t knock them for not eliminating the need for food banks can we?

      1. True. I was not making an argument against art venues. I was trying to prompt a reflection about what we (as a city) care about and what we invest in.

  15. I visited the Tetley a few weeks back and was rather underwhelmed but as people say give it a chance however, I think everyone posting here, and I’ve read all of them, miss a major point. For me the people who got the Tetley going have to be praised (better something than nothing). But, born and bred in Leeds as am, the Tetley feels like a mausoleum to the working class and to industry in Leeds (and in the North as a whole). Where there was mining we now have a Mining Museum and where there was brewing we now have a museum where we had printing … and so on. Of course all these industries, crushed by globalisation and technology, had their day but the point is I cannot celebrate the nature of the transformation. A. Neville points to the microbreweries but they are miniscule in comparison to the old Tetley brewery and, in terms of working class jobs, well there is no comparison. Over the past two to three decades I have watched my city slowly turn its centre into a glorified retail park, kill the Corn Exchange (only just clawing it’s way back) and replaced industry with art. The suburbs, where’s their art? Alan Bennett was asked what he thought of Leeds and he said it had “lost it’s soul” and whilst the Tetley can be praised as a standalone museum it is, in its very nature, a sad reminder of what we have lost (that bit of soul). I would love art to stand proudly alongside industry in this city but sadly Kirkstall forge, Barnbow and the printing presses of Yorkshire Post newspapers have all fallen silent to be replaced with the chattering of hipsters and yet another Asda. The Tetley gives me the same feeling as when they shut the Duchess of York and it reopened as a Hugo Boss shop, it’s not that I dislike the Tetley I just feel sad everytime I walk past it.

  16. Well, this is quite a debate, and I welcome it. Feels like we’re airing some of the niggling things we’ve been hearing about The Tetley (alongside all the supportive stuff as well) since we opened. We’ve got to be big enough to take constructive criticism and take action on the back of it. So we will.

    But come off it Phil: ‘cultural complacency?’, ‘if The Tetley want to keep it to the cultural elite of the city’ etc. Who the hell are they? I’m certainly not one of them! Can I remind you that it was Dave who started this whole thing with his particularly barbed article: surely Dave’s the one making the assumptions and the judgements? We couldn’t have done any more in the last four months to be open, accessible and welcoming to anyone and everyone. We are genuinely open to approaches from artists, from other organisations, from anyone really and do our level best to support others and work collaboratively whenever we can. That’s why it hurts when someone points the accusing finger and confidently decides that ‘it’s all a marketing ploy’ without even bothering to find the (easy to find) facts about who’s done what and spent what to make The Tetley happen.

    The Tetley is a genuine Leeds independent, created by people who have been here for a long time, who care about the city and its people, and who have all worked long and hard and made big sacrifices, personal and professional, to get it off the ground. We have only been open for FOUR MONTHS. Yes, there’s more to do, but you have to start somewhere. The fact is that investing in art and artists costs money, maybe more than you’d imagine, and that’s why we’ve created a Bar and Restaurant on the ground floor: we need to generate income so that all the profits (100% of them) can be reinvested in making more art happen in the future. We have to do the commercial bits, because the way public funding is going there won’t be any art left soon unless it’s funded through other means. So it will take time for the profits to kick into the art programme at The Tetley – but actually we’ve already made quite a lot of it happen on fairly small resources. You can find it on the first floor, which is all gallery space, as well as elsewhere in the building. We have a great programme coming in 2014-15 with more great events like the Book Fair, and we’ll be involved in the British Art Show which opens in Leeds in October 2015. But the truth is that if everyone wants independent activity in Leeds, we (like Munro House, and Lambert’s Yard, and the Belgrave, and Left Bank and everyone else) need your support. It has to come from everyone, from the local authority and Arts Council, from the corporate sector, from partnership with other organisations, and from individuals who come through the door every day and buy a coffee or a beer. The reason I invested 8 years of my time in making PSL and The Tetley happen? Because I want to live in a city (and I want my 8 year old son to grow up in a city) which celebrates and supports creativity, talent, difference, inventiveness, risk-taking and sheer bloody brilliance wherever it rears its beautiful head. Otherwise we’re all just wandering round Trinity or the St John’s Centre or The Core or Victoria Gate every Saturday afternoon, wishing we could afford to buy anything.

    And one last thing on the subject of ‘marketing ploys’: the Tetley name is in NO WAY something we have cynically appropriated as an easy marketing tool. We started coming to the building and working on the project quite a while before the brewery closed. So we met and got to know a lot of people working there, and it has always been clear what passion they had for the place. We’re also good friends with the Joshua Tetley Association and know loads of people who worked at the brewery before the Carlsberg days. We totally respect the history of the place and the fact that it lives on in so many people in the city. We embrace the Tetley heritage and we’re working with it, and people connected to it, sensitively but also hopefully in new ways that mean we don’t become the ‘Tetley Museum’.

    All of the above is a tough trick to pull off, but hell we’re giving it a go. My plea to everyone who wants to see independent activity in Leeds flourish, is to get on board and help make it work. We’re nice people Dave, so please come see us.

    And yes to another bloggers event Phil, if it works for you – why not?

    Kerry Harker
    Co-founder and Director, The Tetley

    1. Morning Kerry,

      I wasn’t saying there was any complacency on the part of Tetley, but there certainly is a fixed opinion out there that “cultural” stuff doesn’t relate to most people in Leeds. It’s not me saying that – read the previous comment from Darren. Darren runs one of the biggest tourist/leisure sites in Leeds, and he hasn’t been to The Tetley.

      Do you think any of the arguments above – especially the tone of some of them – will convince anyone who doesn’t identify themselves as “cultural” that it’s worth a try?

      I don’t have any problem with the business model. I help run a cultural venue too – big Grade 1 monument only half a mile or so from you. We have no funding, support, no sponsorship, so if we put on a show/performance/exhibition and we make no money at the bar we don’t eat that week. It really is that brutal. Which is why I understand that every punter is precious. I don’t really care if they don’t get it – I do care that they come back, so every bit of feedback is brilliant. I don’t expect them to get on board just because I put 30 or so hours a week to make it work and I think it’s fabulous for Leeds. It’s not their job to be supportive, its ours to prove we have something they want.

      Anyway, I’m down the Tetley for a drink later after our walk around the doughnut of despair. May see you in the bar.

  17. The Hepworth is, in the words of my best friend, a waste of space. A brilliant space, wasted.

  18. I see where Darren is coming from.

    I was fortunate to be invited to the pre-launch Culture Vulture event. I saw a brilliant space, imaginatively converted, and met a dedicated and passionate team running it.

    But – you knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you? – my question remains now what it was on that pre-launch night. What is there at The Tetley to attract mum, dad and the kids over a wet half term holiday? Avant-garde art and letterpress printing workshops will appeal to the National Trust brigade but not to a mass audience.

    I have experience of this, on both sides. Back in the 80s I was features producer (and tea boy) for a commercial radio station with the task of filling 23 minutes a week for a programme called ‘235 Weekend’. Whatever I did was simultaneously slammed by my bosses for being too highbrow and criticised by the arts community for ‘dumbing down’ their efforts. Later, as a parent, I spent the decade from the mid-90s to the mid-noughties trying to interest offspring in the joys of culture.

    So what’s needed to pull in the punters, yet still keep true to ‘the mission’?

    Off the top of my head: Fairground art. what happens to all those garishly painted rides and stalls during the winter? I reckon they go into storage. So what about some prize examples of the genre on show, together with a coconut shy or ring-the-bell strongman contraption or two available to try at very modest cost to give the owners incentive to set up? Maybe a small roundabout and a fairground organ. Could do toffee apples and brandy snap in the cafe.

    70s/80s/90s retro video pub games machines, together with the art they inspired (Pubs – see what I did there). I think there’s a firm in Castleford that reconditions them. Could run a fun darts tournament alongside it, and maybe show some totally non-PC examples of how advertising art was used to sell beer (and peanuts) back then.

    Carlsberg must own plenty of beer engines and fizzy cola dispenser guns – you know, those with the buttons on. Could we set a few up dispensing Willy Wonka brightly coloured gloop for a wet, splashy, screechy Eureka! or Magna style water play room? (towels available).

    I’ll now get ready for a re-run of one of my post-programme debrief sessions from 1985 …..

  19. You can’t compare the Tetley with the Hepworth – the Hepworth has a permanent collection to display [which is why London’s Tate Modern was such a success – it had something to put into that old power station from the start – while other lottery funded projects floundered and died]whereas the Tetley, like its forerunner PSL, doesn’t have one – its all about the current and future shows. I’m surprised how many of the above comments have come from people who have never BEEN to the Tetley – which smacks to me of someone dissing a town because of what they have read in the ‘Daily Mail’ and have never actually got themselves stranded there: so go and have a mooch, and then stick ‘yer informed oar in if your inclined. The Tetley is NOT “out on a limb” from the rest of the city – is the Adelphi out on a limb? Hunslet? Beeston? Middleton? For gods sake, people – take a short hike!!! The post industrial wasteland of inner city South Leeds is teeming with interest and possibility – look to the future! Those behind the Tetley have secured a stay of execution on the actual building they inhabit AND have made what was a previously closed building available free of charge to the rest of us – surely you have to admire THAT at least? It sounds like “Dave” never got beyond the ground floor because his criticisms really are mild and bitter [excuse the pun]in the extreme – he never really delivers his argument if, indeed, he has one. Or at least there is no substance to it if he does, as I seem to have missed the meaty bulk of it. No, mister – the Tetley is not a disappointment or a waste of space with a bar attached to it but an indication of the possibilites with which Leeds can be filled to overflowing in the coming years beyond the Tour de France and the Capitol of Culture bid. What has so far been done to this building is nothing short of remarkable – the clever trick now is to consolidate it and let it surpass Manchester’s Cornerhouse and Bristol’s wonderful, waterfront Arnolfini – both venues that the Tetley itself says it wants to aspire towards. By showcasing excellence the Tetley could be brilliant – as it is, it is waiting in the wings. But what flapable wings they are! As everyone acknowledges, its early days yet – not even six months in fact! Criticism for criticisms sake is meaningless, spiteful and elitist [just as self congratulatory back slapping is, too],but criticism that contributes to helpful change, on the other hand, is nothing short of positive. Sniping is feeble. Dave needs to stop watering his beer down and get a real pint.

  20. It’s a beautiful building, with a beautiful conversion and a good café. But I have to say at the moment I find it’s not got enough things in the collection to look at. To compare with Hepworth isn’t really fair as a) they have a permanent collection and b)a sizeable budget for programmes. Coming from a theatre background, I have some sympathy. The country is full of beautiful (and less beautiful), well equipped theatres built in the late nineties/early noughties. Sadly no-one seemed to factor in the programme budget, so they can’t afford to book anyone in. To me that’s a good argument for public money to support programming exciting exhibitions that wouldn’t otherwise get anywhere near Leeds.

    I can also see that the exhibitions space will be a bit tricky to show stuff in. It will be interesting to see what will come in.

    I saw some of the artist book fair and found it deeply underwhelming. I felt that they got a bit lost in comparison to the scale and impressiveness of the building. But then, I don’t like artist books. They are part of a bit of contemporary art that I find completely impenetrable and a bit tedious. A direct line between that and an inward looking academia that creates art focused on process. All very interesting from an embodied practice point of view but really boring if you’ve had enough of traces, impressions and artefacts left by the process of the body moving through space. I digress.

    There’s absolutely no reason to write the Tetley off, but I can see there will be challenges ahead which I will continue to follow with interest. I’d love to visit primarily for the art with the bonus of the café, rather than the other way round so shall keep turning up to see how things develop.

  21. I’ve been to The Tetley. More than once. I *want* to like it, but I just don’t. It doesn’t feel right. It feels fake.

    Now maybe my observation was flawed, but that’s what I blogged – my observation. From my perspective as someone who works across Yorkshire and who cares about the regeneration of the North.

    I’ve been to The Hepworth. Once. I liked it. I’ll go again. I’d recommend it and I’d take a friend.

  22. Dave,

    It’s this thing about The Tetley being ‘fake’ that really irks me, isn’t it? What do you mean? That the people who made it happen don’t really believe in it? (I can assure you we do – it takes that to go through the major battles of just getting the doors open). That it’s only masquerading as a contemporary art space? (It really is one – take a look at the WHOLE OF THE FIRST FLOOR WHICH IS ALL GALLERY SPACE). That we don’t care about the regeneration of the North too? (Actually we do – we have created a decent number of new jobs for Leeds people in bringing The Tetley to life and a good number of our 40,000 visitors to date will have contributed to the local economy aside from visiting us). The Tetley is making a serious contribution to regenerating the area too, opening up a historic route across the brewery site which has been closed for decades, making links between Hunslet and the city centre. Contributing a new green space for the city centre (free, open, accessible to everyone all day every day from next Saturday).

    At Whitehall Waterfront, we worked with over 300 artists and curators over a five-year period and supported the production of countless new projects, partnerships and creative collaborations. So it can’t be our history as an arts organisation which is fake – we were founded in 2006 so we’re already 8 years old. I co-founded another organisation, Vitrine, two years before that. There were other projects before that. I’ve being doing this a long time, I’m that old.

    Is it our commitment to Leeds? Surely not – I’ve been here 24 years and stayed after graduation so when I think of home I think of Leeds, and I’ve sunk all my energies into this city over a long period of time. I’m not alone in that among our team. You don’t think most of us are invested in Leeds up to our eyeballs?

    You don’t have to like The Tetley. I’m well aware that we can’t please all of the people all of the time, nor should we. Gloria doesn’t like artists’ books, so there’s little hope of her liking the Artists’ Book Fair, although lots of other people did. That’s all fair enough. You could get to like us if you’d only give us half a chance and maybe even come to admire the dedication of a great team of staff, Trustees and supporters of all kinds who’ve felt strongly enough about it not being fake to actually help us make it happen. They CARE. That is not fake.

    We are a public venue and we have to take criticism. I completely acknowledge and accept that – when it’s constructive and reasoned, we can act on it. We actually want to improve, to make visiting The Tetley a better experience. We talk about that all the time, and if you’ll permit me to repeat myself – it’s early days, we’re only 4 months in. There are things being put in place now which are a direct result of visitor feedback.

    But is The Tetley ‘fake’? I’m afraid I really can’t accept that because I know it just isn’t a fair reflection at all.


  23. First of all absolute respect to what has been achieved by the team at The Tetley. The work required to make a project like this a reality I can only begin to imagine. And getting public money into an arts project in such ‘austere times’ is genuinely remarkable. And I understand they need our support. My support. They need my money and my patronage. And yours. They also need honesty, criticism, dissenting voices – however hard it might be to hear. And they need to know who they are trying to please, what they are trying to achieve and whose opinions really count.

    So now some of the power is in our hands. Will I choose to take my family there for a sunday lunch? Will I recommend colleagues go there for dinner? (I already have btw – and feedback was generally positive).

    Will my support go further? I am not sure. Because I am not clear about what they are trying to achieve with the Tetley. Is it more than another watering hole for the creative classes? Another jewel in the Leeds firmament? Or is it making a statement? Provoking reaction? Is anything happening there apart from supporting the development of more artists? I just don’t know. But I look at the list of sponsors prominently displayed near the entrance, at the list of Trustees on the web site, and I don’t expect to be stepping into a radical, provocative and challenging space. But perhaps that says more about my assumptions and beliefs than anything else.

    The Hepworth is much more straightforward marketing proposition. If I like Dame Barbara’s work – I’ll go and visit the collection.

    I have just completed a piece of work with another arts company, not in Leeds, where much time and energy has gone into thinking about their ambitions and how best they achieve them. They are choosing to focus on processes rather than outcomes – on how they engage people in doing their work – rather than on the work itself. They believe that if they get the process right, then great art will result. That means selling their buildings and going to where ‘their audiences’ are. They are on a mission. They are looking to make a difference. I can understand what they are doing and why. They are risking their own money amassed over the decades and I am moved to support them as much as I can. I am not sure that the same is true for me of The Tetley, yet.

  24. To get away from “I like the Tetley because” … “I don’t like the Hepworth because…” Lets thinks about galleries and arts venues in general.

    “as a tax payer” do pay for galleries and arts venues because…

    (1) They make an economic contribution to “place-making”, economic regeneration, and tourist spending. This generally seems to be the belief since for 40 years from the building of regional theatres, the decentralisation of national museums, garden festivals, millennium projects, “cities of culture” to new generation galleries – seemingly this is what government cultural policy has been about. This is “dressing the city” in the public relations speak. A Welcome to Yorkshire/ Leeds and partners view of the arts. The art itself is of no real consequence – are there any henry Moore’s at the Henry Moore? It is basically a tourism “offer” for people with money or paces for middle class parents to take their kids on a wet afternoon.

    (2) They are about providing an inspiring venue to view “The Work” This means you need an iconic building – contemporary or heritage, approached by a ramp or bridge, past the café/gift shop and up to a higher level via stairs or lift to sanctum where you can view The Work usually by a white European man. This is the old fashioned elitist view of the role of the gallery but one which arguably still survives because the art lobby can delude the politicians that this is what the punters want or enough of “tourists with money” (see 1 above)

    (3) They are about connecting art work with the wider world in ways which dare I say are democratic. Brief example two exhibitions that are or were in Leeds art gallery – one on World war one (enough already) and its impact on landscape painting and another on painting in the age of Thatcher. To get across the threshold of the gallery obviously you need some interest plus time and you need to know the exhibitions are happening – now I don’t know much about painting as such but making understandable connections seemed to be a worthwhile exercise to me.

    Mike chitty is as naïve as usual when he suggests “we” have any power over any of this – this is central government, local politicians and the arts lobby giving us what they think “we” need from the established canon of the visual arts. And that usually does not include “minorities” of various kinds.

    Likewise his organisation “making a difference” through “processes” and “engaging people in doing their work” (who is the ‘their’ exactly?) just smacks of cliché or some hang over from 60’s “community arts”.

    1. Ouch! Naive!

      On reflection you maybe right about our power. Perhaps they don’t need our support – but the continued support of the corporates who want ‘the city dressed’. Certainly I get the sense that they need a busy bar, conference and restaurant to generate the revenue to pay for the art to happen. And that is a recipe that seems fraught with both financial and artistic challenges!

      The other approach may sound like a cliched throwback to community arts – but at least they are clear and transparent in their intentions, and have chosen a very different route to supporting artists and their development. Be interesting to see how they both fair. I am not old enough to have been involved in community arts back in the 60s. It looked like a lot of fun. Bring it on!

  25. Re John Sour, I should have thought that from your point of view you would concede that one of the strengths of the Tetley is precisely that it is NOT “central government, local politicians and the arts lobby giving us what they think “we” need from the established canon of the visual arts.” Someone was complaining above about the impenetrability of the Artists’ Books on show there a few weeks ago. Hardly established canon!

    And talking of cliches, no more meaningless “lobby” usage, please (to amend your own words slightly “who is this lobby exactly”?)

    Further, if I may be permitted to hijack a debate about the arts (esp. fine art) into a comment about urban regeneration, Patrick Abercrombie, the influential head of planning of the London County Council from the 1930s to the 1950s, on looking (after WW2) at the bombed-out, derelict south bank of the Thames, opined that the engine of regeneration would be venues for the arts. Those words seem quite prophetic if you consider the south bank of London now and think of places like Gateshead, Walsall, Salford, Wakefield and perhaps – in due course – the south bank of the Aire.

  26. Hello Mr Gumpius or it that Gropius.

    Forgive me but hasn’t the Tetley just had a large loan from the council to tide it over?

    I think we would have to disagree over the artist books issue – I would say impenetrability has always been an aspect of the modern canon – Jackson Pollock anyone.

    Lobby – well I may be cynical but somehow I assume that everyone with any interest in any area of policy from which funds are available from the government will form organisations to press for more money for them.

    In the arts – well I’m not involved in this area but I would suggest the arts council might be one organisation to look at – the last time I had any interest here they had regional associations – then there were a mass of organisations pressing culture down the throats of ill-fated regional assembly; Yorkshire Forward was probably a good trough for the arts – I can’t do names here but I would look at the former Leeds Initiative, was there something called LADI, Screen Yorkshire?, The Culture Company ? – sorry not my area

    Ho Ho Patrick Abercombie !! – I think you have shot yourself in the foot mentioning the man with the monocle. If anyone represented how not to do planning and regeneration it was this man. I know things were different in his day but “engaging the public” was definitely not on his agenda. He was an out and out modernist who believed in great schemes and big solutions – nothing more out of fashion today.

    If you are thinking of the South Bank you might want to reflect on what it represented from the festival of Britain to the building of the national theatre to what the redevelopment proposals today signify – it tells us a lot about role of the arts today.

    Most of the rest of your examples are ambiguous – Gateshead – quite a lot of the “waterfront” has never been built and what there is most buy to let. I can’t do Walsall but I do know that “The Public” has lost its funding. Salford – largely saved by the state broadcasters move (similar to DoH move to Leeds. Jury’ out on Wakefield but any ways round most of these fit my idea of middle class cultural tourism – they do little for decent jobs for local people.

    The south bank is just another chance for property developers holed up since the crash.

    Nice to chat


  27. Strong riposte, John, though I assure you it’s Grumpius, not Gropius.

    Regarding Abercrombie, I agree that the extent of the regenerative ripple (forgive another cliche) depends on the force of the splash but decent jobs (define that hopeful term given the neutering of the textile industry, mining etc) for local people can’t just be conjured up out of thin air and if someone takes an initiative in an otherwise derelict area, this may (emphasise ‘may’) have a galvanising effect.

    As for middle class cultural tourism (the inverse snobbery of the phrase apart, what actually is wrong with that?), let’s look at places nearer to us: Haworth and Saltaire – both previously important centres of the woollen and worsted industry. Now perhaps working in a cafe, bar or souvenir shop may not be a decent job (your words) in the sense that a wool carder’s or spinner’s or weaver’s was but is it or is it not better than nowt and precisely what, apart from the increasing dereliction and therefore penury and joblessness of these towns, would have been the alternative? Dormitory towns for Leeds and Bradford certainly but anything more?

  28. I can’t really come back on this Walter as we are getting a long way from the original topic.

    My prejudice against “middle class cultural tourism” is largely based on the Director of the WYP comment a few months ago that he thought his audience was diverse and representative – well that’s not my impression on the few occasions I have been.

    You could of course argue that attracting the spenders is economically sensible if your aim is raise money but it is hardly “inclusive”. There is a much wider argument that the sharp elbowed M/C get more than their fair share of public services anyway in education and health so why not in culture too.

    A far as jobs are concerned – you will probably laugh here – I do remember times when the country had regional policy that involved building new towns and relocating factories.

    These days have gone but moving on from culture there is a huge requirement for the country to develop an industrial strategy with a strong regional component to it.

    Automotive, aerospace, sustainable energy, advanced manufacturing – these should be the galleries of the future (perhaps !)

  29. @Kerry Harker

    I’m sorry that I’ve upset you. I know that it’s easier to criticise than to create (I too spend most of my time creating stuff and then being criticised from the sidelines by people who have no idea how hard it is to get *anything* done).

    I was asking the question, “What is it that The Hepworth gets right, that The Tetley gets wrong?”

    and I observed that the Tetley *feels* fake. (This is not the same thing as it actually being fake).

    …In the café bar it strikes me. The Tetley –obviously– sells hand pulled Tetley ales. Except that it doesn’t – not really, because it can’t. It only sells ersatz Tetley, Tetley made in Northamptonshire… fake Tetley, corporate Tetley, “sold its soul, moved its manufacturing and turned its HQ into an art gallery” Tetley.

    And that’s what’s wrong with The Tetley, that’s everything that’s wrong with the Tetley defined in a one pint glass.

    I’m not denying that there’s some hugely passionate creative people, working really hard to create something valuable. (I know enough about these things to know that this *must* be the case).

    but… what once was a brewery is now a windswept car park with a gallery space attached. Sadly. Thus it *feels* like a marketing ploy – a ploy to disguise the loss felt by the fact that the quintessential Leeds pint isn’t made in Leeds anymore.

    I hope my observation helps your development. It’s meant to. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to the Tetley being everything you want it to be.


  30. Don’t know whether to be depressed or encouraged by this discussion! There is a lot of accusations being thrown around about what The Tetley is or isn’t doing right, which actually seem to be about people’s ‘problem’ with contemporary art in general, or the way it is exhibited, and little to do with The Tetley itself.

    John Sour, above, asks why contemporary art can’t have the impact that the likes of the post-war era of the National Theatre and Festival of Britain did. It’s a huge, interesting question. For me answer has to do with the retreat that British society has made from civic culture and imagining a collective experience that transcend class, like the Festival of Britain did. It’s the same reason we don’t have the civic imagination now to imagine creating the NHS if we had to. We’re doing quite the opposite, moving away from civic collectivism and as a result, class barriers are becoming as rigid as they were before the started breaking down in the 50s and 60s.

    Art suffers from the same ghetto-isation – a place for middle class people to ‘enjoy’. Some of that is not the fault of artists or galleries, and I do find myself baulking at some of the more knee-jerk ‘modern art is rubbish’ attitudes, some of which are on display here. But galleries can do more than they do. Grayson Perry, in his completely brilliant Reith Lectures (highly recommended if you haven’t listened to them), satirises the unnecessarily obtuse and pretentious language artists use to describe their work. That language is not inclusive and welcoming. Perhaps The Tetley could break the mould and resist such language – and challenge exhibiting artists to do the same. I also agree Mike Chitty’s point about The Tetley needing to work out what it is ‘saying’ – though I think it’s not had a bad start and I’m excited about where it could head.

    Finally, Dave’s point, in the end, appears be about little more than the authenticity of a certain beer. Which is sort of hilarious, considering the ensuing discussion, but also very apt in a Yorkshire kind of a way.

  31. Aye lad, enough of this culture nonsense and the querulous back and forth it engenders, let’s talk beer. Tetley’s beers, the excellent Mild aside, were (in my pompous opinion) largely unremarkable. By far the best pint out of Leeds (also IMPO) is Leeds Brewery’s hugely potable Midnight Bell.

    I must admit I didn’t check out what the Tetley had on tap in its bar the other week. I was there for the art.

    Which, to reiterate, was first rate.

    (Puts on tin hat and departs from thread in search of nearest trench).

  32. I’ve been thinking about visiting The Tetley for a while as I’m rather fond of a gallery. I was a little put off by the comment of a friend that there wasn’t much in it. I visited for the first time with my son this week to take part in the Doodlebots workshop. We had a great time and spent a very enjoyable 2 hours making and testing our bots. I loved the building but I have to say I didn’t think it was particularly well signposted and I think I found it because I’m reasonable with the roads around there. The website could be a bit more specific about how to get there. We looked around the exhibition on the first floor which we enjoyed but I did think there wasn’t much to see. There were signs explaining that exhibits were being changed. Perhaps local Photographic and Art societies could be invited to fill a room or two until more material is available. It would be an opportunity to see some more of the fabulous rooms as well. We did appreciate the toys in the bar area and had a game of Angry Birds Guess Who before we set off home.

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