What is The State of the Arts?


The State of the Arts is a Leeds-based website for all things cultural in the city, and beyond. To find out more about it, I caught up with its founder, Jack Simpson:

1. When did TSOTA go live and who’s behind it?

TSOTA went live around six months ago, there’s a load of people working on it, but it was started by me and Tony Wilby who started Vibrations magazine, Dave Sugden who runs Leeds music forum and Kate Mathews who does many wonderful things.

2. What’s the idea behind TSOTA?

There are various strands to TSOTA but I guess key are:

  • A belief that with better infrastructure a city can better support its culture.
  • With better culture, we have a better city/environment.
  • Leeds can do better than it has. We want to be part of that.

3. Could you give an example of how you think Leeds could do better?

As above, Leeds has traditionally been less than optimally linked up. This cuts across various industries, but is obviously so in between arts and audiences, and between arts and arts. I firmly believe also, in line with the kinds of argument we find in Sandel’s ‘What Money Can’t Buy’, that a flourishing society allows communication between people from all types of background. It is not the case, as far I see it, that Leeds can be said to have done this historically.

I’m interested in why, and how to rectify the fact that, as I see it, much of society is detached from the fruits of its own city’s creative labours’. I am not interested in being part of a scene that is fun or sexy for those who go to a handful of bars/spaces, or congregate in a small amount of neighbourhoods. It’s desirable to me to marry a strong ethical belief in how a community should be inclusive to all its members and the energies of its creative citizens. Further, it is in the interests of those that create, to have strong networks across the whole city in order to provide both audience and economic support.

4. There’s a lot of existing listings sites and cultural blogs, in what way is TSOTA different?

I’m not sure how to quantify difference, I just know that we feel there’s a point in what we’re doing – we also think that various other sites and resources do great jobs.

5. So is TSOTA going well so far?

We’re happy with lots of what we’ve managed to do in a short time, and we’ve been told lovely things. But, there’s always more you can do, I’m interested in why Leeds has often been so poor at aiming for the international, so in that respect we’re still just getting going.

6. What do you mean by ‘aiming for the international’?

Leeds at times has been insular – the Yorkshire disdain for shouting about oneself has led to those that are outward looking often looking elsewhere for a habitat more satisfying. I’m interested in how we can alter the discourse, so that 18-year-olds who grow up in the city feel they are able to produce work that is internationally relevant.

7. What’s next for TSOTA?

On April 30th we’re launching a set of postcards with photos by the awesome Tom Joy.

Then on May 2nd/3rd we have our Symposium: Live at Leeds multi-arts fringe event at Black Swan, Call Lane. That’s in collaboration with loads of other great people, really looking forward to that.

And hopefully linking up better with the likes of The Salon 😉

Read TSOTA and join its mailing list at: www.thestateofthearts.co.uk/

Paul Thomas
is co-founder of The Leeds Salon, and writes regularly for its sister-journal FIPA