Simon Doherty went along to the launch of Leeds’s exciting new ‘art and rave’ venue. Could this finally be the space the city’s illustrious creatives deserve?
Back in December, brand new (and much needed) Leeds art and music space, Freedom Mills, nearly floundered on its first day due to the Boxing Day floods.
“The police had to come and evacuate everybody and the sound system had to come out,” recalls artist Nicolas Dixon. “The stage was made of wood so that was destroyed. Everything had to be rebuilt again.”
Fortunately, Freedom Mills has now finally launched – and only a couple of months late too.
Dazzling, technical and violently graphic, Dixon’s art – an expression of his ‘innermost thoughts and feelings’ – is vivid, exceptionally eye-catching and beautifully illuminating.
His trademark biomorphic shapes and vivid colours have captured the imaginations of people at countless exhibitions from France to New York and London to Spain. But now he’s back in Leeds opening Freedom Mills.
At the heart of the new venue on launch party night, underneath the decks where DJs such as Graham Dixon and James French are performing, stands a piece by the Leeds-based colourist: Welcome to the Favelas – a quintessential Dixon take on the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.
Next to that is the mural he created for the defunct, and dearly missed, Leeds venue The Garage.
“It’s bittersweet,” he says. “It reminds you of the good days; I wish that place was still here. Hopefully this place is going to go some way in bridge the gap that The Garage left. This is primarily a gallery but we will be doing events here too.
“The mural was fucked basically because of the flood. So we straightened it out because we thought it deserved another showing.”
Mikey Brain, a London based visual artist, abstract painter and illustrator, showcases a selection of original art that he created for various EP covers released on the famous house label Hot Creations.
“Most house music labels get digital artists to do their EP covers and stuff, but I met Jamie Jones about ten years ago and we became friends. He liked the idea of using actual paintings on the EPs themselves. Today I’ve brought ten of around 30 I’ve been doing for them over the past two years.”
As I’m leaving, Nicolas chips in with an intriguing, pertinent thought.
“Leeds has got so many creative people here but I don’t think they have any place to show it really, which is so shit. We’re really lacking in visual stimulation.”
Let’s hope there’s much more of this to come.
Freedom Mills is at Washington Street, Leeds, LS3 1JL. You can find out more on Facebook
Photography by Vincent Gallagher