Wakefield City of Culture 2025: Founders of Tileyard North explain why they are backing city's bid for culture crown

The founders of Wakefield's upcoming Tileyard North development explain why they are backing the council's City of Culture 2025 bid.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:12 am
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:14 am

With a list of associates including The Prodigy, Sigala, Chase and Status and Mark Ronson, the owners of Tileyard London might not seem like the kind of people you would expect to find enjoying an afternoon in Wakefield.

But, as the city prepares to throw its hat into the ring for the title of City of Culture 2025, the business’s founders explain why they are backing the district’s bid for recognition.

Cofounders Paul Kempe and Nick Keynes are currently in the process of opening a state-of-the-art creative facility in Wakefield city centre.

As Wakefield prepares to throw its hat into the ring for the title of City of Culture 2025, the founders of the city's Tileyard North development explain why they are backing the district’s bid for recognition. Photo: Hawkins Brown

Tileyard North will be a cultural hub, offering creative spaces for a whole host of artists to develop their skills.

As part of the development, which will involve the regeneration of the former Rutland Mills site close to the Hepworth, Tileyard also plan to open a luxury hotel and exhibition space which will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 people.

Tileyard North will be an expansion of the existing London community, which opened more than a decade ago, and is now home to more than 130 artists and businesses.

And although they have only been working in Wakefield for five years, Paul and Nick are already convinced that the district has what it takes to secure the City of Culture crown.

Councillor Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, is seen in the Hepworth Wakefield gardens, with Tileyard North behind her.

Nick said: “I think Wakefield would be a very, very credible City of Culture.

“I mean we look at who’s had it in the past, there’s an argument that says that Wakefield is at least as worthy, if not more.

“One of the first things we observed is there’s not a lot of retention of talent in Wakefield.

“A lot of talented people come from Wakefield, but there’s not many that are still there, because they had to go somewhere else. What we want to provide is somewhere that they can stay.

“My aspiration was to create an environment where people don’t have to go anywhere to get stuff done.

“All the working parts are independent, but they all come together to form a big super power. That’s what we want to bring to Wakefield.

“That’s really what Tileyard is all about. It’s about providing people with a platform and maximising their chances of being successful.”

Nick says that the true “magic” of Tileyard London has been the collaborative efforts of its businesses.

Among the members of its existing community are artists, including musicians, TV and film producers, game designers, voiceover artists and fashion designers, as well as food and drink providers.

The wide range of talents means that Tileyard functions as a creative community, Nick says, with people encouraged to pool their skills and talents.

It is this collaborative atmosphere that they hope to bring to Wakefield when Tileyard North opens - and Nick and Paul have no doubt that the city and wider district have the talent to fuel a similar collaborative spirit.

Paul said: “When I first came up to Wakefield I did get the sense that they’d lost their mojo a little bit. But I think the Hepworth was the beginning of the reset of that.

“Wakefield is an amazing place with enormous potential. It just needs someone to harness that. It needs aspirations. It needs people that believe in it.

“I think Wakefield has been screaming for this for a long time now. Wakefield is actually a pretty cool place.

“It is rapidly becoming the place to be. My aspiration is to make Wakefield cooler than Leeds.

“We believe that Wakefield should be City of Culture and we will do everything in our power to make sure that they win that.”

Rutland Mills was built in the late 19th century, but has stood empty since 1999 - until Tileyard arrived on scene.

Situated directly opposite The Hepworth Wakefield, Tileyard North will be a 135,000 sqft creative industries hub, based at Rutland Mills.

It is Tileyard’s first expansion outside of London and aims to strengthen the connection with the north. It will also be home to Tileyard Education - a postgraduate facility offering songwriting, production and business courses on site.

Councillor Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “Our wealth of cultural and creative assets, and reputation in the sector, is driving investment into the district.

“And Tileyard North is just one of those projects that will highlight Wakefield as a lead cultural destination in the North as we bid to become City of Culture 2025.

“This exciting redevelopment marks the final stage of our waterfront regeneration. The multi-million pound investment of this historical complex will see the creation of a diverse and multi-functional cultural landmark.

“This will see the culmination of 15 years of regeneration of the waterfront area and the creation of a vibrant central events square.

“Tileyard North will bring jobs and attract further investment as well as putting Wakefield on the map as a growing creative destination in the North.”