Lift the Lid: 23 Voices was a 10-week podcasting and journalism course co-hosted by LEEDS 2023 and Creative Lives, providing participants with the skills and confidence to create their own media about the culture that matters to them. In this article, Brad Mangham writes about Hyde Park Book Club and their gallery and art installation spaces.

I find that it is often the most unassuming locations that have the most to discover, and it is especially surprising to find out that a spot you regularly visit has a completely new side to it, quite literally right beneath you. 

Tucked away in the corner of LS6, Hyde Park Book Club started life in 2015 as a café, before transforming into the multi-purpose, event driven space they are today. They’re a popular spot for students and locals alike, hosting events ranging from music festivals to spoken word and open letter readings, and, as I recently discovered, art exhibitions. 

Hyde Park Art Club is the name given to the Book Club’s multiple gallery and installation spaces, dedicated to showcasing national, and local talent alike. From small installations in the cafe area, to fully blown multimedia and large-scale pieces in the downstairs gallery space, the club showcases a wide range of works and exhibitions. Despite this, its existence was lesser known than I thought. From a quick ask-around while enjoying a coffee in their cafe space, most people, while regulars of the Book Club, were not aware of their ties to local artists in Leeds and their exhibition space. 

I recently had the privilege to assist in setting up such an exhibition; 'Desirable Consumables', from local artist Nicole Dodds. This exhibition was part of a larger incentive: 'OUT OUT', a series of small exhibitions from local Leeds based artists, rotating on a monthly basis. Originally stemming from a broader open call and then panel to local creatives, OUT OUT provided a 'free space to test and show works in Leeds, West Yorkshire'. 

Desirable Consumables was a mixed-media exhibition, 'examining the role of subjectivity and value within the interlacing of virtual space and reality'. Centred around internet culture, and the blending of realities, the pieces making up the exhibition 'use various approaches to internet materialism, exploring how neoliberal power is mediated through social media and graphic sign and text, in "affects"'. 

Examining the thought and process while helping to mount and secure the pieces was truly mind opening. Being on the ‘receiving end’ of art, usually in the absence of the artists themselves, leaves a vast space for interpretation; but to have the opportunity to ask all of the 'why?' and 'how?' related questions that came to mind as we were installing it showed just how much thought had been put into each piece, and their interconnectivity. 

If you’re interested in hearing more about Nicole, her creative process, and how this exhibition came to be, please check out my podcast 'Art Leeds the Way', which is also part of this project. 

Next time you’re down in Hyde Park, enjoying a drink, or catching up over brunch - stop to pause for a moment and take in the local art on offer. If you’re a local artist, why not take advantage of one of their many open calls? After all, it’s spaces like this, and all of those that contribute to them, that truly bring life to a community.

Hi, I'm Brad! Originally from Doncaster, I have lived and worked in Leeds since graduating from the University of Leeds in 2021, with a Masters in Mathematics. Getting involved in LEEDS 2023 was part of a drive to re-engage with the creativity I always embraced growing up but struggled to find after graduation, as well as wanting to give back to my amazing local community. When not working, you can find me viewing (or helping to set up!) art exhibitions around Leeds, sampling the latest from the local coffee scene, or watching live music. I also love to read, play the guitar, and have recently taken up bouldering. Brad Mangham, Lift the Lid: 23 Voices participant