East Street Arts & St Mary's

Partnering and Co-production

Group Ginger and East Street Arts;

East Street Arts have been working with Group Ginger since 2016. Group ginger are helping to deliver new studio and fabrication spaces as well as develop the design model for the arts hostel including implementing the next phase of arts hostel in Leeds at New York Studios. Working collaboratively ESA and GG are developing the feasibility for housing and artist’s studios for Homes England, Leeds City Council and a private developer / land owner.  Our collaborative working relationship is one of co-production where ESA and group ginger equally contribute to the initiation and realisation of projects.

Group ginger are continuing to develop and explore; three elements of physical infrastructure with East Street Arts in their aim to support the artist community.  The three main activities,studio, hostel and housingcan exist in isolation or come together as a combined activity in a single location adding value to a development through the inclusion of artists to derive a locally specific and attractive identity. ESA’s continued involvement through management and operation, maintains their social purpose.


Studios expose the rich diversity of artists practice, broker new relationships, collaborations and events playing a pivotal role in a city’s cultural and creative identity.  ESA operate a number of bespoke venues for artists, providing studio spaces, resource areas and project spaces. Group ginger are helping ESA establish their latest studio offer; Mary’s, A Business Environment Engineering Technology and Arts Hub which will provide a mixture of studios, labs, co-production workspace, tech facilities, including event and live-in spaces for artists visiting and staying in the city for an extended period. It is unique as it addresses artists’ need for structured support outside of academic institutions and fosters an ethos of professional development.

Mary’s was originally designed as a convent for the sisters Charity of St Paul, and formed part of the church estate.  The upper floors of the former convent remain largely unchanged and the previous nun’s cells are retained and re-used as artists halls of residence. The design proposals rationalise the internal spaces making them accessible and suitable for multiple different users. Group Ginger and East Street Arts are working closely to develop the proposals on a very efficient budget.   The project is intentionally unfinished; a continual work in progress where the occupation and inhabitation over time of artists will populate, decorate and add to the building interior.

Mary’s Studios is currently under construction and set to open its doors in mid-2019.  The collaboration with artists extends further than the informal appropriation of the interior to include a commissioned external terracotta faience with the artist, Matthew Raw which is in development now and will hopefully be installed early 2020.

Art Hostel

The art hostel model was developed by ESA as a pilot project in Kirkgate Leeds in 2016. The first social enterprise in the UK providing affordable accommodation created by artists. The hostel is more than the provision of an affordable bed it provides an access point to unique cultural experiences, through a relationship with the local artistic community.  In addition to bedrooms, the hostel has its own project space hosting one-off events, exhibitions and opportunities for guests to participate and meet other artists and performers.

Following the success of the temporary pilot hostel; Group Ginger are developing a model for the hostel which can be implemented in other cities across Europe. A new permanent home has been found for the art hostel in Leeds. A brand new, larger-scale and permanent Art Hostel in Mabgate, completes early summer 2019.  The new arts hostel will open as part of a creative complex, located next door to East Street Arts HQ, Patrick Studios and the art and tech hub. Designed and created by a new raft of artistic talent, it is set to be a fantastic spot for unique, affordable accommodation.  A new Public space – “the space between” is emerging as a collaborative meanwhile public space / artwork unifying the creative complex where group ginger are operating as artists under the monocle; “The Urban Myth Factory”


East Street Arts currently manage/curate two houses (Leeds and Hull) as part of a broader project of placing artists (and their families) to live and work in different communities. The aim is to provide cultural value to society by immersing artists to live and work in a variety of community/demographic settings. They are focused on providing affordable, well-designed social housing for creative practitioners on a low income.  East Street Arts are interested in the role of the home in relation to artists’ personal and professional lives.  

Recent socio-political readings of the housing crisis highlight that it is rooted in inequality, rather than undersupply of new housing in isolation.  The ‘Paying Artists’ campaign 2014 revealed the majority of contemporary artists barely survive financially, with no or low pay the norm. In real terms, nearly three-quarters of artists are getting just 37% of the average UK salary from their practice.

“We want Leeds to be the first place in the country to transform residential areas through the combination of artists’ living and work spaces.”East Street Arts Artistic Director Karen Watson

Group ginger along with other academics, artists and property professionals contributed to the first of a series of planned events, part of an ongoing exploration; trying to define affordable housing for artists; and what this model might look like, if it is to support artists’ development and the potential for them to move out of a low income existence?

East street arts and group ginger are working with a private developer for a mixed use residential master plan in Leeds. The feasibility proposals are being developed with Leeds City Council and Homes England are providing feasibility grant funding. The proposals provide a mix of new build houses, apartments, artists housing and a collective artist house / free room as well as artist studios and workshops in re-purposed existing buildings on site.

East Street arts will take responsibility for the studios, workshops and the dedicated artist house. The artist house is a series of artist residencies with shared facilities and a free room / exhibition space at the ground floor. A proportion of the housing and apartments will be affordable and dedicated to artists to live and work. 

How it works...

East street arts are an Artist and local community support agency. Their social and artist sector support aims are recognised by funding organisation and they are therefore able to leverage grant funding to support their purpose and wider regeneration aims. Group ginger are extremely pleased to be one of many talented people collaborating with East Street Arts to develop their altruistic social aims and to exploring new and innovative models of development.   



East Street Arts