Million-pound refurb of Mabgate’s Hope Foundry gives hope to Leeds’ creatives

MAP Charity will make a huge step towards revitalising Mabgate’s creative community in July, as work begins on a million-pound restoration of its headquarters, Hope Foundry. 

The charity supports young people who have been excluded from mainstream education and are at high risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) by empowering them through creative qualifications in music and arts.

As well as being home to the charity’s educational program, Hope Foundry also houses a small number of creative practitioners and not-for-profits, with the addition of new affordable workspaces set to open doors for even more of Leeds’ small businesses.

Art and Design at MAP – Credit: MAP

The million-pound project will be funded by grants from Leeds City Council, the European Regional Development Fund, and a donation received by the charity, reflecting a significant investment of public funding into the Mabgate area. By offering local creative businesses access to affordable workspaces, the restored building will provide a home for small businesses and start-ups, reinvigorating Mabgate’s reputation as a hive of creativity. From screen printers to audio mastering engineers, skilled professionals already operate from Hope Foundry, and it is expected that 30 businesses will be able to make their homes there once the refurbishment is completed. 

Dominic Clare, a mastering engineer who works with internationally acclaimed artists from countries such as Uganda, is one such professional who benefits from MAP Charity’s affordable workspaces:

“It’s nice that people know that when they pay me to do a job, the money is not just disappearing to a horrible landlord who’ll be sticking it in their pockets. They’re supporting me as an independent business, and as part of the money also goes back into MAP, it means they are donating to an amazing local charity as well. In that sense, they get more out of their money by coming here.”

Electronic Music Workshop at MAP – Credit: MAP

The addition of such affordable spaces comes at a crucial time for the artistic community in Yorkshire, many of whom have faced uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. For many creative practitioners working from home has not been an option, and the OECD has suggested that the creative sector is one of the industries most severely affected by the pandemic. 

However, the need for creative space predates the pandemic. In fact, the creation of new workspaces at MAP will help ease a problem that has been growing in Leeds for several years. In 2019, Leeds City Council and Creative Space Management released a report which concluded that Leeds’ maker spaces were in “very limited supply”, and faced a substantial threat from the “pressure for residential development”. With waiting lists already full in 2019, Leeds has long been in need of additional spaces to provide for the city’s existing creative community and future graduates.

“The redevelopment of Hope Foundry will be an important catalyst in revitalising the Mabgate area, which is such a key part of the city for our creative industries, independents and start-ups,” says Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education. “The superb work of MAP helps so many talented young people in Leeds to flourish and we’re very proud to be supporting them to develop that work further.”