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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Huddersfield’s Piazza Arts Centre at crossroads: Demolition or renaissance?

Huddersfield-based think tank, Same Skies, says the arts centre at the Piazza could be a "national success story" for the town

A Huddersfield-based think tank is urging Kirklees Council to re-think part of its Cultural Heart plans or risk losing an important cultural asset.

Research from Same Skies has found that the Piazza Arts Centre, which includes a number of different art projects around the piazza area such as Temporary Contemporary, AME, and the temporary home of the art gallery, generates at least £400,000 of value for the town, and draws in new business startups.

The group says that, instead of going ahead with the planned demolition, renovating the remaining Piazza buildings as a venue for the arts, community groups and new business startups could prove a more cost effective option.

Over the past four years, the centre has been home to numerous activities including Worst Album Covers, the town’s most successful ever art exhibition which gained national media coverage and has gone on to tour venues around Britain.

It has also housed Dark Horse theatre, a theatre company for adults with learning disabilities, and the Ame music venue that attracted performers from all over the world to Huddersfield, among many others.

“Our latest figures show how the Piazza Arts Centre could be a national success story for Huddersfield.” said Andrew Wilson, Huddersfield resident and co-director of Same Skies. “Its success is down to the architecture of the Piazza which has proved to be a revolutionary design for an arts, culture and business startup venue.

“Our Cultural Heart is a project of the previous leadership of Kirklees Council. The scheme has already been drastically scaled back and Phase 2 faces years of delays and uncertainty, while our continuing research demonstrates there is a viable, cost effective alternative.

“The council has a new leader and a new chief executive, and they don’t have to be bound by decisions made by their predecessors. I’ve shared our research with Councillor Cathy Scott, the leader, and Steve Mawson, chief executive and I trust they will begin a conversation to consider all the options for Huddersfield.”

David Shepherd, Strategic Director for Growth & Regeneration, Kirklees Council, said: “Through the Our Cultural Heart development we’re creating a vibrant culture, art, leisure and nightlife offer to boost the local economy and attract visitors from near and far. In order to bring this vision to life, the existing piazza will be demolished to make way for the area’s new offering, which will include a food hall, museum and art gallery, and a modern, community library, events square and urban park.

“Temporary Contemporary is a programme which is about temporary cultural interventions in vacant properties. It has never been about providing permanent space to artists and other creative practitioners – however, due to its success in making artists more visible within our town centre, the council will continue to look to facilitate temporary opportunities for artists to take over empty retail spaces in Huddersfield town centre and other towns across Kirklees.

“We hope that artists will continue to be involved in Temporary Contemporary and, once open, that they will collaborate with the council to make Our Cultural Heart thrive.

“We have, and continue to work with affected retailers to ensure Huddersfield’s retail offering remains varied. However, we are unable to comment on any commercial decisions made by individual retailers.”

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