Creative Recycling – Leeds Den Fest at the Tetley Brewery


The weather forecast for Sunday (28 September 2014) was, ‘warm with low winds’. Weather is an important thing to factor in when your making dens out of cardboard outside. This, and the Tetley Brewery (south of the city centre) was a perfect combination for Leeds Den Fest part two. Den Fest part one was held only a month ago in August in the middle of the city centre in Victoria Square. This free event for kids, young people and adults proved everyone can have as much fun as each other when it comes to building dens.

imageIt had been such a rip roaring success, creator and event organiser Ed Carlisle from Together for Peace repeated the fun.

Pitching up at our registration tent at 9.30am I meet five new friendly volunteers. Ed briefs us on the house rules and a quick risk assessment: No building multiple story blocks, check; First Aid, check; Fire extinguisher, check. We are then assigned our duties, from organising the cardboard, registering families to helping building the dens. Armed with duck tape and scissors we were all prepared and ready to go.image

Ten minutes before the official time of 11am ten families were already making their way through the brewery gates. Walking across the courtyard they started the registration process. Each team was assigned their own number to display on the front of their den for judging the winners at the end. Last month’s winners were amongst the groups of now multiplying families getting best dibs on the giant cardboard rolls. It was first come first served. Mountains of cardboard donated over the months from various companies – (list on the Together For Peace website) were folded inside empty bicycle boxes ready to be handed out.


Imaginations soon got to work creating framed structures. Everyone worked together. Dads determinedly wrapped reals of parcel tape round joints of tube being tightly hugged together between their children’s arms. Soon forms of buildings began appearing; Castle keeps, boats, pirate ships, gingerbread cottages and a tepee.

By lunchtime the green space opposite the brewery was already filled up. More families were appearing and soon dens of all shapes and sizes spilled out onto the front courtyard. One child got inspired by the robot building area and became a robot himself, parading around the perimeter. One guy made a den on the seat of his electric moped. One dad said:

“I just got lost in the making of it. It was great to be 100% creative”

imageIt wasn’t just what was on the outside either. These recycled cardboard neighbours were sharing ideas and being inspired. Individuality shone through. Families were decorating walls and hanging pictures, setting the table for dinner and building a fitted kitchen. An Egyptian temple was created and adorned with hieroglyphics. At one point Ed had to replenish stocks and went back to storage to get more cardboard. A big thank you to The Holy Spirit Church on Tempest Road in Beeston who kindly offered their empty space for the last two months.

imageThe clouds finally left and the sun shone over the cardboard village of creations. Where was everyone? They were enjoying their work, on their duvets underneath their canopies, and sunbathing on their patios. They were at the helm of their viking ship or adding the finishing touches to their decorations. And four winners are…
The Train. The Flower Palace. The Slatted Tiled Roof house. The Viking Ship

Thank you to Jonathan Dorsett for taking the professional photos. You can find them on this link

Well done everyone, it all looks amazing.  If you want to see them they can still be found only for today (30th September 2014) outside the Tetley Brewery on Great Wilson Street.  It was great to volunteer too. I’m sure all my fellows volunteers would say it’s a pleasure to work with Ed and the team!

imageI went round everyone at the end and asked them to describe the day in a few words;

‘A day to be a kid again’   ‘Inventive’    ‘Frenetic’  ‘Flabbergasting’    ‘Hot’  ‘Exhausting!’

‘A delightful display of creative participation!’

Check out the Together for Peace website for more creative events in the future. Possibly an igloofest in winter? Anything to bring people together in a creative and imaginative way.