Humans of Holbeck – A collaborative venture

The people of Holbeck basked in the limelight of the Northern Monk Brewery event space in the Old Flax Mill to showcase a collection of photographs on Friday evening (12 October 2018).

The project called ‘This is our Home’ which has helped produce a 2019 calendar, took place over several months within Holbeck and was a collaborative venture through the charity Holbeck Elderly Aid (HEA) and the Northern Monk Brewery (NMB), with the purpose of actively bringing locals together in a creative process to capture the essence of what their community means to them.

The evening was opened by Elissa Newman – Chief Officer of HEA, who welcomed everyone to the exhibition. This was followed by Rt Hon Hilary Benn (patron of HEA) who thanked everyone for coming to support the venture as an overall great community effort. The spokesperson from NMB – Sophie Lennon added their thanks to the collaboration by involving the people who live and work in Holbeck, thereby bringing more positivism to the area.

Set in the Grade II listed building, the renovated Old Flax Mill is the home to Northern Monk microbrewery on Marshall Street, 5 minutes from the station. It’s modern exposed brick interior welcomes diners and punters to enjoy the old industrial feel on three floors in the heart of the Holbeck Urban Village. Some locals may say it is another world from the places the photos are depicting displayed in the room not more than 15 minutes walk away. However, that was the original premise of the project – to bring two totally different organisations – a charity and a business from the same area together to help recognise the people who make Holbeck what it is.

Since HEA  have moved more centrally into Domestic Street (from their previous offices in Balm Place)  they have attracted more people popping in for chats from the community. Building on their embedded ethos of providing informed choice and elevating social isolation for the elderly, the charity feels more connected to the different generations of the community.

Elissa said:

“It’s an amazing turn out and I’m proud and privileged to be part of the project. It was led and engaged by the people and gives a great example of partnership between the third sector and local private business. Were we can both call Holbeck – home.”

I spoke to Bryony Redwood-Turner who’s role is Fundraiser and Partnerships at HEA;

“It was a fantastic project to be involved in, especially seeing people really excited to pick up the camera and take shots around Holbeck. Some people said that by choosing and framing their photos, has made them look at Holbeck differently: a renewed appreciation. The whole process has seen everyone – charity, business and community, working equally.”

Eve Lindsay Communications Manager at NMB told me she was proud to be included with the team that gives something back to the local area.Working with a charity who are already set up to engage residents helps us to ultilise this space for the exhibition by keeping Holbeck;

“The spiritual home of the industrial revolution, alive.”

Staying true to the company’s community ethos and social responsibility, their contribution to this partnership illustrates not only the financial benefit but a cultural one too. NMB have paid for the calendars with all proceeds going to HEA, they have created their own celebratory ale, and participants get to enjoy the surroundings of their industrial heritage. Northern Monk Brewery are used to supporting regional creative talents such as Nomad Clan an urban art muralist duo who produce highly graphic illustrative street art who’s work can be found on the South Bank illustration of John Marshall 19th century entrepreneur for the flax spinning mills.

No better affirmation to this testament is long running member at HEA: Mary West who said:

“I used worked in the Temple Works Mill when it was Kays Catalogue years ago. Now I’ve been made to feel very special by being on the front page of the calendar”

I wander round the room to talk to the locals looking at the subjects jumping out of the photographs. A mixture of families and friends, business partners all gather together.

The photographs will be on display at St Matthews Community Centre in the near future and prints will be on sale at £25 each. The effort of the amazing piece of work is sure to keep the Heart of Holbeck beating for many more years!

The Calendars are available to buy for £10, which all goes to Holbeck Elderly Aid, from HEA’s office at 99 Domestic Street and from Northern Monk on Marshall Street.

*All photos taken by Delton Jackson