The former St. Margaret of Antioch Church, a Grade II-listed building in Leeds, UK (the city I currently live in) no longer functions as a place of worship but has been turned into an arts and events venue. Left Bank Leeds is a progressive space for creativity and culture that hosts an evolving programme of projects, initiatives and activities organised for and by diverse communities in Leeds.
The church was originally constructed in 1907 and funded through the efforts of the local community and Anglican congregation. It closed in 1995, and the Left Bank Charitable Trust was set up in 2002 to manage the building and reinvent the space as an events and arts venue. Left Bank Leeds CIC was launched in 2015 to realise the charity’s ambitions. As they state on their website, Left Bank Leeds “aims to be a genuinely community-led space, focused on developing opportunities and shared creativity through affordable and accessible space.”
As someone with a background in architecture and interior design, this initiative made me realise that there are so many possible new functions that can extend the life of a building. We do not necessarily require much intervention on the physical level, and there is no need for excessive treatments. Instead, it can be enough to just look at the existing potential, then adjust the building accordingly. Left Bank Leeds is an inspiring example of how the surrounding community can be significantly helped by a venue able to facilitate a variety of activities.
Wherever we live, there will be old public buildings around us that are still strong in terms of construction but are starting to lose their functional identity. The Left Bank Leeds project demonstrates how, in order to bring life back to an almost extinct building, we can start by giving it to the local community. We can learn what locals want and what they often do, and facilitate this. Furthermore, when the local community starts to feel like they belong to the building, they will also be the ones to preserve it.