Image: ‘West Yorkshire Print Workshop’, a painting by Janine Burrows
Initially as Kirklees Art Space Society, then St. Pauls Print Workshop and Eastthorpe Visual Arts, we have operated from the old Victorian school next to St Paul’s Church since 1984.
From the beginning our aim was to nurture local and regional artists through the provision of studio space, print facilities and presentation of high quality exhibitions. Key people helped us along the way: a partnership of artists, Yorkshire Arts, Association, Councillors and Kirklees Council officers, all keen to see arts and culture expanded in the borough. The first exhibition was by Sonia Lawson RA, who was chosen because of her connections with the area, and since then, hundreds of artists have been through our door. Our recent exhibition ‘35’ brought together a few of the artists associated with WYPW, including some who were here at the very beginning. We look forward to the next 35 years!
“I was part of Kirklees Arts Action Group 1979. The group included the late Dennis Ripley, Brian Pearson, Andrew Darke and the late David Blackburn. Simon Roodhouse was Visual arts officer at Yorkshire Arts and initiated meeting with artists in Kirklees. Trevor Stubley was chair, and I was Secretary. We promoted Kirklees artists, held exhibitions in the main sports centre and had a membership of over 200, mostly professional artists. One of the first members was Tom Wood and a couple of friends who were recent graduates. Dennis Ripley suggested that a school which was closing down in Mirfield, could become a venue and more permanent premises. We went to look and the idea came of a print workshop/artcentre in 1980/81.”
Geof Hickey (Artist and founding member)
“I left college in 1982, with a degree in printmaking and big ideas. Soon camedown to earth with a bump as I realised that three and a half million unemployed might put paid to a lot of things. Managed to get a job at Greenhead books in Huddersfield in the Art Department and whilst working there I went along to a KAAG (Kirklees Arts Action Group) meeting. They used to exhibit in the old sports centre and had plans to set up an art gallery, artist studios, print workshops and photographic darkroom as there was nothing in the area to help new artists coming onto the art scene. Dennis Ripley was a Kirklees Councillor (Mirfield) at the time, and Eastthorpe School had closed down. Kirklees wanted to see it used for community use and found some grant money to help get things moving… I think it took nearly 2 years from signing the lease to actually opening the gallery. 8 studio spaces, screen printing, textile printing, etching and a darkroom. I remember the paint was still wet in the downstairs toilets on the opening night. Sonia Lawson was our first exhibition, helped in a huge way by Trevor Stubley and his art contacts. We were told it would be a white elephant, but elephants can live a very long time, can’t they? Okay, so it’s not in a large city/town centre, but it’s got a station on a main line, and that’s all it needed at the start. Studio spaces filled, and a programme of exhibitions followed.”
Nick Wilson (Founding member)
“Originally, I was a member of the Kirklees Art Action Group, which later became Kirklees Art Space Society and my initial involvement was exhibiting in group exhibitions as a KAAG member. In about 1980/81 I was asked to become a member of the first KASS steering group formed to establish studio space and a gallery (Eastthorpe Visual Arts Gallery) in the former Eastthorpe Church School. I particularly remember the steering committee meetings, often held at Geof Hickey’s home on cold dark winter evenings with Trevor Stubley, Geof Hickey, Tom Wood, Andrew Darke, John Campbell, Denis Ripley, Phil Wood and others. There was one incident that I do recall when the school building was damaged because the central heating pipes had not been drained and these burst because of the freezing winter temperatures. This led to the main hall area being flooded and the wooden floorboards expanding enough to push out the gable end wall.”
Joanna Mowbray (Artist and founding member)
“I left a studio in Wapping Wall London and moved back to Huddersfield in the early 1980s hoping to meet like-minded people and to develop art opportunities. Following a series of meetings at Huddersfield Art Gallery where the development of studio spaces was discussed a centre was finally decided upon. After a lot of hard work by people other than myself Eastthorpe gallery was established and we looked forwards to opportunities and studio facilities for artists working in the area. I had a small studio in the basement sharing with an unknown young man who diligently sat at a table copying ‘The Miracle of the Rose’, by Jean Genet word for word. He subsequently carefully arranged and attached this masterpiece to the wall and then carefully rubbed it all away. Shortly afterwards the mysterious young man vacated the studio. Eastthorpe Gallery, as it was then, was a great place. I made lifetime friendships and artistic opportunities were opened up for me. I still visit exhibitions there and take part in the occasional Print workshops.”
Alison Edmonds (Artist and studio holder)
“I started work at what was then Easthorpe Gallery, in May 1991, as co-ordinator for a new initiative, the Young People’s Art Workshops. The project provided a programme of arts workshops for young people aged 8 – 16 on Saturday mornings. The programme included places allocated to young people referred by what was then Kirklees Youth Justice service. The workshops provide a forum for creative development, outside a school setting, and where children from a variety of social backgrounds could work together. In 1993, alongside running the Young People’s Art Workshops I became the coordinator and development worker for the Gallery and the newly formed St.Paul’s Print Workshop. The print facilities had been in the gallery for several years, but it was decided that a ‘re-launch’ was needed, hence St.Paul’s Print Workshop was formed. During my time at the gallery we submitted a successful bid to the Arts Council National Lottery scheme, to raise money to improve the print and studio facilities. I left the Gallery as coordinator in 1995 but stayed onto run the Young People’s Workshops until 1996.” Jo Gorner (Artist and Printmaker) “WYPW has played an important role in supporting me over the last 25 years. More than just a fine print studio, it provides a supportive home for artists to meet other artists, a dedicated and wonderful staff and technical support team as well as the many enthusiastic supporters and users. For 35 years it has made a special contribution towards the wider arts ecology of West Yorkshire.”
Graham Riding (Current member)
“… did I ever tell you that when I was a late teenager, maybe 17 or 18 and was considering been an artist (before college), a family friend took me to what is now WYPW (can’t remember what it was called back then) where I chatted with a few creative people about their experiences: some of those conversations contributed to me pursuing a career in the arts – and here I am! Funny how life sometimes works – What goes around, comes around.”
Robin Widdowson (Arts and Creative Development, Kirklees)