Street Art Trail
6th April 2020
Leeds is a city renowned for its art, from the extensive 20th century collections found at Leeds Art Gallery, through to the contemporary exhibitions that call The Tetley home.
In truth, there are so many great places across the city to experience art in all its forms, especially as you wander down our streets. Leeds has a rich street art history, with striking works such as Cornucopia (pictured) and the Mabgate Mural popping up decades ago before street art became as popular as it is today.
Nowadays, striking street provides a decorative backdrop for much of the city, creating an ever-growing web of distinctive pieces that tell the story of Leeds and its communities.
We start our trail with a hidden treasure, as exploring the streets of Leeds will reveal many easy-to-miss delights – Qubek is one to seek out for sure. Hidden away in a ginnel (that’s an alleyway for those of you not from Leeds!) between York Place and Park Place in the city’s business district, this design brings together the famous elephant armour found at the Royal Armouries, our historic mills and the white rose of Yorkshire.
Making your way in the direction of the train station, on Aire Street you will find a firm favourite amongst Leeds locals – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance looms over commuters as they stand waiting for their bus at the feet of the popular video game’s hero, Raiden. Commissioned by video game developer, Konami, in 2013 and created by EndoftheLine, this mural in Leeds was one of three in the country produced to celebrate the game’s launch.
Taller than the Statue of Liberty, it is difficult to miss the awe-inspiring Athena Rising, which can be found on the towering Platform building on New Station Street. Designed by Manchester-based graffiti artists Nomad Clan, the piece features the city’s mascot, the owl, a popular feature of street art across the city, as well as a moon and crown.
For another view of Athena Rising, walk down to Sovereign Square, where you will also see Jo Peel’s cityscape illustrations of Leeds along the hoardings. Jo was one of six artists commissioned to animate the streets of Leeds with public art installations as a part of the A City Less Grey project, a collaboration between East Street Arts and Leeds BID.
From here, you’ll need to head down to Granary Wharf and hop on to one of the yellow Leeds Water Taxis. You will see Leeds from a different angle as you chug along the River Aire down to Leeds Dock. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the Grey Heron mural as you pass underneath Centenary Bridge – if you’re lucky you’ll spot it, as it is designed to be submerged and then reappear as the river level changes.
Stop for a drink or something to eat at Leeds Dock, then head towards Duke Studios on Crown Point Road, tucked around the corner is where you will discover The Linnet. Hand painted by London street artist ATM, this mural was created in response to the birds decline in numbers over the last 40 years.
Just over the road you will find The Tetley. Stop in to get your fill of contemporary art exhibitions and a taste of Leeds heritage, as the gallery is housed in the old brewery HQ – but don’t forget to look down as you cross Crown Point Road as you’ll see what remains of the colourful See Joy mural under your feet. The words are artist, Morag Myerscough’s hope that the people of Leeds will view this area of regeneration with positivity and joy.
If unique is what you are after, head up to the river to see the deep-sea diver of Brewery Wharf, and find him climbing out of a washing machine. Washing Marine is an unusual delight which uses forced perspective to achieve a distinctive 3D effect which has to be seen to be truly appreciated.
Take a stroll back over Centenary Bridge, where you may be able to catch another glimpse of the Grey Heron, before making your way up towards the architectural wonder that is the Corn Exchange. Opening its doors in 1864 as a purpose-built space for corn trading, the building now houses a plethora of independent shops. If you’re into film, music, gaming and comic book art, you will not want to miss a visit to ‘On The Wall’ where you can pick up a poster print or two.
Over the road from the Corn Exchange is Cornucopia, an ancient symbol for abundance and nourishment, which can be found at the top of Call Lane, embodying the area’s vibrant market history. The colourful mural, which has been a must-see in this area for decades, features the historic Corn Exchange in a scene spanning Roman legends to the area’s Victorian past.
Those looking for an enriching street art experience simply must check out the next stop on the trail, Kirkgate. Start at the top, where Kirkgate meets Central Road and as you wander, look under your feet to find the words of local poets Antony Dunn and Peter Spafford carved into the pavement, celebrating the area’s rich history. Continue South-East until you reach Fred Aldous on your left, just around the corner of this art supplies shop, look up to find Common Ground by Leeds based street artist, Mike Winnard. This mural tells the rich and diverse history of Kirkgate, the oldest street in Leeds, from ancient Norse runes to modern day bulldozers.
Reach the top of Harper Street and make sure to find the Rainbow of Hope, a rich mosaic installed by Seagulls Reuse on the outside of Kirkgate Market. In a few steps, you will go from a rainbow filled with the words of market traders to a white Yorkshire rose, a symbol used frequently in street art across the city. Whilst in the area, take the opportunity to pop into the market and try some of the incredible street food options before you – your taste buds will thank you for it.
A stand-out feature of Kirkgate Market in recent years has been its Hello & Welcome to Leeds mural found on George Street, making for an eye-catching welcome for visitors to our city. This expansive, hand-painted design celebrates the vast communities that call Leeds their home, and is well worth a visit after you wander through our iconic Kirkgate Market.
Alternatively, wander round the streets surrounding Munro House to find works inspired by environmental issues. While exploring, you should find Spix’s Macaws, a boarded-up window now boasting beautiful blue Brazilian birds. You can also discover a changing exhibition programme of contemporary art from some of the freshest talent at The Gallery at 164, or lose yourself in independent bookshop Colours May Vary amongst their collection of design, illustration, photography and lifestyle titles.
Making your way past the eye-catching new front of the Leeds Playhouse, find your way down Lady Lane and into Edward Street car park. A derelict clothes factory has been transformed, now proudly displaying the immortal words of Einstein – Learn From Yesterday, Live For Today, Design For Tomorrow. Each letter found on the former Lyon Works building sports its own unique style, spanning designs from across time as an homage to the city’s rich history.
Finally, a short 10 minute walk away from the city centre and you will find the Mabgate Mural, another historic example of Leeds’ creative spirit. A truly unique piece of street art, the owner of the café on which the mural is painted entwined the Mabgate he knew with the history of the area, creating a timeless favourite.
With striking street art to be found all over the city, be sure to wander and keep your eyes out the next time you are exploring our city. With an ever-growing collection of street art calling Leeds home, you never know where unusual and distinctive designs will pop up next.