The Future’s Brewing at The Tetley

By February 10, 2015

Art & Photography. Leeds.

[The Tetley. Credit David Lindsay]


Q: What happens when artists and brewers get together?

A: You’ll have to wait until spring to find out!

Sandwiched between Costco, Call Lane, a derelict petrol station, and a knot of dual carriageways, The Tetley occupies as unique a location in Leeds’ physical landscape as it does its cultural one. Walk the short distance to its wrought iron gates from the bang-bang-mind-the-drunk madness of the Calls/Call Lane/Lower Briggate triangle, and you’ll feel like you’re in another world — or the edge of a new one.

The 2015 Tetley’s Collection Commission is a celebration of The Tetley’s position at this multifaceted edge. In collaboration with Carlsberg UK, which owns heritage beer brand Tetley’s, The Tetley are inviting 10 artists to design a new set of beer mats and other beer-related objects inspired by the Tetley’s huge archive of everyday objects from its days as a working brewery.

I met Pippa Hales, co-founder of The Tetley, to talk about this exciting new project. She said:

“The Commission will be a collection of objects which celebrates our partnership with Carlsberg UK.”

She added that without the support of Carlsberg UK in acquiring and renovating the site, it would not have been possible to transform the disused brewery into a contemporary arts venue.

Sitting on comfortable sofas overlooked by the brewery’s elegant goods lift, as well as Paul Digby’s  sprawling Portraits of Emotion, it was easy to see what Pippa meant when she said “you can’t escape the reality of the building.” When Project Space Leeds took over the building in 2013, “it was as if everyone just walked out and left. The variety of everyday items that remain is just fascinating.” The 2015 Commission is just the latest in a series of projects which have used the ex-brewery’s rich past as a starting point for new artwork.

10 artists working at the cutting edge of art, design and illustration have been selected to respond to the brief and their work will be on display at The Tetley from 12 March until 10 May. A judging panel comprised of The Tetley’s curatorial team and brewers from Carlsberg UK will then choose the winning artist, whose designs will be rolled out to selected pubs nationwide.

Pippa laughed when I suggested there might be some friction between the curators and the brewers during the judging process: “I’m looking forward to having a really robust discussion. After all, it’s remarkably forward-thinking on the part of Carlsberg UK — letting artists loose on a multi-million pound brand.”

If the comments from Paul Morris, Tetley’s Brand and Sponsorship Activation Manager, are anything to go by, the brewers are as excited as the artists:

“Tetley’s is one of Britain’s favourite and most successful beer brands with a reputation spanning nearly two centuries. As a brewer we are excited to see what inspiration artists will take from our heritage, to develop limited edition point of sale materials that will be seen by our customers.”


The Tetley exterior. Credit David Lindsay (400x267)
[The Tetley Exterior. Credit David Lindsay]


The 2015 Commission is a central part of Pippa’s overall vision for The Tetley. Although it has quickly established itself on the city’s physical, cultural and social landscape in the year or so since its opening, playing host to a wide variety of events and workshops as well as its rolling exhibition programme and yummy bar and kitchen, it is only at the beginning of its journey. Plans are afoot to transform the green space opposite the Tetley into a park, commissioning artists to design children’s play apparatus that doubles as high quality public art:

“We’re working at the cutting edge of contemporary art yet we’re friendly — we want The Tetley to be a social and a cultural hub. The 2015 Tetley Commission draws these strands together.”

Clare Sita Fisher


The ten selected artists’ work will be exhibited at The Tetley from 12 March to 10 May, and the winning artist will be selected on 25 March. If you don’t make it down to the exhibition, keep your eye out for the Collection, which will be rolled out to pubs nationwide from 30 April.


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