The Old Red Bus Station is under threat as shopping complex looks to build a bigger car park.
The Victoria Gate group wants to expand the car park just behind the historic building, demolishing it in the process. This has caused widespread dismay amongst the Leeds electronic music scene.
Champion Up North, the collective who opened the venue in February 2016, was originally given a five year lease. However, the venue and the surrounding area have been earmarked for the next phase of the ongoing developments.
“We are aware of the potential demolishing of the building, although we choose to take a positive approach to the situation”, says Imogen Smith, a resident club night promoter. “If the building closed tomorrow we have achieved our goal of creating a hub for like-minded people and are proud to have left our mark on the city. However, we will fight this all the way, not just for us but for young people throughout Leeds.”
The venue has hosted some of the finest talent of electronic music, however the real loss will be to the cultural identity of the city. Regular art and food exhibitions offer something unique, particularly to young people who see the site as a hub for creativity and individuality.
Champion Up North
Despite the setback of losing their flagship space, Champion Up North plan on continuing their work in the city. Events ranging from writing classes at Leeds’ Arts Hotel to craft beer markets at Canal Mills will still be a fixture in the city.
“We see the short-term life of The Old Red Bus Station as an opportunity rather than a limitation”, says Immi Cardy, a representative for Champion Up North. “We don’t have any time to waste, and with the short period we have already been open, I believe we have made a mark on Leeds after creating a truly underground club. We’re going to take this legacy we created and keep transforming Leeds for young people”.
The desire to preserve youth culture and creative spaces is one that’s clearly shared by the group and club night promoters.
Corporations over culture
The move aims to lure in shoppers to stores like John Lewis and the new casino.
“Hammerson is pleased The Old Red Bus Station will bring new life to the building in the interim”, James Hepburn, project manager of Hammerson, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
The move is symptomatic of a recent trend that is blighting local music scenes, not just in Leeds but nationally too. The Garage, winner of DJ Mag’s Best Small Club award in 2012, closed in 2013, whilst The Cockpit last opened in 2014. Both clubs were affected by landlord disputes, effectively pricing them out of existence.
Manchester recently saw Sankeys nightclub, a pillar of UK electronica, close. The space is now currently being turned into luxury flats. Recent BBC reports show that the number of nightclubs across London have decreased by 50% over the past five years. 430 music venues dropped to 245 over this period.
A strong community spirit exists that will challenge the decision. Liam Murray, a frequent visitor of The Old Red Bus Station and occasional guest DJ, vowed to continue to contribute to the scene. “We can’t get too upset about this because then they’ve won. I’ve had some amazing experiences at this venue and we’ll seek another space to make our own, just like The Old Red was.”
By Chris Nicholls and Tom Howard