It is not simply the cities of the south that have a bouyant street art scene. Urban art is cropping up in every metropolis up and down the country and Leeds is no exception. In fact, it is a highlight of an emerging street art scene.
Although quality street art is not rampant throughout the city, the sinister sounding Dark Arches is the most infamous graffiti hot spot in Leeds. Oozing industrial revolution charm, the red brick arches under Leeds train station are home to an abundance of street art and graffiti. Before all of the imagery and tags and murals, these arches had something of Jack the Ripper about them. Now, they are a red brick canvas for graffiti artists throughout the city.
It was over a decade ago when Graffiti Jam was organised by Steve Gaulton with the aim of reinventing the drab and depressing Dark Arches. Over twenty street artists created a 300ft long mural covering the length and breadth of the tunnel in just twenty four hours. Now the graffiti has stretched beyond this initial mural out onto the surrounding streets.
Each arch is a natural frame for a unique and surreal design. One arch shaped mural features an array of colourful hands surrounding a central yin-yang symbol. A lion almost flies overhead, holding a rainbow gay pride flag. Created by the Voices and Choices Committee, the mural is unfathomable but nevertheless interesting to look at.
Just a few steps further along the arches and you are greeted by a scene from a zombie apocalypse. Darker colours see a flesh deprived screaming face emerging from a sea of skulls. This gruesome piece of street art definitely lives up to the name of the location where it is found.
Leeds is a city that doesn’t have its own crop of recognised or famous street artists but that is not to say that the art seen around the city isn’t worth a visit. The graffiti and street art is naive and lacks the grandeur of Shoreditch or Acton but that is also endearing. The local council is hesitant to recognise graffiti as culturally significant to the city. Graffiti and street art still equates to vandalism in many minds in Leeds. There used to be a wall in Hyde Park that was open to street artists to have the freedom to create amazing pieces of art. This wall is sadly no longer there.
The greyness of a northern city is beginning to be immersed in the colour of street art. It is very much an emerging scene with lots to offer but one that will need a bit of a leg up if it is to compete with the incredible street art that the rest of the UK has to offer.