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Leeds artists’ work takes city centre back to the 70s in outdoor gallery

Interview with local artist and trail curator Clifford Stead. Images on posters: David Hick and Clifford Stead, courtesy of Clifford Stead.

Photos of Leeds in the 1970s have taken over six poster drums in an outdoor trail throughout the city centre.

As galleries and museums are shut, local artist Clifford Stead, and the Leeds Modernist Society, have displayed the late David Hick’s photographs, as well as a painting of Clifford’s,  in the Covid-safe exhibition ‘Windows in a Modern World: Leeds in the 1970s’.

David was a lecturer in transport engineering at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett) and a long-standing member of Leeds Civic Trust Planning Committee. His photos were gifted to Clifford by David’s wife shortly after he died.

Clifford said: “I thought it would be really nice to use the poster drums as a new way of reaching people and these poster drums cannot be used for anything else at the moment because all live music is cancelled.

“It’s benefitting the company that’s using the drums, benefitting the artists and I also think other people’s mental health as you need to go out and exercise.

“We’ve got the drums numbered and there’s a map and you can explore Leeds and I thought this would be a really cool way of looking at the past.”

The first poster drum in City Square.
Photo on the drum by David Hick.

The exhibition was launched on December 6 and will run for two weeks to show off these rare photographs.

The posters are positioned on drums near where they were shot to transport shoppers back 50 years to a time of bell-bottoms and flock wallpaper.

On the sixth poster drum is a painting of the controversial Leeds International Pool, painted by Clifford himself, based on a photograph from his own collection.

Clifford said: “I wanted Leeds International Pool on this trail because to me it was one of the most iconic buildings of that era.”

Built in the 1960s on lower Westgate, the building spent a lot of time closed for refurbishment due to a number of faults. Famously, the swimming pool was an inch too small to be classed as a legal Olympic size.

The building’s architect, the late John Poulson, was involved in a corruption scandal linked with building contracts and was jailed for fraud in 1974.

The building closed in 2007 and remained empty until demolition began in 2009 and a car park is now in its place, with only a concrete footbridge over the ring-road remaining of the original site.

Clifford’s painting stands out behind the fences surrounding the Headrow roadworks because of its electric blue sky, a contrast with the nostalgic faded hue of David’s 70s photographs.

Clifford’s painting of the Leeds International Pool
on the sixth poster drum, situated on Westgate.

Clifford believes this sort of trail could be used in the future for exhibitions of photographs of Leeds during the pandemic.

He said: “The sight of empty streets is going to be a great archive for the future of our time.

“The pandemic has given the opportunity to photograph Leeds in a way it’s never been seen before.

“I’ve already got that archive ready, but I’ll have to pass that on to somebody.”

The trail was sponsored by Leeds Civic Trust, Wellington Place, Temple, Page\Park, Yorkshire Design Group, and ArkleBoyce.

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