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Long Division 2022: A Preview #1,

Jun 04, 2022
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How Wakefield became Yorkshire’s cultural hotbed

Under the Radar heads to the city of Wakefield this coming weekend for the 2022 edition of Long Division. Now in its eleventh year having first opened its doors in 2011, Long Division has become one of the most reverential festivals of its kind on the map. Situated on the River Calder in the heart of Yorkshire, Wakefield might have been considered a “sleeping giant” for many years. However, thanks to the continued success of Long Division and creative collaborations borne out of it, Wakefield is earning a reputation as a northern cultural hotbed.

This year’s Long Division will play host to around 70 artists across three days, commencing on Friday 10th June with the Opening Social event at Westgate Chapel, through to Sunday’s Long Division + all dayer at the Vortex. Sandwiched in between is the main event, which sees a mix of internationally acclaimed artists rub shoulders with some of the hottest new acts in the UK as well as the finest Wakefield and its surrounding areas has to offer. Spread across nine participating venues, 2022 will see the likes of Sea Power, W.H. Lung, Low Hummer, LIFE and Haiku Salut play to what’s almost certain to be the busiest (and most appreciative) day on Wakefield’s cultural calendar.

In the first of two previews, Under the Radar visited Wakefield earlier this year to find out more about the initiatives currently happening within the city. One of those is Tileyard North, which aims to extend the creative hub of its flagship site in London. Situated on the site of the long defunct Rutland Mills next to the city’s Hepworth Gallery, Tileyard North is a project that has cost literally tens of millions of pounds and despite the Covid-19 pandemic throwing an initial spanner in the works regarding timescales, Phase One should be completed by December of this year with the official opening in early 2023.

So why Wakefield? Tileyard North Community Associate Katie Hopkins takes up the story. “Wakefield’s a good location. It’s commutable. It’s very close to Leeds, it’s close to Sheffield, it’s not too far away from Manchester and the surrounding areas. So that provides a great opportunity to create a strong, collaborative, arts and creative community. Tileyard North is being built right next to the Hepworth Gallery, which is bringing a lot to that community. There’s a lot of investment in the area and we’re just very excited to be a part of it.”

In the planning for three years after Tileyard London founder Paul Kempe visited Wakefield in 2019 and saw huge potential within the area. After discovering the site hadn’t been used since 1999, Kempe asked the local council whether they would be interested in collaborating on the project and it wasn’t long before they came on board. “We wanted a space with a bit of history to it, not a complete new build,” explains Tileyard Marketing Manager Bryan Borcherds. “The project started around three years ago, from when the initial agreement and conversations were had. It was supposed to have been open by February of this year, but because of Covid and material scarcities that had to be pushed back until the end of 2022.”

The project itself is being funded by both Tileyard and the local council, but Borcherds is quick to refute any suggestions their northern venture is solely about profit. “It’s not a money-making scheme from day one. It’s going to take a long time to turn any money around, but it’s a long-term plan to give us a space for creative industries, musicians, artists and designers to come together. Essentially its privately funded by Tileyard itself. They do support the arts very, very heavily so, long term investment has come from the owners of Tileyard.”

With five event spaces including an 800-capacity main room, Tileyard North are already planning ahead. A number of businesses have already signed up to move into the building such as artificial intelligence monitoring experts MUSIIO, who were recently bought out by Soundcloud. Tileyard have also been speaking with a number of television and film production companies, while their record label already boasts an impressive roster of artists including Ella Eyre and Call Me Loop.

Does this mean they’ll be looking to sign any Wakefield based artists going forwards? Marketing Manager Borcherds thinks so. “This is another reason why Tileyard North happened. There’s always been this perception that to be a successful artist you need to move to London. We’ve seen artists get the train down on a weekly basis from places like Leeds, Liverpool or Manchester to London for a couple of days to record. Whereas with the artists that do get involved in the Tileyard space there will be record labels as well. So instead of artists having to send cold emails and MP3s hoping they’ll get noticed. They can literally sit in the café – potentially next to the person they’ve always wanted to meet – and pass on their music.”

It sounds like an idyllic scenario, and one that’s further bolstered by Tileyard having its own studio section, TYX. Having just opened in London, TYX boasts twelve studios where residents pay a monthly membership fee, book their sessions in advance then have access to a live room or production space. It’s ideal for artists that aren’t in a position to pay for a long-term lease on a studio, instead working out at around £12 an hour. With plans for TYX to expand beyond London and Wakefield – Tileyard are already looking at potential openings in LA, New York, Singapore and Stockholm – its propensity for growth over the next 3-5 years is phenomenal.

Coming back round full circle to Tileyard’s relationship with Long Division, it’s clear the mutual respect between both parties has paved the way for this exciting venture to develop even more in the future. “Long Division is an amazing festival. We’ve been supporting them for quite a while, and it’s an opportunity for them to grow with us as well as us grow with them,” declares Borcherds. “We’re very supportive of what they do, and they’ve been great to us as well. I think you’ll be seeing a lot more of our partnership over the next few years. “

There’s a real sense of community where people pull together in Wakefield, which coupled with having such a fantastic music scene is what makes the city so special. BBC Introducing West Yorkshire’s Emily Pilbeam believes its something unique to Yorkshire itself. “I produce the West Yorkshire show for BBC Introducing, but I also work on the Humberside show and previously worked on the North Yorkshire show as well. There’s definitely a Yorkshire thing where I see everyone in each other’s bands and at each other’s shows so I think it’s reflective of all of that.”

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t help, causing a number of venues to shut and eventually close down. Nevertheless, amplified by Long Division, Wakefield has developed a number of initiatives and partnerships with a couple of schools and colleges. One of these is the Amplify programme which forms part of Young Team, Long Division’s educational department. One of their initiatives is to bring together aspiring, young musicians and songwriters, hold workshops with industry professionals then have them rehearse a set to play at this year’s Long Division festival. On the day Under the Radar visits Wakefield College, we witness a couple of bands called Two States Of Mind and Sooner Or Later. The former having only met for the first time twenty-four hours earlier! Under the tutelage of Georgia Jakubiak (The Research, The State Of Georgia, The Hummingbirds) and Education Manager Paul Bateson, who also sits on the board of directors for Long Division, both bands play short sets consisting of original numbers and covers of Wakefield artists (Sooner Or Later’s take on Knuckle’s “Rewind The Feeling” proves particularly inspiring).

Ruby Loxton (17) and Daisy Fanthorpe (16) are two students who’ve benefited from Young Team initiatives. “I do music at college and we’ve done the business side as one of our modules. Putting on gigs, that kind of thing,” explains Ruby. “Then I came across this advert for Amplify Access All Areas where you could watch Paul (Bateson) and Dean (Freeman, Long Division founder) putting on the gigs, and I soon realized that’s what I want to do when I finish college. So that’s what I’m really focused on. What goes on behind the scenes that people don’t actually see. I want to work in music when I finish full time education. You don’t realise how many venues there actually are in Wakefield, and a lot of that is down to Long Division. Amplify gives young musicians a great opportunity to play at a recognized festival which again, is very eye opening for someone just starting out. It really boosts your confidence as well.”

For Daisy, she’s actually going to be playing at this year’s festival as part of the Opening Social event in Westgate Chapel on Friday 10th. “I love Wakefield. It has nice people, nice music and a nice atmosphere,” she says.

Indeed, it seems more people are choosing Wakefield over its bigger and more recognizable neighbours such as Leeds and Manchester. “I think if you look at Wakefield in general it’s a very creative space,” suggests Emily Pilbeam. “It’s a creative city and always has been, so it’s about time people started paying attention to it a little bit more. It’s also a really independent city. People just tend to crack on with it over there, so I guess that’s part of the appeal as well.”

One of Wakefield’s longest running and most exciting nights is Bodys. Founded by Emily Ingham, who also plays in the band Mi Mye. Bodys has prided itself on bringing some impeccable live talent to the city since its inaugural event back in 2019. Having recently partnered with the Brudenell in Leeds as part of Yard Act’s album campaign which saw them play a riotous show at Wakefield’s Establishment venue last month. Bodys has gone from strength to strength, not only in terms of the artists they’re bringing to the city, but also for keeping the scene alive throughout the most difficult times during the pandemic. “All of the artists I’ve spoken to who’ve played Bodys have really enjoyed them as well which is testament to what they’ve been doing,” declares BBC Introducing’s Emily Pilbeam.

Of course, there are parallels with Halifax and Hebden Bridge over the other side of the River Calder, where bands like The Orielles, Working Men’s Club and The Lounge Society have made a big impact in recent years. “People just want to be able to do things on their own doorstep so it’s important to have those scenes,” suggests Emily Pilbeam. “It just makes West Yorkshire all the more richer for it.”

Whether its independent record label Philophobia Music, whose creator Rob Dee put out a book of his memoirs entitled Wanna Buy A Record? That every budding label owner or musician should own. Or a music scene rich with names from the past (The Spills, Piskie Sits, The Research) and present (The Cribs, Drahla, Mi Mye), Wakefield has so much to offer.

So, what about the future? With the impending opening of Tileyard North and Long Division’s potential for growth, surely this is only the start for Wakefield. Emily Pilbeam thinks so. “I remember reading an article in The Guardian a few years ago where it claimed Halifax was the new East London and I imagine people would have never thought anyone would say that about Halifax so I don’t see why that can’t be Wakefield in the future. I’m originally from a town in Norfolk that has no reinvestment or culture, so with there being a lot of funding going into Wakefield and creatives doing things it’s only a matter of time before people start shouting about the city a lot more. Hopefully that won’t just be people from West Yorkshire shouting about Wakefield either!”

Long Division 2022 - Preview #2 HERE


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