Tileyard North

Inside Tileyard North: Part One –Waking the Mill

Transforming a formerly dilapidated mill into a creative powerhouse, Tileyard North has been a dream years in the making. As the Wakefield-based site nears completion, we get the inside story of its evolution into the North’s new musical hub.

On the outskirts of Wakefield town centre, stood the long-abandoned shell of a former mill complex. Formerly a thriving hub of spinners and weavers from the late 19th century onwards, the imposing sprawl of the 9-building Rutland Mills had found itself gradually phased out of use over the ensuing century. While its myriad factory buildings would serve the needs of dancers and artists in its later life, the mill was, sadly, inevitably deserted in 1999.

The 135,000 square foot site, Grade 2 listed site lay dormant until the day Tileyard co-founder Paul Kempe, noticing the site on a visit to the neighbouring Hepworth Gallery, realised he’d just clapped eyes on the very location that he and the rest of the Tileyard team had been searching for.

Foreseeing how the site could be refreshed, enhanced and re-shaped into the North’s very own version of London’s booming creative cluster, Kempe and fellow co-founder Nick Keynes set to work on envisioning how the site could be reconstituted “After two or three years of planning and funding we started work.” Keynes told us recently. “The buildings were in such a state of disrepair that they weren’t viable initially. But we really had the appetite to invest in the site, but we needed some support. The local authority helped and we raised funds.”

tileyard north under constuction
Tileyard North’s central courtyard is still under development, and will eventually be heaving with musicians and creatives

Being a short distance from the northern metropolis of Leeds was undeniably attractive, as well as the fact that Yorkshire as a whole swells with labels, music services and creative companies. The establishment of Tileyard North further strengthen the bonds between Leeds, Wakefield and other northern creative companies, as well as that original Kings Cross community. After all, it’s barely a two-hour train ride from Kings Cross to Wakefield. “Making sure we support the local region was crucial” explains Katie Hopkins, Tileyard North’s first Community Associate, “Informing the Wakefield-based creative community of our plans for the space and making sure they really understand the mission of Tileyard North and our passion for the northern creative scene has always been key in the process.”

BACK TO LIFE

The first of the numerous phased steps toward converting the 9-building site began when property development company City and Provincial acquired the site in 2019. This company, established by Paul Kempe, procured the original Tileyard site back in 2011, and directed the process of refurbishing Rutland Mills’ various buildings. Though the life-freezing COVID pandemic slowed development, a flurry of activity over the last two years has now brought the project back up to speed.

Tileyard Offic
One of the floor-spanning rooftop office spaces that Tileyard North offers, nearing completion.

Early visualisations of how the space would look feature a central courtyard, ready to be harnessed as an event space, food court and social area, which many of the Tileyard North offices and studios would circle. The majority of the office spaces are aimed at businesses, and will be available for private lease. This includes several huge spaces that span the whole floor of several of the buildings. There’s also an 800-capacity event space, a 400-capacity event space and a top-tier gourmet restaurant – The Yorkshire Brasserie – set to mirror London’s Vinyl Cafe in terms of atmosphere and as Tileyard North’s all-important social/work hybrid space.

One of the first areas to get completed was a building given over entirely to Tileyard Education, the validated postgraduate and professional education initiative that is currently thriving in Tileyard’s foundational site. Harry Leckstein, the Head of Tileyard Education, details this new Wakefield-based campus; “We have designated space that includes writing rooms, tech labs, classrooms and recording studios. We will be offering the first of our suite of programs up there in September 2023.” We’ll dig deeper into Tileyard Education’s new centre in our next instalment, but Leckstein stressed that the launch of Tileyard North’s Education centre was no southern invasion. “We’re very keen to involve the community. We’re not just bringing down a load of our staff and resources from London. We’ve reached out to a lot of people up there who’ll be module leaders, teachers and mentors. We’re going to get very plugged in to local schools and colleges to give students that experience of a pro community. Then, they might be inspired to come and do a course.”

Tileyard Education will allow students to plug into the real world of creatives and businesses operating at Tileyard North

X-FACTOR

For those not looking for a workspace or to enrol on a course, one of the most attractive offerings that both Tileyard London and Tileyard North will begin rolling out soon is TYX, a new membership-based model wherein subscribers can book time in any of Tileyard’s music studios, content creation spaces, podcasting production or photography studios. Already launched in London, TYX is intended to give access to high quality gear and tech for just a small subscription fee, to those who’d otherwise have to fork out a hell of a lot more money to work in an equivalent environment.

Jack Freegard, the Head of TYX goes into detail on how it will play a major role at Tileyard North. “It certainly is becoming an important piece of the puzzle for Wakefield.” Freegard explains, “It will definitely give individual creatives around the north of England the opportunity to plug in to that space without having to take out a whole floor. The co-work aspect is also a big part of how we intend to bring the community together. We’ve got two floors. One floor will consist of membership studios, another photography studio, and one floor which is co-work space. It’s a community-focused enterprise. With TYX we’re taking the core values of Tileyard and making a business model that can be replicated elsewhere.”

Tileyard Atmos
The TYX Atmos studio in London, similar facilities (including an Atmos studio) will be coming to Wakefield…

Jack’s intent is that these TYX studios aren’t just aimed at those who know how to use pro-end equipment, but instead keep interfacing simple and accessible. “The whole approach is so that even if users aren’t technically minded, the studios and spaces are as simple as can be. The studios are set-up so it’s just one USB cable into your computer.”

Despite the simple plug-and-play approach, TYX sports some seriously solid hardware, as Jack detailed when he showed us around one of the finished London spaces (including the sumptuous Atmos studio), he highlighted some of the gear contained within, “We’ve got a Prism Lyra 2 interface the and MIDI keyboard is Arturia KeyLab. Everything comes up via the USB cable, whether you bring a MacBook or PC laptop it doesn’t matter. You don’t need drives. We’ve got Neumann KH 310 monitors and a Neumann TLM 103 mics in each room here. We’ve also got a mic locker with all the usual suspects, we’ve got a couple of 37s, 58s and the like. They’re all free for members to use but it will be first come first serve.”

Jack is passionate that TYX could be a great entry-point into the Tileyard eco-system for neighbouring creatives in Wakefield; “TYX gives people an access point into the Tileyard North community, without having to commit to space. We’re giving them access to facilities that they’d normally see in London up in Wakefield. It also gives them access to many of the events that we’ll be doing. Networking events, seminars, talks, concerts and much more.”

Visualisation
The future: a visualisation of the finished Tileyard North site

In the next instalment of our Tileyard North deep dive, we’ll look more closely at how the Tileyard Education’s rollout in Wakefield will open new doors for north-based students, and how the Tileyard community endeavours to grow and embolden a truly global community of musicians, artists, creatives and performers.

For more information on Tileyard North, head to tileyardnorth.co.uk

Inside Tileyard North: Part Two – The Education Eco-System