Colourful artwork in the frame as Briggate welcomes back shoppers to a safe city centre: IMG 9766-2

14 Apr 2021

Colourful artwork in the frame as Briggate welcomes back shoppers to a safe city centre

Eye-catching artwork by a Leeds student has been brightening up Briggate this week as Leeds welcomed tens of thousands of shoppers back to the city centre.

The colourful creations by Kat Sheath have been put in place in one of the city’s most famous retail hotspots as part of efforts to make the city centre a lively, welcoming space for visitors coming back after lockdown restrictions eased.

And footfall statistics from Monday, the first day that non-essential shops could reopen, showed the artwork acted as a stunning backdrop for the return of tens of thousands of shoppers in what was the busiest day the city centre had seen this year.

Specialised cameras on Briggate, which track the passage of people along the high street, counted a footfall of 34,120 on April 12 compared to 6,442 the previous day. The stats are equivalent to some days in the run up to Christmas, with retailers reporting strong sales.

Kat, who is studying illustration at Leeds Arts University, said: “I am extremely excited to be involved in this project and to have the opportunity to contribute to Leeds’s community and be a part of how contemporary illustration brings our city centre back to life by using art to experience our local spaces as a cultural asset.

“The character design of each person is based upon the people who have walked past me while I've been drawing on location on Briggate. Symbols scattered between the characters represent the variety of bars and cafes the city has to offer.

"The abstract shapes and patterns are inspired by the local architecture. People are shopping, busking, going for a stroll, sipping on a cup of tea and catching up with friends. My design aims to embody Leeds as a thriving community and a welcoming place to live, work, and shop.”

Leeds City Council arranged and funded the artwork, teaming up with LeedsBID (Leeds Business Improvement District) along with the management teams at Victoria Gate, Victoria Quarter and Trinity Leeds to bring vacant units to life.

LeedsBID Chief Executive Andrew Cooper said: “Street art plays an important part of the city’s cultural identity.  Post lockdown, the key will be to work collaboratively in this recovery period and LeedsBID is delighted to partner with Victoria Leeds, Trinity and the city council in supporting Kat on this Briggate project.”

The artwork is among a package of dedicated measures put in place over several weeks by the council’s City Centre Management Team, all designed to support businesses and ensure the return of shoppers and visitors has been as safe as possible.

On-street teams including night marshals, city centre ambassadors and COVID marshals have been in place to help support businesses reopening and the council has granted 29 new street café licences across the city, on top of the 88 existing licences that were already in place.

New signage and hand sanitising stations have been put in place along with extensive cleaning of key parts of the city centre. The council has also paid more than £75M in grants to businesses across the city, with additional Restart Grants also being processed.

A new marquee structure on Merrion Street has been approved and plans for the temporary summer pedestrianisation of Call Lane are being discussed.

Parking charges are also being suspended in council-managed car parks and on-road spaces in the city centre and Otley for three weekends in April and May.

Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy and culture, said: “A tremendous amount of dedication and partnership work has gone into ensuring the city centre is as safe and welcoming as possible for everyone returning to shops, bars and cafes this week. Leeds really is looking its absolute best and we’re delighted to have worked with a local artist to fund this colourful project and bring Briggate to life.

“It’s been genuinely uplifting to see people back enjoying the city centre too and it’s given everyone a real sense that together, we’re moving in the right direction and getting life in Leeds back to where it should be.

“It’s still vitally important that as restrictions ease, we continue to follow the latest guidance around social distancing, face coverings and hand washing and all look out for ourselves and each other so that we can keep the city safe.”

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