TSB Est. 1989

Save Aire Street Workshops

Written by: Moxcowhite • Daniel Chapman
A photograph of staff standing outside the Aire Street Workshops building in Leeds

Leeds city centre has changed a lot since 1989, and so has The Square Ball, but one crossroads of our shared history has been constant: the contribution to the city’s creativity being made at Aire Street Workshops.

31 Aire Street, an old factory next to the rail station, was the first not-for-profit space of its kind in Leeds, providing city centre units for small businesses. It was in one of these units, 22B in fact, that The Square Ball magazine was started, back in 1989. The same bunch of legends were running Leisureco from the same building, importing and selling ‘Wacky footie shirts from around the world’ — the sort of shirts that are now high fashion on Instagram — and Arkwright, one of the first companies remaking classic kits.

TSB has moved around in the 35 years since, but Aire Street Workshops still provide space for around fifty businesses and work for 150 people, many aged under 25. It is home to photographers, designers, clothing manufacturers and more. And there are still links to TSB. At Fresh Aire, Alec Aarons’ fine art printing studio produces prints of artwork on behalf of TSB’s own John Tregoning, as well as for recent exhibitions by artists we’ve featured in these pages, Hannah Platt and George Storm Fletcher. Kate Schultze, whose photos of Leeds United murals were featured in issue four this season, took those pictures while working at Take It Easy Lab, a film processing studio at Aire Street.

And now, like so many creative spaces, Aire Street Workshops are threatened with closure. Although it is run by an independent company, the building is owned by Leeds City Council, who are putting it up for sale, citing budget pressures and the cost of refurbishment. The businesses in Aire Street Workshops have only just been made aware that they must leave by the end of January 2025, when the building will be taken into private hands.

The Square Ball’s historic association with this building — basically our birthplace — is a small thought compared with the uncertain futures now faced by the people who have their businesses there, who now must also feel the responsibility of trying to keep a place open in LS1 where future TSBs, or any small businesses, can be founded and grow and keep Leeds interesting. But TSB’s 35 years of history, from 1989 in Unit 22B to the magazine you’re reading right now, help demonstrate the contribution Aire Street Workshops makes to Leeds.

The tenants of Aire Street Workshops are asking Leeds City Council to pause the sale process and work with them to explore alternative options, ‘which can hopefully both fulfil the council’s need to raise funds but also not risk the business and livelihoods of over 150 people’ — and they need help.

If you can, please visit linktr.ee/airestreetworkshops or follow @airestreetworkshops on Instagram, where you’ll find the latest updates and most importantly a link to a petition that needs your support, to help save Aire Street Workshops from closure. ⬢

(This post is free to read from The Square Ball magazine season 34 issue 8. Click here to read more)

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