Unlikely Heroes : Exhibition at Dean Clough Mills Galleries (Halifax)

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The exhibition – the first featuring a range of sites from the Feeding Body & Soul work – was part of the Spring programme in the half dozen or so galleries at Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. The show ran from February 11th 2017 to 23rd April 2017.

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Dean Clough is a fabulous location. Based in a complex of old mills which have been pain painstakingly regenerated, right in the centre of the town of Halifax, it is a thriving, privately-owned business centre where over 4,000 people come to earn their living. The buildings are packed with businesses who have chosen to locate on this 20-acre site which was once the world’s largest carpet factory. What could have been an appalling eyesore as it decayed – or worse still demolished and replaced by concrete jungle – is a vibrant central hub to the local area

Much of the credit in driving this transformation forward goes to Sir Earnest Hall, a local entrepreneur but who knew about community.  He made his first fortune in textiles, then in property through the Mountleigh Group. In 1983 he sold up for £40m and sunk £20m into the former carpet-factory site which went on under his genius to make a £765,000 profit and show more than £37.1m assets by 2007-08. Today it is said to be worth £30m plus…….but really that is only the financial value. The social and cultural value to Halifax is just about immeasurable, and accounts for why it has over 60,000 visitors a year.

One of the reasons for such visits is a complex of nine art galleries set up within the buildings which host public exhibitions of vast array of art, along with display of an incredibly  impressive permanent collection owned by Dean Clough.  This gallery programme has been in place since the mid 1980’s and makes art freely available to the public, despite having no direct funding from the local council, the Arts Council of England, or from the EEC. Dean Clough also provides rent-free accommodation for some 20 artists and for major theatre companies such as Northern Broadsides and IOU theatre, as well as for arts charities such as Northern Orchestral Enterprises Ltd (NOEL), or Yorkshire Youth & Music.

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