It’s a mural we’ve seen many times from the train on the way from London to Leeds but this Christmas we finally got to see the giant mural called ‘True North’ upclose. Nestled on the side of an old industrial unit on the side of the tracks it pays tribute to the mill workers of Leeds.
A collaborative piece between a couple of Manchester based artists Hayley Garner and Joy Gilleard, also known as the Nomad Clan, and Tankpetrol, a Polish born artist also based out of Manchester. We’ve featured the work of all the artists previously here on the blog. Most notably, in recent months when we focused on the Nomad Clan’s other huge Leeds mural which still towers over the city station and which is currently the country’s tallest.
This piece, a little further out in the former industrial suburb of Holbeck, is a little smaller but still huge. It pays tribute to the mill workers of the city who would have known this area well. All around there are signs of the areas past with a mixture of beaten old industrial buildings nestled amongst pockets of attempted regeneration.
Depicting the portraits of two men, the section from the Nomad Clan is actually a tribute to one of the artists grandfathers. Known as Jimmy Boy, he was a spinner in Rochdale, just over the Pennines. Starting in the trade when he was just 10 years old, he and others of his generation would have worked in conditions unfathomable to people now. The looming dark mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire were no place for children and could be brutal working places for anyone working there.
The story is explained in detail over on the Nomad Clan blog where the artists explain, “we came across an amazing photograph of him whilst hanging out at her sister’s house and immediately knew it needed painting.” Both members of the Clan have roots going back to mill working and they’ve been known to pay tribute to this period of history before with one other such mural located in Blackburn created as part of the open walls project in that town.
The other part of the mural from the Manchester based Tankpetrol depicts John Marshall. The owner of Temple Mill, it was once the largest flax mill in England and the design of the building was based on the Temple of Horus at Edfu in Egypt. The original facade of that building astonishingly still survives and can be found just around the corner. It’s the only grade I listed building in that area of the city and is quite a sight.
Marshall also had a reputation as a philanthropist. According to the Northern Voice blog he was one of the early champions for workers education and safety and would support mill workers families by setting up places for children to stay and study whilst the parents worked.
So a lot to learn and see in these giant murals nestled in the midst of the former industrial heart of Holbeck. The pieces are a fitting reminder to the areas past as one of the engines of the country and to the northern people who struggled in towns and cities all over the area, to make it great.
‘True North’ the mural from the Nomad Clan and Tankpetrol was visited and photographed on 26 December 2017. It can be found in a car park just off Globe Lane in the Holbeck area of the city.
‘True North’ mural gallery from Nomad Clan and Tankpetrol