Kirkgate Rising: Putting culture back on the street
Words by Luke Hudson
Jacob Kelly is a very busy man, though not that you’d notice. The laid-back attitude doesn’t let much slip – but for Jacob and his new project, Doghouse, there is still work to be done. After over a year in the making, this bar, venue, and record shop is finally ready to open with a big party on July 8.
The opening of Doghouse will offer something new for Kirkgate, joining the cultural ranks of Art Official, Tribe Records, Wapentake, and the Art Hostel. With the Council investing Townscape Heritage Lottery funds to develop the street, Kirkgate is set to be one of the coolest new communities and districts in Leeds City Centre.
We asked Jacob, who also owns The 212 Café and Bar, about his vision behind the latest venture and the fresh potential of its location.
How did you come up with the idea for the Doghouse?
‘Myself and business partner Stu Dixon always wanted to open another venue to compliment what we do at The 212. The idea of a Record Store has always been an aim of mine as that’s where my background lies. Stu is an absolute wizard with food, and we both like a drink – so that’s how it came about. Then we needed a name, and as we have both have dogs, we wanted to play around with that idea… that, and as we have spent a lot of time in “The Doghouse”, the name was obvious.
‘The inspiration for the Doghouse actually comes from a few places like, The 212, and even the last owner of the premises, Paula’s Hair Salon. The record store aspect comes from one of the best shops I have ever been to and shaped the way I play records to this day – that’s Play Music, which used to be in the Corn Exchange. It was owned and run by local DJ’s and producers Ben Brophy, Tristan Da Cunha and Mat Playford. Sadly, that shut down and left a hole in the Leeds house music scene.’
How do you think this project will fit in with Leeds, and the other businesses on Kirkgate?
‘The Doghouse (hopefully) will fit like an old glove for all the people that like going out and like something a little more chilled. Yes, there are lots of other cool bars in Leeds that open up, but we want this to feel like it’s been around for years.
‘Kirkgate is definitely the place to be and the other development ideas that I have heard that are in the pipework will be amazing if they come off. But I like the idea of all independents and arty type businesses being in the area.’
We also spoke about others along the street.
‘Tribe Records are another legendary record store in Leeds so it’s such a buzz that they have risen from the ashes like a Phoenix – to be opposite them is going to be amazing. We will be selling slightly different styles of music and the more record buyers it brings to the area the better. Art Official is also run by such cool dudes and as a massive fan of the type of art that they promote, there will probably be some in the Doghouse. Next door to us is Wapentake so we will all work together to make the area the best it can be.’
Leeds based street artist Bretski, runs Artoffical and as well as stocking art supplies, the shop sells t-shirts and prints all produced by local creatives. Bretski also thinks that more businesses attracting people to the area can only be a good thing. For these owners there is a real sense of community cohesion developing – Bretski can even foresee Kirkgate becoming a new Leeds Arts Quarter.
Tribe Records shares its premises with Artofficial, with the music going hand in hand with the art. Customers to both shops enjoy the new sounds filling the air, interesting work on the walls and a good chat with people who share the same passions. Wapentake is a quirky café feeding the people of Kirkgate and further generating a buzz for the area. It recognises the importance of supporting independent businesses and uses products and ingredients sourced from the best Yorkshire suppliers.
These businesses and the people who support them show that the cultural heart of Kirkgate is beginning to beat faster, and sound even louder. With the opening of Doghouse and the other shops and eateries standing defiantly strong against the grain of mainstream Leeds monotony, it might not be long until the city has a new underground favourite.