THE OLD AND THE NEW AT THE TETLEY
THE NEW look ‘The Tetley’ contemporary gallery in Leeds might not be everyone’s cup of tea – modern art, like a poor pint, can leave some feeling a little flat. But it deserves every success nonetheless.
A great amount of effort has gone into making this magnificent former home of Tetley’s famous brewery and brand – known through Leeds, the North and the UK, if not the world - a place where contemporary art can sparkle.
Aside from the diverse exhibits, perhaps the key attraction is the building, which a bit like Tetley’s Bitter itself, exudes a confident 1930s industrial bravado.
A manly looking place with a gruff yet palatial style for Yorkshire folk who knew they drank the best beer – and in God’s own county at that.
The sort of place that, were the Lord to choose a pint, when resting on the Eighth Day, he would fashion with no nonsense grit and grandeur – then mop his brow and settle back with a knotted handkerchief on his head and overlook His creation from some divine deckchair.
Perhaps the star of the architecture and the new look place, right at the heart of the building, is the industrial lift (now sadly not working) which has all the black and gold stolidity and sliding criss-cross meshing that one might hope to find in a brewery from the age of art deco.
The sort of lift door, which a bit like an expensive car door, clunks closed with an assured weight. Nothing namby pamby about this place.
The boardroom, surrounded by gilt framed paintings of the great and the good of Tetley’s and Leeds, has all the sombre panelled intensity of a bank; the boardroom table is surrounded by leather backed chairs – what else? There’s a specific gravity here.
The late Leo McKern would not have looked out of place at the head of such, in suit, watch fob, and waistcoat, sampling the latest brew, perhaps, brought upstairs by some overalled brew manager with a palate more finely tuned than a hummingbird.
The staircase which winds around the lift leads to floors which still have brass nameplates on such; my companion and I weren’t sure if these were relics from the past or the names of present incumbents in the new look gallery, but one can only imagine the chatter and industry which would have gone on behind these doors – and perhaps the celebrations when a new brew formula was hit upon, ceremoniously elevated up in some large industrial pipette perhaps, with a mixture of pomp and gravitas.
Aside the upstairs rooms now are the main galleries – many of the rooms and offices have been tastefully converted; the stark contrast between new and old might not work for some, but for others, it could equally prove refreshing.
Downstairs, there is a stylish modern bar and dining area close to the old main entrance with courteous waiting staff and bar managers; one pleasantly frothy member of staff we spoke to had an unusual mix of an Arkansas accent blended with the occasional flat Yorkshire vowel, inherited from living in the Broad Acres for about a decade.
And perhaps the fermentation of the old and new all-round will prove to be the secret of The Tetley’s future success.
Stepping out of the great industrial beery behemoth, one is immediately struck by the modern day surrounds in Leeds – towering modern hotels, huge high-rise apartments and other hallmarks of the 21st C lined like a youthful wall abutting close by to this Depression-era old timer.
Perhaps The Tetley, a little like modern Leeds, will come to represent that rare thing – a physical metonym for the old and new at the old heart of the city.
Or indeed, perhaps this new look building will be a little like your very first pint – a little unusual on your first sampling, but an absolute pleasure for years to come.