Dean Freeman is the director of Wakefield’s Long Division Festival, which takes place in the city centre from June 1 to 3. He also works for a charity organising social action projects for young people aged 16 to 17 in the city.
Arts and culture:
I’ve always felt lucky that Wakefield is home to nationally revered organisations such as Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Hepworth.
But as much as I enjoy a walk around the south Wakefield countryside, I’m more interested in local culture. It’s there bubbling under the surface but it requires a lot of cultivation if we are to see the works of Wakefield artists hanging on the gallery walls.
The Wakefield Artwalk celebrates ten years in 2018 but is still criminally under appreciated.
There is a mix of traditional and more experimental art but it takes place in artist studios and bars.
Wakefield Beer Exchange rounds each one off with a bring your own vinyl session. It’s accessible and a worthwhile Wednesday night out.
For 2018 Long Division has created a project entitled ‘A Manifesto For A New Wakefield’.
This is aimed directly at artists living in the WF postcode and helping them create work that points towards a future for the a city that can sometimes become mired in nostalgia. They will be displayed or performed for the first time at the festival.
Food and drink:
I enjoy afternoons sitting in cafes and am lucky that my work lends itself to meetings in these places.
Create Café in the WF1 building is a great place to work and meet people. It’s open and airy with great staff and quality, affordable food. It has an interesting mix of council workers, parents with kids and arty types planning and plotting.
I also enjoy Mocha Moocha and I like to support the independents. Also, their cake slices are as big as your head.
On an evening, I like to head to the aforementioned Wakefield Beer Exchange or Jolly Boys Tap (recently opened on the corner of Cross Street and Northgate).
It’s obviously my age, but the mix of quieter spaces and a really strong range of beers on tap and by the can does the trick for me.
Both are really strong supporters of local culture and I think that care about the community shines through in their work.
And for something to eat, I do feel Wakefield has come on leaps and bounds in the last five years.
My Indian Restaurant affiliation constantly switches; Amaia is fantastic but then Syhiba is great too, and you can bring you own beer.
As a vegetarian I’m puzzled to find myself drawn to Smokehouse time and time again but their Hallumi burger is spot on, and the rest of the family enjoy their fine meaty offerings.
In the community:
My favourite part of my day job is meeting organisations and charities that work in their communities.
It’s eye-opening and heartwarming too.
One of the first I visited this year was Appletree Community Allotment in Agbrigg. It’s a wonderful place for children and families and they are encouraged to get involved – with the chance to take home the food they harvest, which for some families is a vital life-line.
With chickens and an on-site outdoor kitchen it’s an amazing asset – both educationally and socially.
There’s so much more out there, it can just be difficult to see if you aren’t looking for it.
This year’s Long Division Festival is a lot more focussed on creating community and being accessible.
We had a situation with the last festival where more people from outside Wakefield were coming than from within.
Why would someone from Glasgow come, but not from Knottingley?
That’s a complex question of course, but our changes have involved making 90 per cent of the festival free to attend.
So even if you can’t afford twenty five pounds to see Billy Bragg in Wakefield Cathedral (or simply don’t want to) there are still around 80 things you can see and do, all in local venues and mostly featuring local artists.
We’re also working with Wakefield BID to create a booklet of special offers from local businesses, so those local cafes and bars I love will see the benefit, while the people of Wakefield get a bargain and a great day out in their city, perhaps going places and experiencing things they’d not come across before.
You need that in Wakefield, to look below the surface. If you do, you’ll find there is plenty to be excited about.