How Wakefield mill complex could provide a ‘safe haven’ for North’s creative industries post-Covid

Developer Paul Kempe at Wakefield's Rutland Mills complex, with former Wakefield Council leader Peter Box.Developer Paul Kempe at Wakefield's Rutland Mills complex, with former Wakefield Council leader Peter Box.
Developer Paul Kempe at Wakefield's Rutland Mills complex, with former Wakefield Council leader Peter Box.
Paul Kempe, the man behind plans for a creative hub for the North in Wakefield tells Laura Reid how the development is progressing – despite the challenges of Covid-19.

Shortly before the country went into lockdown in March, work began on site at a dilapidated mill complex overlooking the River Calder in Wakefield.

The start of the redevelopment of Rutland Mills, once a hub for worsted spinning, marked the first steps of an ambitious project for a creative centre for the North, a vision which has been described as a “gamechanger” for not only the city itself but the wider region.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Property developer Paul Kempe wants the site to become “a vibrant destination for creative and collaborative partnerships in music, film, TV, design, new media and indeed all facets of the commercial creative sector”. There are plans for workshops and studios, bars, restaurants and cafes, conference and education spaces and a new hotel.

And despite the challenges that Covid-19 has thrown at the creative sector in particular, Kempe is adamant that the development is on track and he hopes that the first of the site’s buildings will be occupied in a year’s time. “We have just pushed forward with it and haven’t let Covid have too much of an effect,” he says. “It has a little bit because there’s been a slightly longer lead in process because of all the restrictions and working practices but fundamentally it’s had very limited impact.

Read More
Meet the developer weaving a creative future for Wakefield’s Rutland Mills

“What’s been really encouraging is that despite Covid, we’ve had many conversations with different individuals and companies who want to be part of what will be Tileyard North.”

The complex will take its name from Tileyard London, of which Kempe is one of the founders.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Described as Europe’s largest community of independent artists and businesses, with music at its heart, the site in the capital is a thriving creative hub now approaching its tenth anniversary.

There are around 1,500 creatives located there including those who work in the music, TV and film, and technology industries. Artists such as The Prodigy, Mark Ronson and Chase & Status have all used it as a base.

Kempe saw the potential in Wakefield for a creative hub of similar calibre. Expected to be among the first phase to open at Tileyard North are music education facilities and studios for artists, musicians and those working in film, TV, production and live events, as well as food and drink offerings.

The redevelopment marks the final stage of Wakefield’s waterfront regeneration ‘masterplan’, which aimed to give the Calder riverside a new lease of life as a “significant cultural destination” in the North of England and included the building of The Hepworth gallery, which opened its doors in 2011.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

By 18 months’ time, Kempe says, he hopes a “thriving and vibrant community” will already be in place, whilst work continues on the remaining areas of the mill complex.

He sees the venue as a chance to “put Wakefield on the map” and wants the space to be open to the wider Yorkshire and northern community, particularly with its hospitality offerings.

As for the creative sectors, he hopes Tileyard North will be a centralised place where people can base themselves and collaborate with others in their fields.

“We’re aware how devastating Covid has been for certain sectors within the industry and we want Tileyard North to be a safe haven for these sectors post-Covid.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I personally have no doubt that even the most impacted sectors will return and Tileyard North will be ready to provide a home for them when that happens.

“The music industry, the live industry, is a sector that isn’t going to disappear. It’s going through a tough time but we’ll be there when it’s back to give them a home and world class facilities.”