Collaboration mixed with a stubborn refusal to accept the received wisdom of our time is alive and well in Leeds. These Northern Types is testament to this, unwilling to accept the old clichés of Northern identity in an increasingly global community, Oli Bentley, Director of Split Design, and his team of artists, writers, poets, academics and philosophers are on a year-long journey to understand what makes us who we are.
Leeds is multi-faceted, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual with more than 170 languages fighting to be heard. These Northern Types will get under the skin of the city examining our culture, our rituals, our myths and our truths – from the origin of our famous Yorkshire grit, making do and mending and our love affair with chip shop gravy, to the potential a strong sense of regional identity has in creating cultural divisions, and if, in an age of ever-easier access to global travel, communication and information, where we live even matters all that much anymore.
Over the next year Oli will work with community groups, industry leaders, retired fishermen and manufacturers, students and others to create a series of typographic artworks which explore the contrasts and contradictions within our identity. Each piece will be accompanied by a piece of writing from a local poet, writer, journalist, academic or musician. Reflecting the history of industry and making in the north, the project will celebrate traditional and experimental production techniques and the communities the project explores will become the artists creating some of the works and bringing their voice to our collective identity.
“As with the bid, we believe the success of the project will be if it can be of benefit to those living in Leeds, in neighbouring regions and across the north, as well as in Europe and all over the world,” says Oli.
“This is a project that is about Leeds, exploring and celebrating what makes us unique – what we have to offer each other and the rest of the world. But it’s also a project that asks how a place, wherever that place is, comes to inform our culture and sense of identity. Whilst the local flavours might be unique, the challenges of class; regional rivalries and cultural divides; or senses of loss of identity or local community in a globalised, digitally-connected world are being experienced the world over. We want to ask big, ambitious and occasionally awkward questions about how our place in the world informs who we are.”
In June 2016 Leeds narrowly voted to remain in Europe with a near 50/50 split raising questions about how shared our identity really is. These Northern Types will challenge our sense of identity, our international connections, our sense of who we really are and what it means to be a Loiner in the North of England, West of Europe.