In Conversation With Laura Wellington

Last night I spoke to Laura Wellington, co-founder of Duke Studios, Sheaf Street and In Good Company, about how she and her team are coping during lockdown. I also had a good chat with her about the Posters for the People campaign, which has taken off during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Posters for the People

Laura explained that In Good Company was a passion project which was launched to curate artworks to bring joy, colour and international recognition to Leeds. When lockdown was announced, Laura moved her creative focus to In Good Company and started up #PostersForThePeople. The campaign, which has seen billboards transformed into works of art, was initially a Leeds based initiative to thank and recognise the work of those on the front line, but has since grown and taken off internationally. If you’ve been out and about in Leeds and surrounding towns then you may have already seen Posters for the People.

Laura told me how the #PostersForThePeople campaign had started small and had been inspired by the weekly applause and the rainbow artworks popping up on pavements and in windows. But the project didn’t stay small for long. After chatting to Tom Buxley, Laura’s good friend and co-founder and director of FYI, a Leeds based company providing in-house creative, print and advertising services to the enjoyment industry, Laura’s brainchild project took off. First, Laura curated a design to fit the four billboards on Hyde Park corner, which are owned by FYI. The design, which was created by Morag Myerscough, a London-based artist who has worked with Laura and her team in the past, was turned around in just 72 hours. Since it was launched, the pioneer poster has been received incredibly well by the people of Leeds. 

Hyde Park Corner

As a result of the success of the pioneer project, Laura wanted to go further. She went on a mission to bring more large-scale art, fun and colour to Leeds and beyond. She brought together a team of designers and artists to create a series of posters that could be shared across the City of Leeds. Not only do the posters bring colour, but they also share important messages including ‘You’re all going to deserve medals after this’, ‘Conversations make rainbows’ and ‘Our super-heroes we love you’. 

Although the poster project was doing really well in Leeds, she could see that they needed to do something extra to get the colours across the UK. Then, after a revelation that Laura could use people power to spread the joy and colour further, Laura and her team set up an online shop. The shop, which offers a range of colourful posters for less than £20 which people can put up in their homes or gardens, has seen over 800 posters sell in the UK and beyond. Incredibly, all profits raised from the poster project will be split amongst the artists favourite charities, which include The Trussell Trust, NHS Charities Together and St Luke’s Hospice. If you would like to help spread colour but you’re in a position to pay for a poster at the moment, there is also a free print-at-home download you can colour in yourself and pop in your window – a fab art project for everyone. Laura said that she has loved seeing all of the posters around the City and hopes that they are making people smile as they go about their (restricted) daily business.

Laura also told me that the posters have been noticed by art galleries and museums both at home and abroad. The Leeds Library has asked for a selection of posters to store in their permanent archive as a memento of the times. Excitingly, Poster House in New York has also asked Laura for 8 posters to store in their permanent archive. This demonstrates the global impact that Laura and her team of artists and designers are having during this difficult time. 

Sheaf Street

Duke Studios and Sheaf Street 

Normally, Laura co-owns and runs Duke Studios and Sheaf Street, alongside her work as an interior designer and creator. Whilst she told me that she was sad to see these businesses have to go into hibernation during the lockdown, she has made sure that she has done something positive through the #PostersForThePeople campaign. 

As with every other independent business across the UK, these are tough times. So, I asked Laura how I and other people in Leeds and beyond can help to support her and her team of creatives during the crisis and ensure that they can continue to bring colour to the streets of Leeds. Laura said that there are several ways that people can help. 

  • You could purchase ‘buy now use later’ vouchers for Sheaf Street, which include ‘free money’ as every £20 voucher bought now will receive £27 in credit at Sheaf Street when things reopen. 
  • You could also look to work from Duke Studios when this is all over. People will certainly have had enough of working from home and Duke Studios offers a collaborative space in the City Centre with a range of workspaces, creative services and facilities. 
  • You could start to plan future events in the knowledge that the cancellation policy at Sheaf Street and Duke Studios has been relaxed and the cost reduced by 30% if you book now. Booking now would not only give you something to look forward to but would also help to keep Laura and her team afloat during the crisis. 
  • All the creatives are still making, so if you have a project that you would like to see come to life, why not reach out to them to see how they can help you. 
  • Sheaf Street is closed but the team are still working hard behind the scenes. You could support them by taking part in their Booze Booty Bundle prize draws or Thursday evening chat sessions.  

You could give to the crowdfunding campaign set up by Laura and her partner to help support Sheaf Street pay their staff and enable them to support local food bank charities during the uncertain times.

The campaign has a target of £10,000- could you help them to reach it?

Photographs provided by Laura Wellington.

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