Gipton has a brand new community centre where you’ll find a series of charities, businesses and even a cafe – introducing The Old Fire Station.
When West Yorkshire Fire Service moved from Gipton to Killingbeck in 2015, The Old Fire Station was left in limbo. But after two years of hard work and planning, the building has now reopened with a brand new purpose – to serve East Leeds as a community centre. It’s now home to five charities, Leeds Cookery School and the Feel Good Cafe, with loads of space left over for local people to make use of.
Fran Etherington, the centre’s Project Consultant, told us how the project came about, “The initial idea came from the community and local charity GIPSIL who approached Leeds Community Foundation. Working alongside the community over the past three years, Leeds Community Foundation purchased the building in March 2016 through a subsidiary company, GFS Community Enterprise, and have facilitated the funding of the renovation of the building using a grant from Jimbo’s Fund – the legacy of local entrepreneur Jimi Heselden.”
The fact it’s only taken two years for the project to come to fruition is a testament to the dedication of the team behind it – projects like this can take a very long time to get off the ground, but their determination to keep this important building in use has made it possible.
It means that Gipton and the surrounding areas now have a dedicated space for them to use for whatever they need – and it’s impressive to behold. They’ve retained much of the history of The Old Fire Station while creating a series of new spaces that will be open to the community. Look out for the original tiling in the engine halls and the fireman’s poles, which stand in the stairwell.
As well as the community spaces, they’ll have a big old room to rent out. Jimi’s Community Room holds up to 50 people and is ideal for everything from local events to birthday parties and training days. They also have a series of meeting rooms, which can be hired for anything and everything, with a special pricing structure designed to make them affordable.
The building will have offices for five local charities – GIPSIL, People In Action, Healthwatch, Space 2 and Zest. The last two have joined forces to create a community garden for their Fork to Fork project. It’s been designed by Hyde Park Source, and includes both edible beds and community fruit trees.
Fran told us, “The Fire Station itself holds a special place in so many people’s hearts – the memories of the people who worked there and the events held there over the last 75 years mean a lot. There will be plenty of opportunities for the whole community to get involved in the new life of the building – we’d love to hear people’s ideas for anything they’d like to see there and look forward to welcoming them for an event in Jimi’s community room or for a cuppa and a cake in the café!”
Speaking of which, the Feel Good Cafe is run by Slate, a charity based in Hunslet. They train local people with learning difficulties, giving them the skills and confidence to work in a catering environment, so it really does live up to its name. They’ve transformed one of the old fire engine bays into a modern eatery and decked it out in recycled furniture, which you can buy if you like. You can pop in for a brew or take advantage of their breakfast and lunch menus – from sausage butties to salads, sandwiches and hot meals.
That’s not the only foodie space at The Old Fire Station. It’s also going to be home to Leeds Cookery School from September. They’re putting in a state-of-the-art kitchen where they’ll teach you to cook fresh, sustainable and locally-sourced produce through 30 different classes. Ranging from hour-long sessions to whole day courses, they have something for beginners and pros alike.
The Old Fire Station is a massive deal for Gipton and the surrounding area, as Fran explained, “The feedback from the community advisory group, set up at the beginning of the project, and from the local people we’ve met at community events since has all shown that people are so excited to have a community hub like this in Gipton.”
It’s great to see a building like The Old Fire Station back in use in such a short space of time, and with a focus on being right at the heart of the local community. Let’s hope it can become a vital part of Gipton and act as an example for other parts of Leeds to follow suit…
The Old Fire Station, Gipton Approach, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 6NL.