Redesigning Christmas


Bonfire night has been and gone, the Christmas lights are on and the German market is in full swing. Tis officially the season to be jolly. However, when you’ve heard Slade belting out for the 10th time in a day and have been held up by yet another queue for a pop-up grotto, the sparkle can wear thin.

Side-stepping the traditional attempts at Christmas, you won’t see a single reindeer or Santa residing within the walls of The Tetley, not surprisingly for a centre of contemporary art, they’ve decided to offer their own unique take on Christmas.

The Winter Wagon, The Tetley, Christmas, Leeds
The Winter Wagon, The Tetley

But when you take away all the iconic festive tat, what are you left with? Isn’t Christmas all about a bit of tinsel and tack? Well, actually after stripping back over-used Christmas icons, you’re left with a refreshingly creative take on the biggest holiday of the year.

The Tetley offers a refreshingly creative way to enjoy the festive holiday season this year. At a time of year saturated by festive schmaltz, The Tetley offers a unique, creative experience by extending themes from their winter exhibition The Feast Wagon, into events, activities, food and drink and creative workshops – all with a seasonal twist.

To bring their Christmas campaign to life ,The Tetley partnered with recent Leeds Beckett University graduates Ellie Polston, Craig Cox, Neil McAdam and Mark West to give Christmas in the city a new identity. With the traditional iconography of Christmas and the appearance of traditional city centre decorations year after year, how do you get away from the mind set of Santa and his little helpers to take Christmas in a brand new contemporary direction?

The Winter Wagon, The Tetley, Christmas, Leeds
The Winter Wagon, The Tetley

“I think, as designers, it’s what we do best. We re-imagine, modernise and adapt traditional or previous styles and lend them a new significance.”  Ellie, the brains behind the designs explains.

And of course, the designs the group came up with needed to compliment and work with  “The Feast Wagon” the current exhibition showing in The Tetley galleries.

“Geometric shapes and lines to create wagon wheel patterns were used to create a modern and contemporary look. We tried to play on the idea that the patterns vaguely resemble snowflakes, and we feel it has been utilised without giving the design a corny ‘Christmas’ look. We tried to stay away from stereotypical colours that are associated with Christmas and hoped our chosen palette presented a sophisticated, alternative and contemporary look.”

The Winter Wagon, The Tetley, Christmas, Leeds, wagon
Wagon making workshops

Since first getting involved with this project, Ellie is now working with The Tetley as a designer as part of the recently launched Design Residency. The Design Residency is a new initiative recently launched at The Tetley extending the opportunity for emerging creatives to work with The Tetley on an annual basis to interpret and deliver all The Tetley’s marketing and branding material. The commitment to support early career and emerging artists remains a core value of The Tetley and extending this into the wider organisation is key.

“As a fairly recent graduate, to know that such a renowned establishment trusts me to create campaigns and materials for them has given me an abundance of confidence and will provide me with enough real life experience to help me in the future. I think it is essential and wonderful for places to start or expand their creative opportunities like The Tetley have done.”

The creative opportunities across Christmas through the “The Winter Wagon” give visitors a unique creative experience extending themes within their winter exhibition, The Feast Wagon, into events, activities, food and drink and creative workshops- all with a seasonal twist.

Beastie Bites, Chickens Feet, The Tetley, Leeds, Christmas
Beastie Bites from The Tetley

Workshops for both children and adults to get stuck into will be running throughout December. Santa won’t be the only one packing his sleigh before this Christmas this year, as one of the many family Winter Wagon workshops, led by artists, lets you create your own wagon and make you think about what you would take with you on a long journey to unexplored lands. Adults can also experiment with bookbinding and silk printing and scarf making, making a great present for someone special or kept as a well-deserved gift to yourself.

The menu in The Bar and Kitchen has also been given a bit of a shake-up to compliment themes within the Winter Wagon and, like everything else, it includes a twist on the traditional. Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings is available across December as well as new festive dishes (and more excitingly) festive cocktails. Festive afternoon tea and mulled cider are all on the cards along with a series of alternative “Beastie Bites” being created, taking inspiration from The Feast Wagon carts which are adorned with exotic animals and beasts. Don’t worry, this isn’t something off a bush tucker trial but rather tasty treats, such as cuts of meat which we may not usually see every day, such as buffalo wings and chicken feet.

The identity for The Winter Wagon created by Ellie and the team extends into the Bar and Kitchen with wagon shaped snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and signposting the entrance to the building, the Wagon wheels adorn The Tetley’s contemporary take on the traditional Christmas tree.

The Tetley, Christmas Dinner, Christmas pudding, Leeds
A nod towards the traditional

So if you fancy a change of festive scenery this year, take a walk on the contemporary side and explore, meet, make, create and celebrate with The Tetley.

Not sure how to get to The Tetley? Download our Radius City Discovery App for insider city knowledge and directions right to the door!

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