east street arts

East Street Arts had an idea for an innovative new enterprise High Street lenders wouldn’t support, Key Fund helped make it a reality.


East Street Arts is a contemporary arts organisation. Its mission is promote artistic activities, support artists and engage public audiences.

their story

East Street Arts was founded at East Street Mills (Leeds) in 1993. Over the last 23 years, its mission has remained constant: to support grassroots artists to thrive. Key Fund invested in them in 2009 with a £25k loan.

East Street Arts delivers professional support programmes for artists. It has renovated disused buildings to create art studios in disadvantaged areas.

Its many partnerships with artists and collectives throughout the UK and abroad, led East Street Arts to identify a need for a bespoke Art Hostel to offer long-term, affordable and accessible accommodation for artists to work and stay in Leeds.

In 2015, Key Fund gave loan finance of £110,000 to renovate a building In the Kirkgate area to provide a residential Art Hostel and a creative hub. Each bedroom features unique design, while a project space hosts a programme of artists’ events and installations, linking back out into the creative underbelly of the city.

The facility’s social aim is to support and retain young creative talent in the city, while boosting the socio-economic development of the area. It currently has 5 live-in volunteers, and a local volunteer team of 10. The support and enthusiasm from within the local community and grass-roots DIY art scene has been evident.


The Art Hostel has enabled East Street Arts to safeguard 15 current roles, and create three new posts. Located in a deprived area, rich in cultural diversity, the Art Hostel offers volunteering opportunities to local people, and uses art as a tool to tackle isolation. It offers invaluable experience of the arts and hospitality world for students and artists.

The hostel accommodates 100 people per week, dramatically increasing footfall to the area. The Art Hostel’s trading income currently stands at £278,000.

Even though it’s a strong business model because it’s completely new and we’re a charity, it was difficult to get high street lending, especially in the current economic climate. Without Key Fund support the project wouldn’t have happened.”

Nicola Greenan, External Relations Director.