City Stories: Common Ground is an exhibition by Lens Lab Project, bringing together a new body of engagement-led photographic work from faith communities across Leeds at Priestley Hall, Mill Hill Chapel running from the 24 September - 29 October. Lens Lab Project has spent the past year and a half working closely with communities from six of the most represented faiths in our city; gathering stories and capturing portraits of people and place through photography within these thriving communities. City Stories: Common Ground brings together the result of conversations and image-making revealing the extraordinary diversity of everyday lives within the heart of our city’s communities. 

City Stories: Common Ground will be open to the public 10am - 4pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 24 September to 29 October at The Priestly Hall, Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds, LS1 5EB.

City Stories: Common Ground will be held at Mill Hill Chapel inside The Priestley Hall, and brings together a cross-section of activities, images, sound works and conversations as an exhibition and programme. Held within the historic building of project partner Mill Hill Chapel, it offers the public a chance to connect to a vast body of engaging work built through this process. A selection of photographs from City Stories: Common Ground can also be found as part of an installation in the Leeds 2023 Hub in the Trinity Centre throughout the exhibition period.

Leeds is a city of over 170 languages and multiple faiths; in 2022 it was revealed that the UK was no longer a majority Christian country. Lens Lab set out to connect to these communities by making sound and image work across an 18-month process reflecting their commonalities and differences. Alongside their primary purpose of worship, the spaces they occupy allow communities to come together in shared activities: weddings, funerals, religious festivals and celebrations, teaching, rites of passage, and the sharing of food.

Hundreds of years of history have shaped these spaces, the past etched into the wood of the floorboards. Each scuff, mark and scratch are the form of another’s presence. We pass by these spaces every day, without really thinking of them. We imagine we know what is inside, to already be familiar with something so close to us. The Mosque, the Synagogue, the Church - places like these become almost abstract without direct interaction. But spaces like these are what communities are built upon and bloom. City Stories: Common Ground looks at the traces formed in these moments and the rich tapestries that are interwoven by their history.

Kully Thiarai creative director and chief executive of Leeds 2023:
City Stories: Common Ground is a wonderfully powerful project with faith groups from Leeds that aims to develop deep and long-term relationships with communities to tell the everyday and authentic stories of this city. LEEDS 2023 is proud to support Lens Lab Project to deliver this important work, and we look forward to seeing this work continue into the future.

Rev Jo James of Mill Hill Chapel:
Working with Lens Lab has been a collaborative process that has engaged with the whole congregation. Far from feeling as though we were being photographed or documented, the experience of working with LensLab has felt more like being invited to participate in an unfolding artistic event and social gathering.


Mill Hill Chapel was founded in 1672 when a woman named Sibell Dawson offered her house in Alms House Garth, then on the outskirts of the city, to the congregation of ‘Dissenters’. The earliest records of the Chapel show worship ongoing at Easter 1674. In 2014 current minister Jo James led the congregation to become the first place of worship in Leeds to offer same sex as well as opposite-sex weddings.

Mill Hill Chapel was founded in 1672 as home to a congregation of Rational Dissenters who had split from the mainstream Church. Re-built in 1848 in 'Dissenting Gothic' style the building was granted Grade II* listed status in 1963. The Chapel is now affiliated to the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.


Lens Lab Project is a creative research project, working and playing with photography, video and sound. We use cameras to explore, engage, and investigate. We are keen to make connections with communities, and other lens based artists and groups across England.


Heritage is part of us all. It’s in the stories we tell, the food we make, and the songs we sing. It’s what makes our city so special. Hidden Stories is a year-long programme of events, exhibitions, workshops and performances that celebrate Leeds’ diverse heritage. LEEDS 2023 is an independent, not-for-profit Year of Culture supporting hundreds of creative and cultural events across the city and beyond. We're showing off Leeds to the world putting it front and centre as an exciting and vibrant cultural destination.


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