Visit to the Holocaust Centre North

Photo credit: Julie Najim

We arrived at the University of Huddersfield under sunny skies and the attractive campus looked very striking. White walls, blue skies, a burst of pink blossom and Lemm Sissay’s apposite poem Let there be Peace gave a very cheery welcome to the campus.

We were met by the centre’s director, Alessandro Bucci, and his colleagues Hari, Paula and Barbora, and long-standing volunteer Michael, who each told us a little of the history of the centre and explained the role it plays today.

In 1995 a group of Holocaust survivors and refugees who lived in Leeds set up a group which could provide a safe space for them to discuss their experiences. This became known as the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA). Aware that the members were ageing, the group began to look for a permanent base to store their memories and historic artefacts. At that date talk of the Holocaust was not as open as it is today, but with atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda in the news the group wanted to share their stories more widely, in the hope that the world would become more compassionate.

Volunteer Michael introduces the exhibition to LAF members

The HSFG members had given talks in schools, and planned a touring exhibition, but as awareness grew the project became more ambitious, culminating in the opening of a spacious base at the University of Huddersfield in 2018. The permanent display tells the harrowing history of the Holocaust in a series of panels, but the centre offers much more than this excellent exhibition. There is also a learning centre with sessions for all ages and an ever growing archive which is currently being catalogued and digitised: 8,000 plus new items were accessioned last year alone.

Photo credit: Julie Najim

Of particular interest to Leeds Art Fund members is the ‘Memorial Gestures’ programme which invites artistic responses to original materials in the centre’s archives. Participating artists seek inspiration within the original documents and develop new ways to share the stories that have previously been packed away unseen in boxes.

We were shown samples of Laura Fisher’s knitted works from the first artist residency in 2023, and given a sneak preview of Irina Razumovskaya’s work in ceramics. Razumovskaya is one of the four artists whose responses to the collection will be shown later in 2024. This year will also see the first writer and translator residencies.

Event report by Karen Lynch

Upcoming events from Leeds Art Fund

Tuscan Summer, Maurice de Sausmarez 1955 © Courtesy of Jane de Sausmarez. Purchased with funding from the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of University Art and Music (Leeds), 2018. Image credit: University of Leeds


Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery Woodhouse LS2 9JT

A Visit to Ilkley Toy Museum


Save the date - more information coming soon

New acquisitions and research at Lotherton Hall


Save the date - more information coming soon

Become a Friend to Art in Leeds

Show your support for arts in Leeds, enjoy exclusive membership benefits and help to acquire great art for the city. Join for as little as £20 per year.