Artist-Led Housing: Histories, Residencies, Spaces

Book launch, conversations and Q&A 
Fri 19 April, 5pm-8pm 
Convention House, East Street Arts, St Mary’s Lane, Leeds, LS9 7EH

An evening in conversation with Jonathan Orlek, architectural researcher, director of Studio Polpo, and author, to launch his new book Artist-Led Housing: Histories, Residencies, Spaces. The event will include readings of excerpts from the book and conversations with some of the book contributors.

Discussions begin at 6pm, with an opportunity to preview the No Going Back exhibition from 5pm.


  • Jonathan Orlek (chair)
  • Frances Holliss, Workhome Project
  • Karen Watson, Co-Founder of East Street Arts
  • Laura Mark, Marki-tecture
  • Lizzie Coombes, Photographer, Researcher, Academic
  • James Connolly, Writer/Comedian
  • Jon Cannon, Artist/Graphic Designer
  • Julie Upmeyer, Plas Bodfa
  • David Cleary, independent curator

Speaker bios

Jonathan Orlek
Jonathan is an architectural researcher and practitioner, often working at the intersections of art, architecture, and ethnography. His research interests include artist-led organisations and spaces, critical spatial practice, embedded research methods, and collective urban practices. He is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Liverpool John Moores University and a director of Studio Polpo, a social enterprise architecture collective based in Sheffield.

In 2021 he completed a collaborative PhD between East Street Arts and the University of Huddersfield, which explored the provision of housing by artist-led organisations. His thesis developed embedded ethnography as a critical spatial practice within artist-led contexts.
He is a researcher on several interdisciplinary projects exploring care and community-led practices. This includes Caring—with Cities and Sonic Acts of Noticing.

With Studio Polpo, Jonathan has undertaken numerous projects relating to high streets, shared living, and play. He was a designer for The High Street of Exchanges, an immersive installation on the future of the British High Street, for the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021. He has initiated experimental sleepover performances and worked on commissions for The Hepworth (Wakefield), The Tetley (Leeds), Bloc Projects (Sheffield), and Mostyn Gallery (Llandudno).

Frances Holliss
Frances Holliss is an architect and emeritus reader in architecture at London Metropolitan University. She has been researching the architecture of home-based work since 2001 and is widely published, including ‘Beyond Live/Work: the Architecture of Home-based Work’ (Routledge 2015) and DASH #15: ‘Home Work City’ (Nai010 2019), a Dutch journal edition on design for home-based work at the scale of the urban block, with Eireen Schreurs and Paul Kuitenbrouwer.

Holliss received ESRC to complete her doctoral research (The Workhome… a new building type?) 2004-7 and AHRC funding to develop her research ( in 2009 and to explore home-based work in social housing (Towards the affordable workhome) in 2012. In 2020, in response to Covid-19, Holliss launched the collaborative Workhome Project ( to explore the impact of home-based work on buildings and cities, laws and regulation, and to address social and spatial inequalities highlighted by the pandemic.

Karen Watson
Karen Watson is the co-founder of East Street Arts, a visual arts charity with local, national and international influence. Karen stepped down as Artistic Director in 2023, a role in which she led on the company’s vision, the delivery of artistic programme, strategic developments and partnerships. 

Karen has written regularly for industry and national press which has informed artist-led programmes and cultural policy. Her work advocating for independent artists and organisations has had national influence, and her passion and belief in artist-led workings has enabled many ideas to turn into sustainable and independent organisations. 

Karen was awarded a MBE by His Majesty The King in the New Year 2023 Honours List in recognition of her services to the arts.

Laura Mark
Laura Mark is an award-winning architecture critic, curator, filmmaker and academic. Laura is currently undertaking a PhD at Newcastle University and in 2024 she received a scholarship from Newcastle University and Cambridge University Press, and was appointed as editorial assistant on the academic journal ARQ.

She currently co-leads undergraduate first year at Sheffield School of Architecture and has previously taught at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University of Greenwich and the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design and Sweden’s UMEA University.

Trained as an architect, Laura worked in architectural practice before joining the editorial team of the Architects’ Journal. She has also held curatorial positions at both Walmer Yard and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Lizzie Coombes
Lizzie Coombes is a photographic artist, academic and researcher. Her practice explores the camera and photography as socially engaged and participatory practice, particularly through the pop-up portrait studio.

She has an established track record of cross-art form collaboration and innovative community projects with collaborators, including Opera North, The National Media Museum, Light Night Leeds, East Street Arts, and The Irene Taylor Trust. Lizzie has created exhibitions, books, and projections shown in varied spaces, e.g., ‘Submerged’, a set of photographs installed and viewed underwater in Bramley Baths pool.

She creates daily stories on Instagram under the name of Betty Lawless.

James Connolly
James Connolly is a comedian, writer-performer and researcher. His research and learning spans arts, culture, heritage, archiving and all things Liverpool (to name a few). He believes that asking the right questions within a story will dictate how best to tell it.

His work at East Street Arts, over the past two years, has involved exploring the archive and continuously asking; who are East Street Arts, what they do and why. His recent article, published in Artist-Led Housing: Histories, Residencies, Spaces, recounts his own experiences receiving temporary housing from East Street Arts and the impact of such spaces in the arts.

He is a 26-year-old white, cis-gendered, male and uses the pronouns he/him. He’s tall, blonde and balding with a beard and average build. He was born in Liverpool and identifies as working class and LGBTQI+. His first and only language is English, spoken with a Scouse accent.

Jon Cannon
Jon Cannon is a graphic designer and artist, living and working in Sheffield.

Over the years, his practices as both artist and designer have gone hand in hand: he uses methods and ideas more commonly associated with art in his graphic design, while also using the tools and devices of graphic design as entry points to artistic concepts. His work continues to explore the links between art and design, and follows themes of identity, brand, tribalism and value systems in culture and society. He also works as a public artist, and facilitates and hosts workshops.

His primary aim is to make potentially challenging ideas as accessible as possible without losing depth and meaning. He believes that the best ideas are often right under your nose.

Julie Upmeyer
Julie Upmeyer is an artist and initiator who creates sculptures and objects, performances and installations. She creates long-term investigative projects that combine her many passions: layers and labour – – – dimensions and dedication to craft – – – systems, substances, and shiny things. She is currently taking a deep dive into limestone, limestone dust and other quarrying by-products with collaborator Mari Rose Pritchard in a possibly endless project called ‘Void Fraction’ .

She is also in the process of exploring the possibilities of Plas Bodfa – a 100-year-old manor house on Ynys Môn in North Wales. Home to her family and her art practice, Plas Bodfa is also host to cultural initiatives, exhibitions, residencies, sound projects and experiments that blur the boundaries between contemporary art and the surrounding world.

David Cleary
David Cleary (he/him) is an independent curator based in North Wales, whose practice aims to nurture artistic collaborations in rural and coastal localities. Working closely with artists and communities, he develops residencies and public programmes to explore the intersections of culture, ecology and social practice.

He is currently developing Conveyor, a nomadic curatorial programme in North Wales. He is also the Access and Inclusion Officer with Disability Arts Cymru on the Amdani! Conwy project. He was one of the curatorial fellows on the Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator 2022/3, and previously worked as Curator of Learning and Engagement at Mostyn (2021-3), Llandudno; Learning & Exhibitions Coordinator at Humber Street Gallery (2017-21). Recent public projects include, Eco-Futura Cinema (2023), StudioMade @ The Carriageworks; Resident Echoes (2022-3), Mostyn; cwrdd â mi wrth yr afon (2022), Mostyn; Sense Us (2022), Mostyn & Disability Arts Cymru; Fruit Factory Network (2019-20), Humber Street Gallery.

Other things!