Kirkstall Abbey – Happy Project, summer 2013- spring 2014

As custodians of a site of national significance, Kirkstall Abbey are an important resource and focus for the local community in Leeds. Kirkstall Abbey draws rich inspiration from the monks that lived and worshipped there and the beautiful natural environment that surrounds the abbey. This project aimed to build on the abbey’s historic legacy to create conditions and inspiration for wellbeing and be part of a bigger shift towards more sustainable environmental practices, resulting in positive impacts on the Abbey and the wider community. The project incorporated Permaculture principals (the National Office for the Permaculture Association is located not far from the Abbey in Kirkstall), sustainable practices, art and spirituality. The project led to a focused programme of workshops that included opportunities for meditation, food growing, sculpture, music and movement.


The project vision was for Kirkstall to become a unique centre for its’ community. To find ways of doing more with less. Have more impact on people, less on the environment. Be organic, holistic and community directed. Get to know and develop deeper relationships with our community.

Highlights included the fact the project meant taking risks which enabled the museum to grow, for example persistent and local marketing to attract new, local participants.  Many people transferred across strands and  the under 5s/families and parish team were particularly well engaged and front of house staff took ownership of the project.

Challenges included bad weather which delayed some activities.  A community focus means things couldn’t be hurried and funding delays were problematic and the museum faced internal staffing changes.