The Tetley

The Feast Wagon

7 OCTOBER 2015 – 10 JANUARY 2016


Launched on Thursday 8 October 2016 and in a series of new commissions, the exhibition explored the history of spectacular touring shows and the influence of cultural icons in the formation of personal and collective identity. Ideas of exchange, circulation and migration were considered through large-scale sculptural installations, painting, collage, video and textile works, alongside displays of archive material relating to John Robinson Whitley and an off-site billboard project which ran between the north and south of the city.

Across The Tetley’s First Floor Galleries, The Feast Wagon looked at identity and nationhood against a backdrop of today’s globalised contemporary art scene, with it’s international biennales and large-scale touring exhibitions such as the British Art Show.

The exhibition included work developed by artists Simeon Barclay, Delaine Le Bas, Lubaina Himid and Susan Walsh in response to research by Leeds-based writer Irfan Shah. Shah had extensively researched Louis Le Prince, the moving image pioneer and his brother-in-law, the Yorkshire industrialist John Robinson Whitley.

Whitley was a local manufacturer based in premises just a stone’s throw from The Tetley, who styled himself as an ‘industrial PT Barnum’.

He was responsible for bringing Buffalo Bill’s iconic ‘Wild West Show’ to England in 1887, and staging a series of large-scale national exhibitions on a patch of London wasteland that later became the international exhibition centre, Earl’s Court.

The exhibition was accompanied by a curated selection of reading material within The Tetley’s Resource Space and a series of workshops and events. A publication with contributions from the show’s co-curators and exhibiting artists was also published during the exhibition.


Thursday 8 October, 4-6PM
Feast Wagon Launch

Join us for the launch of The Feast Wagon with refreshments, free and all welcome.

Tuesday 27 October, 11AM-3PM
Family Art Workshops: Create a collaborative sculpture

Drawing inspiration from The Feast Wagon, create a collaborative paper sculpture with beads, thread, glitter and felt to reflect your personality. Free, drop in anytime.

Thursday 3 December, 6-8PM
Cowboys and Yorkshiremen: Illustrated Talk by Irfan Shah

As part of   The Feast Wagon join exhibition co-curator and researcher Irfan Shah for a fascinating insight into the factual and fictional lives of Leeds industrialist John Robinson Whitley, 19th Century American Icon Buffalo Bill and the colourful characters that visited ‘The Wild West Show’ at the formative Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre in 1887.

Thursday 7 January, 6-8PM. FREE
Artists in Conversation

Join exhibiting artists and co-curators for a discussion unpacking themes of the project and the newly commissioned art works within in.

Join In
Follow the conversation using #TheFeastWagon

Twitter: @The_Tetley
Instagram: @TheTetley

This exhibition is supported by:
Leeds City Council, Arts Council England, The Foyle Foundation, Leeds Inspired, JCDecaux, Clayton Hotels and Footprint Workers Co Op

With special thanks and credits to Leeds Libraries and Information Services, Leodis, William F. Cody Archive and Special Collections, Brotherton Library and University of Leeds.