Victoria Gardens

An immersive project that merges the realms of virtual reality and interactive gardens. Inspired by the magnificent botanical collection housed at Leeds Central Library, we aim to transform Victoria Gardens into a captivating space where the past meets the future.

A homage to working-class gardens

Our project will pay homage to working-class gardens, amateur botanists, and plant enthusiasts by reimagining their passion within a virtual realm. It will explore the rich history of the garden, and the stories of people it challenged through hardship and wars. Through cutting-edge technology and immersive experiences, visitors will explore a digital garden, interacting with its flora, and uncovering the stories of those who shaped Leeds heritage.

Leeds City Centre Hidden Nature, Hidden History heritage trail


The site was paved and provided with flower beds and the Garden of Remembrance was opened on 28th October 1937 by the Lord Mayor of Leeds Mr. Tom Coombs; the opening ceremony was followed by a re-dedication of the War Memorial.




Garden of Remembrance

Prior to 1930 the area now known as Victoria Gardens was a busy, built up block consisting of shops, a pub, insurance offices as well as residential properties, including the home of folk song collector Frank Kidson. The 1930s widening of the Headrow saw the demolition of the entire site and in December 1936 it was decided to create a Garden of Remembrance in front of the Municipal Buildings and the Art Gallery.


Over time more memorials have been added to the Gardens. The Leeds Pals and Leeds Rifles have a joint memorial as do those Victoria Cross holders born or buried in Leeds. More recent additions include the WWI memorial bench, the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings light installation and a WWI soldier silhouette. But Victoria Gardens are about more than war memorials. In 2017 an International Workers Memorial was unveiled and in 2015 the Yorkshire Society unveiled a plaque in honour of Jane Tomlinson. Victoria Gardens has clear sporting links, through acting as a starting and finishing point for events such as the Jane Tomlinson 10k and half marathon and the 2014 Tour de France – the starting line is now permanently marked on the Headrow. Additionally the Leeds boxer, Nicola Adams, has a golden postbox signalling her gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics as well as a ‘Paving the Way’ plaque from the MOBO awards.

Active Place for Protests and Celebrations

Victoria Gardens continues to be an active part of Leeds life with protests and celebrations, exhibitions and fairgrounds all making good use of this civic space in the heart of Leeds


Workshop participant using Virtual Reality

The project will prioritise indutsry female artists to lead the project working in VR stories and experiences and poetical protest writering to work with young people to create the narrative and content.    



An audience member using Virtual Reality at the Manifesto in Verse exhibition launch
Studio12 members looking at a computer to edit photographs

Stories from our

We aim to bring a number of stories from our collections about Victoria Gardens into the project including: John Grimshaw Wilkinson “the Blind Botanist” who was able to recognise individual plants by using his tongue to detect shape and texture, 

John Skelton (1805-1880) as an early herbal practitioner, Field-bryologists Frederick Arnold Lees for his edition of the London Catalogue of British Mosses and Annie Tunnington women poppy seller that feet froze to the stones in the garden. Lady Canning – Queen Victoria’s Lady in waiting who traveled the world drawing plants.

Annie Tunnington, the ‘Poppy Lady of Leeds’

Field-bryologists Frederick Arnold Lees

John Grimshaw Wilkinson “the Blind Botanist”

Produce & Play

We will hold special events to raise the project’s profile through key events that month including Leeds Lit-Fest, International Women’s Day and World Poetry Day

We will surround the programme with free workshops for attendees to create their own botanical collection using Tik-Tok across the city. Create your botanical garden and promote positive health and wellbeing through workshops and traditional art forms.

Drawing Workshops as part of Creative Mind Festival

tik-tock agmented realaty

Workshop participant using Virtual Reality

Collage Workshop

Past works

As part of Leeds Libraries’ Novels That Shaped Our World programme, in partnership with Libraries Connected, Arts Council England and BBC Arts, we welcome you to an immersive experience with VR artist Rosie Summers. Watch Live as Rosie brings art to life and we step through the wardrobe into a virtual Narnia. Using Tilt Brush and mixed reality technology, she will paint a stunning landscape celebrating ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C. S. Lewis, featured as part of BBC 100 Novels That Shaped Our World. Experience the novel as you never have before! Rosie Summers is a Yorkshire-based 3D animator and Virtual Reality Artist who brings characters and worlds to life at high speed through her work. Rosie has undertaken VR art performances with many notable organisations such as the BBC, Google, the British Library and the National Football Museum. She often carries out public speaking, VR hosting and masterclasses at prestigious events and festivals, including the BETT show and has been selected for SXSW.

Leeds360 grime cypher brings you a studio12 production featuring some of the hottest grime and hip-hop artists from leeds, showcasing different genre and styles of lyrical writing styles to the Words in the city literature festival. The film was shot in the bell tower of the Leeds Town Hall in glorious 8k 3D 360 VR which can be viewed at the Carriage works 10-4 today at the Words in the city Festival. Ilkley Literature Festival
The film features the likes of Battle Rapper Dialect Grime leeds, Musician Rapper/Singer-Song Writer/Producer face of Leeds2023 Dave-O, WNV Music Grime artist CH CHmusic, hiphop and lyrical artist Kurt Wang and the amazing MC Grime artist Crawler @MichealCrawls #Crawler0113 ) and on the decks Manny Brown Supported as always by the amazing Paramount Music
**** Warning this video contains strong and passionate content and might offend some people we have rated this at 16 and over. ****

Studio12 worked in partnership with the British Library and Leeds Libraries to curate a virtual exhibition highlighting Leeds’s unique contribution to the campaign for gender equality. Leeds has a particularly strong history of female activism from the fight for suffrage, Reclaim the Night Marches, union strikes for fairer working conditions to the current campaign to make Leeds the first women friendly city. The VR exhibition featured inspirational local women past and present, events that have shaped the experience of women in Leeds, and items from Leeds Libraries special collections that connect to the wider history of women’s rights.


As a legacy the project will be showcased at Leeds Light Night which attracts over 30K visits, we will adapt the project through interactive digital wall and Tic-Tock experiences.