Us Brits are well known for our verging-on-dull fixation with the weather. An unprecedented sprinkle of snow can halt public transport for days, a strong gust of wind will be granted the title of “hurricane” Bob and through rain, sleet and moderate cloud coverage we’ll always find time to grumble about how inconvenienced we feel. For inhabitants of a country with such mild weather we’re really quite prone to excitement over it, and I must say that when I received a chance invitation to visit an unheard of herbal-tea-serving venue called The Weather Café last week, I immediately felt that familiar nationally ingrained twinge of intrigue.
On reading further into this venture I discovered that it was far more than a mere weather themed venue. The Weather Café is a wonderful piece of interactive public artwork brought to life by local artist David Shearing. It brings the outside inside and features a grass floor, a roof that rains, winds, clouds and plant life. On entering the café I felt a great awareness of the installations connectedness with the wider city and environment. The conditions inside are affected by the outside weather, which dictates which snippets of film are displayed on the old tv screens that populate the wall and which voice recordings from over 100 local people play through headphones laid out on the wooden tables.
The intention behind all of this is to promote a greater awareness of the occupier’s surroundings. I found that everyone in attendance was particularly open to discussion and interaction- perhaps even more so than the good folk of Leeds usually are. People went there to connect -with each other and with the environment. That connection was made easier by the translation of the environment into visual and audio conversation pieces. Shearling states that “we never really know the stories of those who sit next to us, this project offers an insight into the lives of the people all around us, and asks whether we can build a deeper sense of compassion.”
The Weather Café will remain open until the 20th of March. I recommend that if you’re native to Leeds you get your butt down quick sharp and dedicate a good hour to absorbing this art piece and making the most of the gorgeous teas they have on offer. I had a nice steaming hot mug of “still for a time”! Find out more about the café here.