Emily Baldwin is a postgraduate student at The University of Leeds – her research interests are in urban geography, culture in cities and place branding. She is currently on a placement with Leeds City Council and is working on The Culture Strategy.
On Friday 15th of April I had the opportunity to join the Age UK arts and crafts group at The Bradbury Building behind Sainsbury’s on The Headrow along with Leanne and Kat from Leeds City Council. Sarah Prescott, who was leading the activity, introduced us whilst telling us some more about the ceramic project the group was working on. Leanne, Kat and I then had the opportunity to speak with individual members as they continued to make and decorate their creative pieces.
We had two key questions in mind: What is your culture in Leeds? What could help to improve your lifestyle?
I found it harder than I thought to approach the topic of culture. The word culture can seem a bit daunting, being a term I’ve always just accepted. Yet it’s only when we stop and try to define culture that we can really appreciate its meaning to us and our lives. Speaking with members of Age UK Leeds brought a meaning to the word culture – more than going to the theatre or museums, it meant family, friends, learning, socialising and independence.
I got a real sense that culture in Leeds played an important role in keeping the ladies of this group out and about and active in their communities. Classes and activities held here at The Bradbury Building are great – whether it is for crafts, walking clubs or computer skills – they bring older people together, to engage with one another and with the changing cultures of the city around them.
Here are some of the thoughts that were shared with us…
Amarjit would describe Leeds as multicultural, diverse and welcoming. Culture for Amarjit is arts and the theatre. She enjoys coming to craft at Age UK Leeds and is also going to be starting a computer course soon.
Amarjit enjoys coming in to activities at Age UK Leeds but feels that public transport can be a problem. She often feels she has to spend a lot of time planning and waiting around for buses which makes getting to town for these sessions more of a challenge. Amarjit sees a few problems like this that are making it harder for people to engage in what’s going on in the city. Another example for her was how Horsforth have stopped running English classes, which has meant that there is nowhere for people in the community to learn how to read and write English.
Another important part of culture for Amarjit and her life is exercise. Although she enjoys the yoga classes, Amarjit feels that exercise classes more generally are too expensive and aren’t aimed at over 65s. Something she feels could be thought about would be to introduce different classes aimed at the older generation in the community that are cheaper and more accessible.
Gill also likes to keep active – some of her favourite activities are swimming and walking. Being newly retired, Jill is one of the youngest members of the group. She feels that there is a big difference between 50-60 and 70-80 year olds, which is something that isn’t necessarily accommodated for. For instance, activities aren’t on offer in the evenings as it is assumed that ‘older’ people wouldn’t like to come out then. Gill still enjoys going out in the evenings and has found the lack of opportunity to do so a bit isolating.
Another difficulty Gill has experienced – like many other members of this group – is public transport. She feels that current provisions don’t encourage us to explore other’s communities. Gill thinks that buses are too infrequent and always feels she has to plan her route and accommodate for taking a few different buses to get anywhere. This has left her feeling as though the city centre and her own community are the only spaces that are properly accessible to her.
Sue also struggles with the public transport in the city. She also finds that she can get into the city centre much easier than if she was trying to get around locally to surrounding communities. For Sue another personal challenge was the provision for disabilities on buses. When it is busy and buses are over crowded Sue struggles to find a seat – whilst their infrequency often means long waits outside in the cold.
Sue likes in Oakwood and attends a craft group in her local doctors surgery as well as coming along to this one. She likes activities like these that are hands on and enjoys learning new skills when she can. Another class held here at Age UK Leeds that Sue attends is the Tai Chi class – which seemed to be very popular among the group who, like Sue, all felt keeping active was very important.
Like me, Trish lives in Hyde Park, yet the culture we both lived and enjoyed were worlds apart. It is where she has lived her whole life – Trish has seen many cultural changes in the neighbourhood and thinks that there is a lot coming up to look forward to.
Trish has a very active life, she likes to keep busy and enjoys helping with charities like ‘Carers Leeds’ and ‘Hearts for Homeless’. She has lived on her own for a long time and likes to spend time out in the company of others when she can – whether that be walking the dog with her son or coming to sessions here at Age UK. Trish enjoys the arts clubs but finds that they are quite hands on and everyone is very busy with their own project – her only concern was that she struggles to find the time to socialise as well!
Something that Trish highlighted was the amount of time everyone spends on technology today…I say whilst typing this up on my laptop after having caught up with the news on my phone…and this just demonstrates Trish’s concerns for our generation. Our time is precious and Trish sees that we spend far too much of it behind a screen than getting out and engaging with our community. We may think that everyone is choosing to use technology to find out about what is going on in the city – but it is important to remember that isn’t the case and we have to make an effort to include everyone in the culture of Leeds.
Both Anne and Sandra love plays, drama and entertainment. Although they enjoy getting out and socialising at these craft clubs or the walking group held by Age UK Leeds– they have found it difficult to find out what’s available for them in the city. It seems that there are lots for young people, families and for children but they struggle with knowing what’s out there for people of their age group. Sandra thought that maybe it would be a good idea if when people reached retirement age they could get information about what was going on in the area in order for them to get out and enjoy.
Anne and Sandra think their bus passes are great but they have struggled with transport in the city. The city centre can become a different place in the evening for them – they find the streets and the buses intimidating when younger people are out drinking at night. The different atmosphere could put some people off coming into the city at certain times, like it has for Anne and Sandra. They thought it might be a nice idea to make sure that there are plenty of other ways of meeting other people their age that doesn’t always have to mean coming into the city.
Becky likes taking trips to galleries, museums and the opera. She has been coming to this craft class for a year and, like many, making friends here is important to her.
Although she enjoys coming along to these classes in the city, Becky is concerned that her local area – and the local communities of Leeds more generally – aren’t as well served as the city centre is with activities like these. Becky does, however, consider herself fortunate as she has a car that gives her the freedom to go wherever she likes. Something she does struggle with is the lack of blue badge provision in the city centre. When she’s been to a show at Leeds Grand, for example, she doesn’t feel very comfortable walking a long way to her car or through a multi-storey at 10pm.
These concerns for safety surrounding transport in the evenings are something that was felt by a few members of this group. Shirley had similar worries, she doesn’t like to go out in the evenings as her bus stop is on an isolated stretch of road and she doesn’t feel very safe waiting there. Shirley likes to remain active and independent – she enjoys attending the cultural activities that are on offer in her local community of Pudsey as well as coming along to these sessions at The Bradbury Building.
Some of my thoughts…
Many of the difficulties members of Age UK Leeds suffer were things I would never have even considered to be a problem. My only experience of Leeds is as a student – you never realise how something so simple, such as transport, may prevent you from interacting and engaging with culture in the city. I wouldn’t think twice about walking to town if I’d missed the bus, but that isn’t an option for everybody. I’ll check updates on social media or chat to friends online about what’s going on in the city and find out about the new and exciting things I can go and see or do. But not everyone has, or wants, that resource to hand, or maybe they don’t have the knowledge of how to use it.
It was clear to see how invaluable the activities at Age UK Leeds were to everyone we spoke with. They help the older generation to stay active in their community – to continue doing activities they’ve always enjoyed whilst giving a rare chance for them to learn something new. A few weeks ago I began searching for where I could find and speak with older communities in Leeds – I found it really difficult to find many places that offer the opportunities that Age UK Leeds does.
As a student in Leeds I’ve always been overwhelmed by the various events, clubs, and societies that are on offer in and around the city – whether they be free, one off or long standing activities – there’s always a long list of things I could be doing. You might hear about them all at University, on social media, by word of mouth, maybe on leaflets you get through your door. I hadn’t considered that this wasn’t the case for different sectors of the community. Without the activities or knowledge of what’s on offer it suddenly becomes so difficult to actually get out and interact with others and with your city. If we could improve what’s on offer for all types of people and communicate what’s happening and upcoming in Leeds we may be able to help everyone to enjoy their city that bit more.
Based in The Bradbury Building, Age UK Leeds works across the city to support older people in the community. The charity provides support services alongside running weekly events and activities – all with the focus of improving the quality of later life in the city.