Over the Summer Leeds hosts more than 60 galas, festivals, horticultural shows and local fetes across its many communities. Throughout the development of the Culture Strategy we have tried to give a voice to as many people from as many different backgrounds as we can find, but not everyone feels comfortable blogging or even just talking about their culture and what life is like for them in Leeds.
We joined the Leeds 2023 Capital of Culture Bid Team and borrowed LS14 Trusts massive deckchair, setting up stall as at the myriad of summer events across communities in Leeds and trading seaside portraits for answers to the questions of what culture means to you, what makes you proud of Leeds and what could we do better.
On the 2nd of July we pitched up at Holbeck Gala in sunshine and started conversations.
What does culture mean to you?
For the people of Holbeck culture was largely about a way of life. From multi-culturalism to faith, very few people talked about what they did, the vast majority talked about what makes them who they are and the environment around them. One person felt that culture was about how you are brought up. She was brought up to accept people and not make judgements and felt that she was now living in a multi-cultural area that didn’t see much discontent between those cultures because how people from Holbeck are taught to behave towards others.
A few people talked about culture as community – everyone ‘mucking in’ to the area in which they live a better place. From events like the gala to in bloom groups and activities in St Matthew’s Church there was a feeling that Holbeck’s culture was one of generosity, helping others and working to make their part of the world a nicer place to be.
Being a parent, being a Christian and being a Muslim were all given as simple answers to what does culture mean to you. It’s about the role you play in life, the thing that anchors you to a place and the people around you, which could range from family and faith to friends and neighbours.
The conversations in Holbeck gave an insight into a very close tight-knit community, with many different beliefs, cultures and nationalities who managed to remain connected through the place in which they live and the people around them.
What makes you proud of Leeds?
Again being a diverse and multi-cultural community featured highly in answer to this question. There was a feeling that even though the area was mixed racially, everyone gets on and that sometimes that can be hard to achieve. Those who spoke to us felt that the community wasn’t just tolerant of different backgrounds, but overtly welcoming and accepting of other cultures.
Local events were felt to be a particular strength. Festivals, galas and Christmas Markets were all given as examples of event where local people can come together and enjoy something small and simple on their doorstep.
Other areas where people felt pride included Leeds Rhinos and some of the local sporting clubs, and the night life of the city.
One person said they felt that the city they live in is up and coming and the sense of possibility and energy that Leeds has makes them proud.
What could we do better?
The main areas for improvement were safety, transport and things for children.
One person said ‘less kidnapping’ is what we could do better and crime and safety were big concerns for the people in the area. Some referenced the recent designation of an area close to the residential communities as a ‘legal sex worker zone’ – they felt that there were some big safety concerns and that this tarnished the image of the area which is largely residential with a close community. Some said that they felt that crime had increased and they didn’t feel safe after dark.
Transport was seen as an issue in terms of connectivity. There is no supermarket in Holbeck so a bus is need to either Hunslet or the city centre and they aren’t as frequent as some people would like. Public transport was felt to be expensive and some said that it doesn’t run late enough so they feel cut off from the city after 9pm. Other felt the issue with transport was more about improving the roads, walking and cycling routes, including better street lighting for safety. One person said that they thought “the government has left us behind.”
A few people mentioned the lack of cultural provision for children. There are a few play areas and playing fields but not enough to actively engage with children and young people and keep the offer interesting and varied.
Some felt that area wasn’t as well supported culturally as other areas. When there are big events like the Tour de France and World Triathlon Series, the route for those events never seems to find its way to South Leeds. One person described these as “more affluent events” and said that it was Holbeck and Beeston’s turn to see some of this action.