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.
We joined Gipton Gala as one of the first stops on our summer tour.
What does culture mean to you?
The people of Gipton fell into two camps when considering culture. Firstly there were those who saw culture as a way of life or part of who they were as individuals with answers including:
- Recognition of history – respect ancestry and traditions to build a basis for the future
- Different ethnic backgrounds, cultures and faiths
- The old city – working together to make a better place, pulling all the communities together
- 10 year old Daniel thought about culture as different religions
- What reflects people as individuals – it’s a way of life
- A whole load of things – tradition, background, ways of doing things
- I’m English definitely! Culture is an expression of the sum of lots of different things. City is made of lots of elements – all shared history expressed in different ways.
Other thought about culture as more activity based and included:
- Whatever is happening in the city that week
- The Arts
- Heritage – like the open days
One person felt that culture is an accident – it isn’t something that we plan but rather something that we can’t help and just do.
As with many other areas the people of Gipton were proud of the city’s multi-cultural heritage and valued the diversity it brings. They felt that the different communities across Leeds had a mutual respect for each other. One person was particularly proud of the city’s multi-cultural schools and the 65 languages spoken in Leeds.
One person talked about the people of Leeds as being welcoming and accepting and said he was proud that overall Leeds voted remain in the referendum.
A number of people were proud of the city centre. The arena was often given as an example of what the city had done right, and many were proud of the transformative effect they felt it had on the city. The development of the city centre was felt to be something to be proud of for the international reputation it had given Leeds and its vibrant cultural offer.
The city’s sporting heritage was mentioned in the conversations with people being proud sports fans across a range of sports from football and rugby to karate and kick boxing.
One person felt less optimistic when asked what them proud of Leeds and replied: “Not much at the moment!”
What could we do better?
Although multi-cultural outlook and diverse communities are raised a lot in the question of what makes people proud about Leeds, many of the people we spoke to at Gipton Gala felt that this didn’t always translate to a more integrated society. Many people felt that although these many cultures exist they aren’t often shared. One person thought having stall from other areas of the city at the local galas and festivals might be one way of sharing and enjoying each other’s cultures.
Transport was raised as an issue in terms of the heavy focus on providing services to and from the city centre but not across and between communities. One person had a few suggestions including another link road and a monorail between the villages of Leeds.
Children’s provision was raised as an issue with people feeling that there is very little for young people to do in the city. Summer Camps were suggested as one solution.
Some people felt that Leeds is a great city that lets itself down by always trying to be more like Manchester or London – smaller is sometimes more beautiful. Get on with being Leeds!