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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

Newsletter #01: Community Arts, Alternative Housing, and the Importance of Planners

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Hi everyone,

My name's George, I'm a freelance writer and tutor, and I've recently been working with Same Skies, focusing particularly on participation in political institutions in West Yorkshire.

I’ll be writing a regular newsletter on all the exciting, interesting and creative projects, ideas and events from ourselves and our friends in the region, and it should become a regular bi-monthly affair.

What's coming up

New West Yorkshire Walks
The much beloved West Yorkshire Walks is making a return at the end of July with a walk from Headingley to Chapeltown in Leeds led by Geraldine Montgomerie. West Yorkshire Walks began as an initiative to bring people together in the outdoors, providing the opportunity to walk through and engage with the physical make-up of local communities, asking questions as we go about what makes them great, and how could they be better. Geraldine's event is on the 30/07/22 and will be a two hour walk, meeting at 10:55 and walking till 1pm. Further details and meeting point are to come, and can be found online here on Facebook.

A painting of a rural landscape

What we've been up to

Alternative Planning and Housing

A co-curated event by Same Skies and the Royal Town Planning Institute for Yorkshire brought expert analysis, research and ideas on planning and housing to Leeds back in April. Taking conversations from Same Skies's AMPlify manifesto as a starting point, there were contributions from architect Irena Bauman, Dr Ruth Gelletie, community housing expert Claude Henrickson, and urban planner Neil McKenna, on everything from the importance of planners to health, to the social value of the circular economy in improving our region. You can find the full write-up on our website.

Community Arts and regeneration in Huddersfield

A report by Same Skies found that the recent transformation of the abandoned Piazza shopping precinct in Huddersfield into an open space for community and arts groups has been a huge success, and could be a replicable model for struggling towns across the country. Still earmarked for demolition as part of Kirklees council's regeneration 'Blueprint', a meeting between the council and a local arts organisation, The Making Space, came up with the idea to utilise the otherwise abandoned and drab space before it goes. However, its success mustdraw re-interpretation; the Piazza is now flourishing, and our report recommends that the council recognises its own success, by continuing to foster this small and independently minded arts scene borne out of a happy accident.

People at the opening of the Beetroot Collective exhibition in an empty shop unit that is part of the Piazza Arts Centre in Huddersfield

Graduates in West Yorkshire

An ongoing initiative from our researcher and organiser Martha Storey recently held a discussion on why West Yorkshire fails to retain graduates after university. With our high preponderance of graduate jobs, a thriving and independent cultural and nightlife scene, and a lower cost of living than London, West Yorkshire could be doing better. However, Martha's discussion found that a number of factors such as better transport and marketing the region's qualities more effectively could alter prevailing trends in the future. This is a long-term research project, which will continue to bear fruit on how West Yorkshire can stand out as the place to live, work and prosper. Martha's write-up of the discussion can be found on our website.

What our friends are up to

Halifax Art Lab

Local artist Alice Bradshaw is curating a new show at the Crossley gallery in Halifax as part of her Art Lab project. Art Lab is a peer group for artists and art practitioners to discuss their work, concurrent ideas and critical thinking, that began back in January 2019. During Covid, Art Lab moved totally online, and expanded its membership internationally. An image of an artist’s work in the Art Lab exhibition This inaugural exhibition at Dean Clough marks a return back to the physical space, and mirrors the Art Lab event practice of randomly pairing two artists together to explore commonalities and collaborative methods. During 2022, each artist pair; who may never have met or worked together before, embarked on an experimental journey to create, select or co-produce work in whichever way they chose. The resultant exhibition documents the diverse range of practices and collaborative methodologies. When the exhibition finishes in September 2022, the in-person Art Lab events will recommence at Fletcher’s Mill at Dean Clough, every first Monday of the month, starting at 7pm.

The Swan Song Project

Our multi-talented organiser (also leading the upcoming WY walk) Geraldine Montgomerie is developing a partnership working with The Swan Song Project, a five-year-old West Yorkshire charity writing original songs with people at the end of life and facing bereavement. Their work provides invaluable solace for these people and their families, creating a special and personal memento to remember them by. You can find and support their work on their website.

That just about sums up the heady roster of all that's Same Skies and our allies from the past few months. Going forward, I hope that this newsletter can be a really effective means through which to disseminate and talk about all that we and our friends do, and want to do. Be sure to get in touch with any projects or events which may be relevant for the next newsletter: the more the better!


Photo credit: "Newsletter" by Skley is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 .

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