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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

Newsletter #03: Frontline housing, StoptheSCANdal, and Community Theatre

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2023 has been a rollercoaster of a year so far for West Yorkshire and the country writ large. Politically, a new Prime Minister in Rishi Sunak has attempted to shore up support, with the recent local election results showing gains for opposition parties including not only Labour but also the Lib Dems and the Greens. This was borne out in West Yorkshire, as all of Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees experienced marginal change, with modest gains for Labour and the Greens sprinkled throughout.

Aside from the old capital-P politics, both our work and that of the manifold great groups and organisations across our region has continued to show what can be done outside and beyond the strictures of the party form. From surveys on retaining graduates in our region, to reports on the racism embedded in new policing technologies and the effects on our communities, we’ve continued to push towards new horizons of political and community engagement in West Yorkshire.

What we've got coming up

West Yorkshire Walks: Manningham

Manningham West Yorkshire Walk

Our West Yorkshire Walks programme remains a constant fixture on the newsletter's schedule. We've got two walks in collaboration with the University of Sheffield touring through Manningham in Bradford, with one taking place on Saturday 27 June and another on July 1st. You can get tickets on eventbrite here, and the walks focus on residents and their desires for green spaces, parks and play areas for BD8.

What we've been up to

West Yorkshire Walks: Harehills

Staying on a similar theme, we had another event in early May taking us around the Leeds suburb of Harehills. The group met on the second Saturday of this month outside the beautiful Victorian St Aidan’s Church in Harehills, taking a slow stroll around the area courtesy of the knowledge of Harehills Neighbourhood Forum, who led the walk.

Simon Lewis Harehills West Yorkshire Walk

The Forum is a community group who aim to bring together residents, businesses and people with a connection to the area to consider Harehills and its future. Tom Partington, a Forum member, said "Harehills is an amazing place with a massive selection of independent restaurants and important heritage. It’s a melting pot of people that has a real buzz about it. There is work to be done in Harehills but it has the potential to become a living example of how high population density and low car ownership neighbourhoods can flourish. The walk with Same Skies was a great opportunity to showcase Harehills, talk about ideas and hear different perspectives. More than anything else it was good fun!"

Photos on our Facebook and Twitter pages captured a bright day in North East Leeds, with this popular programme of walks going from strength to strength, and uncovering and exploring gems across our region.

Young people staying in West Yorkshire survey

In an ongoing project Martha Storey and Alex Doyle are currently analysing the results of the survey they conducted on graduate retention in West Yorkshire. They are thinking about what factors make somewhere an attractive place to move post-graduation, how attractive West Yorkshire is to graduates, and how it can improve on this. They have also been invited to present some of this research at Yorkshire Universities’ ‘One Year On’ Conference, as part of a panel entitled ‘Place-marketing and drivers of 'stickability'’. As this develops, we’ll be sure to continue with updates in our next newsletter!

Frontline film now on YouTube

Our fantastic film detailing the work of Claude Henrickson and Frontline Community Self-Build, a community housing project run by and for African Caribbean men in Leeds nearly thirty years ago, has now been released and can be found on YouTube. Claude’s story is an inspirational one, as the film explores the project and its intersection between the racial prejudice of the time, socioeconomic inequality, and the fostering of a real and integrated community through housing. The film takes place against the backdrop of another of our West Yorkshire Walks in Chapeltown, as Claude walks the viewer around where the homes were built, his and the project’s history, and his work today as a community-led housing (CLH) advisor, introducing Latch and ChaCo, two more examples to show how community-led housing is flourishing in Leeds and what it can offer our region in the future.

Review of Fortress London

In a blog on our website, James Fishwick reviewed Fortress London, a book by political journalist Sam Bright detailing the role of the capital in centralising wealth and power away from regions like West Yorkshire. James says of the book:

“Timely, thorough and constructed on foundations of dismay and anger but offering hope and solutions for the future Fortress London by Sam Bright explores an inequality entrenched by hundreds of years of public policy, but an issue that is creeping to be addressed by high politics."

Read James Fishwick's full review of Fortress London by Sam Bright here.

StoptheSCANdal report

What our friends have been up to

The #StoptheSCANdal campaign

A recent blog post on our website details a new report written by The Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists regarding the increased use of the Biometric Services Gateway, also known as mobile fingerprinting, in police forces across the country. The report details the impinging of ugly hostile enviroment politics into these technologies, as the opacity and lack of consultation on their expansion leads to both racist discrimination and invasions of privacy. Part of the two organisations' wider #StoptheSCANdal campaign, I highly reccomend that you check out their wider work and support them where you can.

Performance Ensemble

Our ever busy organiser Geraldine Montgomerie has just started a new role at the Performance Ensemble, a theatre company for people aged 60 plus based in Leeds. As part of Leeds 23 Year of Culture, their new project ‘1001 Stories’ is gathering mementoes from elderly people across Leeds with a view to creating new works and performances based on these memories. Even a cursory view of the stories on their website reveals a rich and varied history of people enduring everything from loss and isolation in old age, to the happy memories of growing up and living in the area.

So that's that for our Spring newsletter. We've covered everything from graduate surveys to community theatre, and I'm very glad you've tuned in for what is becoming a great way to display all the great work going in West Yorkshire. I'm hoping for plenty to look at over Summer, and to be back later this year with more to pore over and get us excited.



With thanks to Simon Lewis for use of his Harehills illustration.

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