Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The West Park Centre Report, Read Not All About It

The Russians closing the show!
Rick sent me the report on the West Park Centre. It's dull, and a short read. It seems deliberately bland and almost non-informative. I can't say that it explains why thousands of us had our lives turned upside down on November 5 [was that a good day to bury bad news?] and the weeks following as those of us based there desperately sought to rescue our possessions and our work lives from the armageddon that was surely our imminent electrocution!

Read all about it here:

a small concert from the hall balcony 

We, who have worked at and from the centre for years have always been proud to keep this former school alive, and pleased to preserve somewhere, built at a time when hall was really a hall with a stage and a balcony, and when a cupboard was a medium-sized office.

Architecturally, aesthetically, West Park doesn't have many claims to fame, compared, say, to a building like Royal Park School [detained for many years now at Assett Management's leisure], but when you compare it to the poor quality and poorly-designed holiday camp prison schools that are our pieces of PFI rubbish, West Park surely is a jewel.

this cupboard was full of art equipment
Words like functional, low key, unpretentious, convenient, welcoming, light and airy - spring to mind.
the foyer, the first thing you see, with Carole's kiosk at the end

stairway to Seminar Room, light and airy

Here's the initial reactions of ex-WP users and councillors:

1.  The report going to INACommittee on Thursday evening
 did not disclose any factor or fact that called for  immediate closure. These were  the  conditions identified in 2009. That is there was no new information which required closure.
That there is evidence which I have been promised but not yet received which indicates a pre-determination to close the Centre. This evidence when received will be published.
the figure required for re-opening are extreme and exaggerated.  A report by an electrical projects engineer  dated 8th October 2012  gave a breakdown of the costs of dealing with the electrics  which in his words were : In summary the installation requires renewing;  the that the report  includes a list of things to be done which do not need doing.

The report does not give any figures indicating the cost of this sudden closure nor  does it explain why there have been many visits to the Centre  by many individuals who should not have been allowed to enter a structure so dangerous it had to be closed immediately without warning.  Indeed the day after the panic closure a large group of Russians were allowed to use the Centre as normal despite the imminent  danger suggested. For this reason  I ask that this Report be not received until these inconsistencies have been cleared up. 

2. . .  if the centre was such a death trap all these years, who was responsible for the well-being of those within it?  I would suggest this represents gross negligence on the party responsible and would be very interested to know who it was.. G

3. . My thought precisely. They can not have it both ways. Either it is safe and should not have been closed or it is unsafe and has been unsafe for years and someone has allows lives to be endangered. I want to know which is the truth. L

4. Read it but not really any wiser. D
packing vans in the carpark

Monday, 3 December 2012

What closing the West park Centre meant to three tenants

On a regular basis, the West Park Centre drew into its old classrooms and corridors many  satisfied customers, not just local to West Park, but from all round Leeds and further afield [as the commentaries to follow will show].
Rest of the Best rehearsing in West Park Rehearsal Room

I asked Blah, Blah, Blah for their first thoughts:

Other than having to out of the blue find an office and rehearsal space plus storage space for the rate we were on in West Park, which is impossible and therefore destroying all our budgets for the foreseeable future, nothing much! As a small company and registered charity who rarely generate much profit, our budgets are incredibly tight and this sudden move will have permanent consequences for our financial situation in terms of our daily running costs. The impact is immeasurable, but hopefully won’t lead to our demise. Pavla
Sophie practises at West Park Centre; Sophie plays Notting Hill Carnival

Speaks for itself, this comment, I think. I asked Sue Tomassi from YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic for her reactions:

what the closure meant to everyone --- well ---from a YAMSEN committee member ---
packing, labelling and finding safe and accessible places for 10 rooms of equipment --- transport to get them there
finding and risk assessing venues for 3 choirs rehearsing for the annual Lord Mayor's concert  in Leeds Town Hall on Dec 5th
making sure the entries for the art competition were re-directed to Merrion House but then they had to be collected
finding a venue for 400 art entries to be judged
cancelling one choir rehearsal as there wasn't time to find another venue so transport issues with the schools involved
talking to vulnerable adults on the phone as they were worried how they could get to new venues
not doing anything I usually do for 2 weeks --- I do have a life!
and just from my point of view, I was in West Park for 10 days packing sorting and moving --- physically hard work --- I'm a volunteer so needn't have done it but the nature of most people faced with a problem is to sort it out, however,I am very angry about the way everyone at West Park has been treated and especially for David, Carol and Paul who have lost their jobs overnight --- it's very easy to sit in an office and say we'll close this building but it takes much more to come out and meet the people the closure affects and to tell them the truth, so maybe they can be invited to the next meeting or we go to them? --- Sue
library - so where's this going?

This from Mavis:

As coordinator of YAMSEN Adult Music Activities I want to say how hard we  are finding the situation with the West Park Centre being closed and being closed so suddenly. . . .
We are very committed to YAMSEN working as a team of Volunteers and we are all aware of the importance of being able to talk, share and plan  -we have no central point to meet- equipment is all over the place and we are finding it very frustrating.
The YAMSEN Adult Music Team (known as YAM) look on social interaction as a vital part the YAM Activities which take place on a Friday morning. There is so much more to the purpose of Friday morning YAM Activites. This involves,  over 60 Adult customers with Learning Disabilities, plus support workers and volunteers. Over 90 people in all. We are feeling very isolated without Carole’s Kiosk – this is becoming more important to us as time goes on. The activities alternate between Off By Heart Choir  and workshop Activities.
The workshop mornings have recently been redesigned to meet the needs of  so many people with diverse Special Needs. This has involved  4 or 5 different rooms which . . . we have recently set up training for our volunteers to be able to lead some of the sessions with smaller groups.
That is not possible now.
We have one big room and one smaller room –no where now to train people –this again is where Carole’s Kiosk and the foyer and our Gordon Parry Centre formed a fantastic Resource.
Part of the aim of Friday mornings is to help the customers develop their individual social skills. They have loved being able to order snacks and drinks independently whilst in a safe environment.This has always been an invaluable way of seeing customers  gain so much confidence.
The YAM Committee had the programme planned for the Year –we now have hours of preparation ahead of us to revamp each alternative weeks workshop –much of our equipment is not now easily accessible.
This approach from me is only the point of view from the YAM Activities. YAMSEN covers so much more  -an incredible amount of work done with Children –training teachers , students ,and many others who want to be able to give our special people the chance to shine through music making.
We need a base urgently to be able to fulfil these essential needs.
Many of our customers are unable to express themselves verbally –there is a lot of frustrated behaviour showing because it is the only way they can show how uneasy they  are with the changes we have had to make.
a view of the West Park shops now selling less sandwiches
Leeds City Council have a huge burden to carry  to people who live in Leeds and  are being deprived of the best Community Centre because of lack of planning –it is inhuman to close a centre with no notice when we all know a decision could have been made within the last 12 months giving everyone a reasonable amount of notice.
I am ashamed to live in Leeds
Mavis West –coordinator of YAM Activites
Vice President  of YAMSEN.