Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Hyde Park Leeds

Meanwhile back in Hyde Park, there has been a murder this weekend in Brudenell Road. Connected with some party in Ash Grove that was still going on at 8.30 am. Well, for a start, who on earth thinks it's a good idea to party while the rest of get the sleep we need for the day ahead. The students who come to live in Hyde Park because they think it's partyland need to realise that, besides the anti-social element to their activities, they put themselves at risk - from all types of predators.

This is a very sad event that tarnishes our community, and will put parents off letting their student-children from living here. Landlords, beware of how you sell this area, or you, too will be the losers.

West Park Centre, one year later

This proposed demolition of West Park Centre and the continued homelessness of Leeds top amateur orchestras and chorus, and Special Needs music charities, if nothing else, could damage Leeds and Leeds Council's reputation as a thriving city. After all it's not just about commerce and shopping.

They have exaggerated the state of the building out of all proportion, and it remains the best sized and best placed building with the most facilities.









That it is the only arts centre of its kind in Leeds, and being inclusive [from top quality players to cutting edge special needs music education] makes the hostility of the powers-that-be
baffling. 

We have put in our complaint to the Ombudsman, and are daily expecting their judgment. However, it took the Council less time to condemn the building, than the Ombudsman has taken to respond. Looks like the latter has put some thought into it, whereas . . . Well, we hope that it's worth the wait.

Or perhaps it is all about the shopping. 
 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Strangeness of Scrutiny

Well, Diane and I [in our capacity as YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic committee members] went to the first Scrutiny meeting in August, and then a month later Lorraine [Musical Ark] and I attended the next one. We represented both our own charities and the orchestras and choruses etc.

Besides being teachers of music for children and adults with Additional [Special] Needs, the three of us are also academics [as in, we write books and articles, and I seem to write an awful lot of letters and blogs these days.]  and it was frustrating not to be able to counter some of the council officers' and the councillors' arguments.

What was strange was that we could give our five minutes' worth of speech, then we had to listen to councillors, and sometimes council officers debating the issues without giving us a chance to correct the incorrectness of some of the assumptions. We were thus, junior partners in the debate, yet as West Park users of sixteen years, we knew rather more about some parts of the situation than anyone else round the table.

On 17 September 2013, ten months after we were evicted from our home of many years, I thought that Scrutiny was going to examine the correctness of the procedures that led to our homelessness, and how we were rehoused, or not, in the ensuing months. But no, we were filibustered and sidetracked into a childish and facile account, certainly not a debate, of the value of the various health and safety reports, concluding that it was almost certain that someone would have been electrocuted had the centre not been closed when it was, and even that maybe it should have been closed sooner.

[Now, as a Russian graduate and sometime reader of Gogol, I had met this stuff in a previous life, and was rather surprised to be taking part in this little charade a century or so later.]

The word, "repairs" didn't feature at all in this debate.

There was hardly any time to consider what happened to the ex-users, because we treated to this rambling story of health and safety reports, with a total lack of academic rigour, and sometimes scant regard for the truth. [eg, someone, I can't recall whom, told the meeting that YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic had rejected the offer of storage space at the warehouse at Domestic Street, preferring to store instruments in their own houses. Actually, YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic did store equipment at this depot, but not being given our key for it till June 2013, and it being next to the Armley Gyratory it was/it is not an easy place to use. Anything being used on a regular basis did have to live in volunteers' homes. And I have to say that the novelty does wear off.

The worst thing about the marimbas is that you can't stack anything on top of them; whereas steelpans can be quite neatly set up behind the sofa.



Monday, 30 September 2013

Centre's Users Still Homeless

Thanks to Yorkshire Evening Post:
YEP Letters: September 30

I ATTENDED Scrutiny Board as a witness to the senselessness of the closure of the West Park Centre. No rolling stones, here at West Park, we had gathered moss. From indie video companies and talking newspapers for the blind, to 100- strong orchestras and choirs.
Here all the synergy that you ever wish you could plan for had already happened. Forty odd permanent centre users filled the place up every week, Plus all the regular bookings - council training courses in child-protection, first aid etc.
One councillor said he had visited the centre twice, and once, he had to step over a puddle to get in.
Twice! What was my 16 years’ experience against someone who had visited the place twice! Why did the orchestras come 
back week after week for decades?
But, under the West Park floor boards was the Wormtail of an electric system hissing its evil way around, and every so often they would open the grates and say, ooo, that needs fixing, and close the grates again.
Perhaps to keep us off the topic the spokesperson from Asset Management seemed to filibuster her way through 20 minutes including mentioning that she had been off sick for a while.
Why? They condemned the person who spared Leeds’ blushes by telling the Russians to go ahead with their event, when anyone might have made the same decision.
What they did not do at Scrutiny was consider the fate of the displaced users, still homeless 10 months later: and that organisations only given half a loaf would eventually starve; that charities with no base for so long would eventually go into melt down.

Victoria Jaquiss FRSA, YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic, West Park Centre Campaign Group

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Thanks to Jonathon Brown for this article on Tuesday 3 September 2013

Axe blow that left Leeds centre’s charities reeling in shock


The West Park Centre.
The West Park Centre.
Nine months after the dramatic closure of a hub for arts groups and charities in north west Leeds, the search for answers continues as the aftershocks of its loss are felt. Jonathan Brown reports.

As demolition looms over a once buzzing centre for the arts, questions still remain over the controversial closure of the West Park Centre.
After it closed as West Park County Secondary School in 1989, the building became an unorthodox but fitting home to dozens of Leeds’s most creative and artistic groups and charities.
Thousands of the city’s most talented groups have roots there and it provided a base for the likes of Opera North and the Northern Ballet.
Years of rumours of impending closure and numerous campaigns had kept it open until it was hastily closed in November because of electrical problems.
Yet, the following day, a party attended by the then Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Ann Castle, was held at the site.
The swift closure, which was carried out within 24 hours of officers being alerted to the building’s safety, left several arts groups and charities effectively homeless.
Nine months on, the Yorkshire Association for Music and Special Educational Needs (YAMSEN) is just one of a group of organisations without a place to call home and deliver services.
Diane Paterson, secretary of YAMSEN, a charity that supports music groups for disabled adults and children, said: “It’s been devastating.
“We won’t let things stop, we have carried on as that’s the nature of the group of people we have here.
“When somebody does that to you and pulls the plug on you – you can’t plan for that.
“None of the charities are the sort of people that will be put off by this, they are just working ten times as hard and getting more stressed.”
Its thousands of users come from all over the region to use the 34-year-old charity’s specialist equipment – much of which is now inaccessible and based in storage units and schools across the city.
YAMSEN spent thousands of pounds of grant money on an Indonesian gamelan instrument, which was handmade in Java, to help with sensory sessions in 2008, while they installed an advanced sound and light room at the West Park Centre. Both have ended up dismantled in storage as a result of the closure.
Victoria Jaquiss, vice chair at YAMSEN, said: “I think it makes Leeds look stupid, we have a big new arena so we are catering for the top end but we do not cater for the people that have given their evenings away for free.”
Elsewhere Fiona Kirkby, choir coordinator at the celebrated 150-piece Leeds Festival Chorus, says the group was left homeless three weeks before it was due to perform in the council-organised Leeds International Concert Season.
Now based at St Chad’s Parish Church, in Headingley, the choir is having to cope without the space it needs.
Fiona, who has worked with the choir for 30 years, said: “We are resourceful people so we will try and keep on going but we are facing uncertain times.”
Groups based at the centre were initially told it would close temporarily for four months, while the associated costs and work to bring it back into use were assessed.
In January councillors were told that emergency work on the West Park Centre’s electrical and hot and cold water systems, would cost more than £930,000.
Lorraine Cowburn is a musician and project manager with the Musical Arc charity, which was moved to Meanwood Community Centre within four days of the West Park Centre’s closure.
Following the outcry surrounding its closure, the circumstances and processes behind it will be discussed by the council’s sustainable economy and culture scrutiny board on September 17.
Lorraine, who plans to attend the meeting, said: “It’s like rehousing a family in different houses, it doesn’t work and that community of people that formed the West Park Centre happened by accident over the years. It ended up being an arts centre and that’s what’s been lost.”
The council’s executive board agreed to demolish the centre in July, having agreed to release £800,000 from the sale of the land to build a new community centre or invest in existing buildings to aid some of the centre’s former users if needed.
No date for the West Park Centre’s demolition has yet been set.
It is thought the land is worth around £2m and it is suggested it could be developed for housing or a free school, though further assurances are being sought over the council’s plans to continue to help former users.
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland said: “The West Park Centre has been a popular and vital cultural and community hub for many years and it is simply not acceptable that this important role comes to an end, especially when there simply are not adequate replacement facilities for the organisations who used the centre or the local community.”
Coun Judith Chapman (Lib Dem, Weetwood) described the closure of the centre as the “end of an era”. She said: “It’s putting a bit of strain on all the area’s other venues.
“People have lost this facility which is a terrible shame and also it was used for community purposes as well and that has gone.”
Various charities and organisations formerly based at the centre are working from home, halls, community centres and scout huts.
A council spokeswoman said: “We have already ensured that the great majority of groups have been re-located to other locations and we will be working with any other groups that used the centre to help them find new permanent locations.”
The spokeswoman added: “A great deal of work has taken place since the West Park Centre was closed in November to determine the best option for the site and the centre. We have listened to a wide range of views and considered all possible options.”

Shambles that will now see centre shut its doors for good

YEP Says (August 7): Shambles that will now see centre shut its doors for good


l
l
Those connected with the West Park Centre have every right to feel aggrieved by the manner of its passing.

The outcome they have feared since its sudden closure last November has now been confirmed with the council’s executive board rejecting calls for the decision to be subjected to further scrutiny.
It means the community centre, one of the busiest in Leeds, will now be demolished. The official reason is that the cost of carrying out necessary repairs had become too costly.
Campaigners, however, point to the fact that the site was listed as one of several to be sold off for housing by the council as far back as 2009.
It was subsequently taken off that list, but users say that Education Leeds’s gradual withdrawal of classes from the building created a financial problem from which it has never recovered.
Though the council insists that the decision to bulldoze the West Park Centre was simply down to the unaffordable cost of maintenance, others remain unconvinced.
While £800,000 from the sale of the land has been promised as a contribution to building a replacement, some may think campaigners are entitled to be cynical about how the centre’s fate was sealed.
It is certainly hard to disagree with Weetwood councillor Judith Chapman when she says the council’s handling of this saga has been “utterly shambolic”.

‘Controversial’ centre set for wrecking ball

  Thanks to Laura Bowyer of the Yorkshire Evening Post for this article in August.
 

‘Controversial’ centre set for wrecking ball

West Park Centre, Leeds
West Park Centre, Leeds


CAMPAIGNERS HAVE failed to save a community centre dubbed “the jewel in Leeds’ crown” from the wrecking ball.

Members of Leeds City Council’s executive board agreed to demolish the West Park Centre last month.
They agreed to release £800,000 from the sale of the land to build a new community facility or invest in existing buildings.
Campaigners called for the decision to be scrutinised by the council’s sustainable economy and culture scrutiny board.
Despite hearing from residents and councillors opposing demolition, the panel agreed to release the decision - meaning the building will be demolished.
Councillor Judith Chapman (Lib Dem, Weetwood) said following the meeting: “I’m deeply disappointed that despite the impassioned pleased of residents and West Park Centre users, board members agreed to proceed with demolition.
“The council’s handling of this whole sorry saga has been utterly shambolic from the start.”
The centre’s closure hit the headlines last year after it was closed in November because of ‘hazardous’ electrics.
Yet, the following day, a party attended by the then Lord Mayor of Leeds, councillor Ann Castle, was held at the site.
Campaigner Victoria Jaquiss said it was “a jewel in Leeds’ crown” and it had been home to various groups including YAMSEN, a charity that supports music groups for disabled adults and children.
Martin Farrington, director of development, said: “Members of the executive board determined they wouldn’t support the level of investment required to bring the building back into use.
“We acknowledge West Park Centre is a very valued facility.”
A inquiry will be held in November examining the decision to demolish the centre.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

"Cost of Work on Centre Wouldn't be Millions"

YEP Letters: July 24

Published on the 24 July
2013
09:48


Like many of us who have fought to save the West Park Centre, I was disgusted by Coun Lewis’s letter of July 2 – both in what I felt was its disingenuous, misleading content and its glib, patronising tone.

If Coun Lewis wishes to talk about facts, perhaps we should start with the “millions” of pounds he claims would be needed to keep the centre open to accommodate the users (2,000 of them per week – another fact) who have been displaced. In 2009, an extremely detailed survey of the building was carried out by Leeds City Council which found that a comprehensive modernisation and refurb of the building would cost £2.2m.
The cost of the necessary works to keep the building safe and operational? A far more modest £199k. Meanwhile, Grafton Learning Centre in Little London has just had very similar works done at a cost of less than £60k!
The figures used to support the disgraceful decision to close the centre were produced this year, at LCC Asset Management’s request, by a “design consultancy” called Arup – not a construction firm, not a firm of electricians, not a firm of gas/water fitters.
The ludicrous figure of £4.2 million to refurbish the building is not a quote – it is a wild estimate (including costings for work that has already been done) from a firm whose previous projects include the Gherkin, the HS1 rail link, the London Eye, Angel of the North and Sydney Opera House. Not one real quote has been obtained for work on West Park since its closure last year, and Arup’s reports have meanwhile cost the taxpayers of Leeds around £8,000. Shame on Coun Lewis, shame on those who prevaricated for years on the building’s fate, and shame on the barbarians in Leeds City Council Asset Management who have so casually run down and destroyed one of the city’s biggest assets.
Name and address supplied

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Little Thought on the West Park Centre

It was a place that deserved fighting for, and I think we gave it what we could, given that we also had full-time jobs/occupations or families to care for as well. However the other side was not really fighting fair. We always knew that the electrics was just an excuse, but I must say I thought that once They realised that West Park was rather more than a local community centre, that they would realise, if nothing else, the damage that would be done to the council's reputation re supporting grass roots high quality arts.

I don't think they care. They have Trinity Shopping Centre, the Leeds Arena and a That prestigious bike race. Who needs music for the disabled! Or top quality orchestras, operas and choirs that support and feed into the professional outfits! Or give pleasure and experiences to those who can't afford the big venues.

We won the argument, but they needed a three-line whip in order to win the battle. It's democracy, Jim, but not as we know it.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Letter: ‘Public consultation’ on trolleybus meaningless; on West Park meaningless; on Royal Park meaningless

Letter: ‘Public consultation’ on trolleybus meaningless



Why do the citizens of Leeds feel so often that they have not been listened to properly?

On the subject of the West Park Centre, for instance, MP Greg Mulholland said: “There is a widespread perception that the council has not been open and transparent about the centre.”
Despite widespread protests, Coun Richard Lewis said that the centre had to be demolished, while stressing that council bosses had met centre users and locals, and that their views had “been a hugely important part of developing these proposals”. (YEP, June 13).
He introduced Metro’s two open-air information sessions with similar soft-soap, saying how “very productive” the public consultation sessions had been, and that “feedback from the public is vital in helping us to shape the plans the best we can in order to provide Leeds with a modern rapid transport system”(YEP, July 14).
For the words ‘public consultation’ to mean anything, everything must be on the table, even the possibility of abandoning a project or looking for something more appropriate, after listening properly to the public. This strikes us as not having been the case with regards to the trolleybus scheme.
Coun Martin Hamilton undoubtedly echoed the majority view of councillors when he said in reaction to public protests: “We can perhaps tweak and change minor details but at the end of the day this is a government scheme.” (YEP, June 25). In other words, the basic features of the scheme seem to have been fixed in iron before consultation began.
Christopher Todd, email

I think it would be fair to say that the views of centre users and locals had no absolutely no part to play in "developing these proposals." And actually there are no proposals.

Everyone got chucked out.

That's it.

After eight months there is no centre or space that would fit us all back in working together as a family, sharing instruments, space and ideas.

And now it seems it's the government's fault it was closed; I thought it was faulty electrics.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Some things that the Leeds Council Executive Board Should Know

Dear Executive Board
cc YEP, Radio Leeds, Look North
 
 
We have read the documents that precede this final piece of advice from Corporate Services/ Asset Management. We were pleased to see most of arguments acknowledged, but surprised that the natural conclusion was lost in their recommendation. Our argument, at the West Park campaign Group is not with the council, but with the unelected officials who recommend demolition.

If you vote for this . . . 
 
You know that all Leeds top orchestras and choruses won't be able to practise sectionals, and that the high quality of their music will be compromised. You know that the leader of Leeds Symphony Orchestra personally checked out over 35 alternatives venues, and found nowhere else suitable.
 
You know that, at the last big YAMSEN event, teenagers in wheelchairs had to have their hygiene pads changed [behind screens] in the bar area at St Chads - where's the dignity in that?
 
You know that storage and parking and location are not equalled anywhere else in Leeds.
 
You should know that Leeds Youth Opera, having nowhere anymore to store their wonderful costumes has given them away.
 
You know that YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic still has no base. 

You may know that two of the YAMSEN committee [myself and D Paterson] have been awarded the fellowship of the Royal Society of the Arts for our contribution to education, and especially education for children with disabilities or with challenging behaviour, and/or live in challenging circumstances. Which I hope informs you as to the high standards and quality of our work.
 
You should know that our meetings with councillors were brief to the point of pointless.
 
You know that none of people making this life or death decision has come to watch the orchestras practise in the "temporary" rehearsal spaces, or to watch the adults with disabilities take part in  their workshops in the West Park Church.
 
You probably only know how bad the West Park electrics are and how expensive to run decent performance and rehearsal spaces are.
 
Corporate Services seem to see a carpark that fits a whole fleet of SEN adapted minibuses or 100 orchestral players as some sort of thwarted housing estate.
 
You know that both keeping the building empty [and the same for Royal Park] and demolition cost money.
 
You know that most ex-users would like to return, and new-users wait in the wings.
 
You should know that those who recommend demolition seem to have no understanding of the needs of the Arts, and for the Arts, and of the Arts for those with Additional Needs. 

And you should know that all local councillors understand the value of the West Park Centre, and have publicly supported its continued existence. 

Lastly, you should know that there may well be many displaced council employees who are unhappy with the situation but, who, because they are council employees cannot comment.  

It is time that the decision-makers met fully with the ex-users, properly debated all the options, and got the main hall etc up and running again as soon as possible, having thoroughly replaced all the electrics.  And I hope that tomorrow the executive board throws out this bizarre response to a massive need for the West Park Centre to re-open.
 
Victoria Jaquiss FRSA [YAMSEN Committee member -vice chair]

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Hmmm. A letter in Not in Favour of the West park Centre

Well, in the interests of presenting the other view I hereby present Cllr Lewis's letter to YEP re the West Park Centre.  However, as this blog is dedicated at present to the West Park Centre Campaign Group, I also include my reply.


Partly I think Cllr Lewis is being disingenuous; partly I think that on November 2nd, he acted as he did, genuinely believing that, on that day suddenly West Park was found to be dangerous. He was not to know that earlier inspections of the West Park Centre had already found the electrics in need of "modernisation".

He was not to know that just about all the Leeds main orchestras, choirs and opera groups were based there; he was not to know that the Leeds main Special Needs music organisations were based there [and that one of them was both nationally acclaimed and internationally acknowledged], and that they stayed there because rehearsal and storage space, location and  parking were as good as it could get.

Obviously the building, that he describes pejoratively as a "fifties school building" is not exactly an architectural treasure, but so what? If it works, don't knock it. Definitely don't knock it down. Eight months later Leeds Symphony Orchestra, Leeds Festival Chorus, Phoenix Concert Band, Leeds Youth Opera, YAMSEN:Specially Music, Musical Ark and the rest are still homeless, hiring rooms by the hour in various venues across our city, but not in places that they can call home, not sharing equipment and storage space as they once did.

But Cllr Lewis does know that now, and now he should know better. In his letter he suggests that he would make " far more sense to find suitable solutions for those users elsewhere in the city, given that these groups are city-wide in their membership". But, eight months later and it is rather more than a "handful of groups" who are unhappy with their present accommodation. YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic, one of the biggest groups has not been rehoused at all!

I am glad that he finally acknowledges that the West Park Centre housed so many prestigious city-wide groups, and that it isn't just a local community centre only tendering to the needs of its very local community. But I fail to understand why Leeds, the big northern city does not appear to appreciate their value.

All the groups did indeed pay "peppercorn rents" to rehearse at West Park, and all of them have declared that they would have been prepared to pay more for the great convenience. I turn on Classic:FM and hear that West Riding Chorus is doing Opera in the Park with Opera North. I go down to the Carriageworks last night and watch a Carmen that was unbelievably beautiful, and I would like to be proud of Leeds, but I know that these organisations are storing costumes in parents' garages; I know that the orchestras can't practise sectionals.

I wonder how long they can all "manage", how long it will be before Leeds is the cultural laughing stock, when all we have become is a one massive shopping centre and an arena that caters only to the big celebrities.

Letter: Refurbishing centre would cost millions                                                             

I always enjoy the knockabout of your letters page, but I do wish some of your correspondents would rely on the occasional fact to back up their opinions.

No one is proposing, for instance (Andrew Mitchell, YEP, June 19) to demolish the West Park Centre ‘because it needs rewiring’. I agreed the closure with immediate effect on the technical advice that the electrics presented a danger to users. What if I’d ignored that advice and something had happened at the centre, perhaps injury or even death?
The council would rightly be held accountable and council tax payers would be facing a huge bill – perhaps millions – in compensation.
The decision that now has to be made by the Executive Board is whether it spends millions on the refurbishment of a fifties school building which requires work to all its elements in order to accommodate a handful of groups which are unhappy with the accommodation they moved into when West Park closed.
I think most council taxpayers would not see that kind of expenditure as good value for money. It would make far more sense to find suitable solutions for those users elsewhere in the city, given that these groups are city-wide in their membership – and that’s what the council has been doing.
On the subject of value for money, I’d also bring to your readers’ attention the fact that the running costs of the West Park Centre are well over £300,000 per annum.
When your correspondent Ms Warwick describes it as a building that can accommodate organisations ‘at peppercorn rent’, I’d say that council tax payers have had to pick up the bill for that peppercorn.

Coun Richard Lewis, executive board member with responsibility for city development

Monday, 8 July 2013

YEP Letter: No long-term home for groups after West Park Centre shut

Letter: No long-term home for groups after West Park Centre shut



It is close to the North Leeds Ring Road – accessible from all parts of Leeds – with a large off-street car park, ample storage space provided for equipment, with groups of willing local volunteers keen to help run regular on-site music/arts activities and special musical events.

Where is this? Why the West Park Centre, Spen Lane, of course.
Such a valuable resource for the wide range of educational/recreational groups based there, which totalled a footfall of 2,000 per week until, eight months ago when it was suddenly ‘temporarily’ closed with one day’s notice to all its users.
Since November 2 some groups, hitherto accommodated in West Park Centre, have not been satisfactorily ‘re-homed’ – certainly NOT on a long-term basis. Temporary venues are unable to provide adequate storage space for instruments/equipment and have limited parking space nearby.
Those of us connected with West Park Centre remember it as a place of true inclusion and integration; young with old, special needs with mainstream, sharing a love of their centre’s ‘music community’ and socialising, networking and relaxing in the cafĂ© there.
Ann Gilliam, YAMSEN/LTNA

Friday, 28 June 2013

West Park petition reactivated

In view of the removal of the West Park Centre from the agenda of the last Council Executive Board meeting, the Petition Controllers have agreed to reactivate our petition.

Please click and sign:

 

Here's some pics of Colin Jones and Diane Paterson, on 11th November 2008 cutting the ribbon to announce the arrival from Java of the new gamelan, several thousand pounds in the donation, two years in the ordering, making and shipping, and now residing, all boxed up in a room at Farnley Park, who didn't realise that the cupboard that would house a gamelan was actually the size of a small room.
It would be nice to open the boxes again.
 
 
 
 

 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The West Park Centre in The YEP again: Centred Valued Near and Far

Letter: Centre valued near and far


Regarding West Park Centre. When Corporate Services/Asset Management [and the very name does not suggest public accountability] decides to ignore public need and public opinion, I ask myself who is running this city – a couple of back room boys and girls, or our elected representatives?

And this is the question I put at the Local Council Area Committee at the Cardigan Centre last December, as one councillor after another spoke in the West Park Centre’s defence.
Each councillor spoke in favour of retention, repair and re-opening.
Each one got it; they got that the charities that are our top orchestras and choruses and top Special Needs music organisations are rather more than nice little extras added to the riches of the Leeds cultural scene.
The West Park Centre is not a local community centre, although many of its much valued volunteers were/are local.
It is an inclusive arts centre; it is a city-wide, and at times Yorkshire-wide, and it is situated very conveniently close to Leeds ring road within the safe spitting distance of a parade of shops who open from early morning till late at night.
Recently one organisation [YAMSEN: SpeciallyMusic] has become rather more than Yorkshire wide.
In May a group of five masters degree students of Music education in Seoul National University in Korea emailed to request a meeting with us, and especially “ hoping to see multi sensory classroom, Rehearsal Room, studio and the Main Hall.” They wrote they are “trying to adapt UK’s education system of SEN and learning strategy of ArtForms & YAMSEN to Korean special music ed [ucation]”
So, if the Executive Board decides on Wednesday to accept the recommendations of a small group of unelected officials, whose job it is to manage assets, and who has failed dismally, over the space of seven months, to place satisfactorily several massive users of the centre, it won’t be just the people of Leeds that they let down.
Victoria Jaquiss FRSA

West Park Centre in the Paper again

Letter: Work of West Park must continue elsewhere


I am writing on behalf of the groups that used the West Park Centre, but particularly the special Educational needs group.

The only good reason for closing it would be to have a better building.
The car parking facilites were good and the expertise of the staff there very very good, which was reflected in the excellent way that things were taught, and the relaxed atmosphere it created for the users/customers.
It brought many people into contact with each other, and had good storage facilities.
I do hope that the work can continue in a good venue.
Liz Brightwell

If, after seven months of looking, the Council organisation dedicated to housing people and organisations can't find anywhere better, or even as good, then I suggest that the work of the West Park Centre should continue in the West Park Centre.

Monday, 24 June 2013

West Park Centre Housing the "Arty Elite"

lPublished on the 21 June
2013
12:50
Published 21/06/2013 12:50

Delay can only make a decision more painful
The question of West Park Centre in Leeds is undoubtedly a thorny one. The centre, a former school, has for some years had a new life as a base for arts and community groups. Now the recommendations are that it needs to be either renovated or demolished.
There are those who are vocal in its support, and there are those who say that is the problem.
Supporters of its demolition say it is a building used only by the arty elite and renovation would not be justified. Either way, a decision needs to be made, so its withdrawal from the agenda at a meeting of Leeds City Council executive board is only making the process more painful.

                                                *                *                        *

I like this Comment in YEP last week. This was the first time in all of this hoo-haa that anyone had publicly recognised the immense value that the West Park Centre was to the Arts in Leeds. In this humble, inauspicious flat roofed little 1950s ex-school, Leeds Symphony Orchestra, Leeds Festival Chorus and Leeds Youth Opera [and the rest] found their perfect permanent home. And here, others like Northern Ballet found a good temporary home, until something swankier [and, oh dear, a lot more expensive] came along.

Seven months later, no Council officers have come up with anything better. Leeds Symphony Orchestra leader, Martin B, checked out 39 possible venues very early on in these past seven months, and guess what?  Nothing compares.

What happens when Classic FM comes to Leeds again next year and says, "Could you do this?" and Fiona K, ic Leeds Festival Chorus, answers, "Well, we don't have the rehearsal space anymore? What happens then, then?

Does Leeds become a cultural desert, mocked by the other northern towns because it can't look after its principal orchestras and choirs in the manner to which they had become accustomed? And they wasn't asking for something posh in the city centre. The West Park Centre did, and it did very well.
 

West Park in the Paper Again

On Wednesday 19 June there were two letters in the Yorkshire Evening Post:

Letter: Groups are left to pay price of centre closure



‘The Forgotten Ones’, ‘The Homeless Ones’, ‘The Faceless Ones”’.

All of these can apply to YAMSEN and all its members since Leeds City Council at a stroke, without thought for the “users”, on Friday November 2 2012 announced the immediate closure of West Park Centre.
This was supposedly a ‘temporary’ measure because the ‘electrics were unsafe’.
Seven months later we at YAMSEN are still homeless even though the cost for repairs to the electrics is, I understand, well within the capability of the council’s budget irrespective of Government cuts.
The longer the centre remains empty the greater the risk of vandalism and the possibility of further costs.
What does this closure mean to us?
Remember that we provide a large and varied amount of experience in music and associated activity to many hundreds of children and adults with moderate and profound learning disabilities throughout Leeds and Yorkshire.
We have a large amount of specialised and valuable equipment and instruments scattered (for safe keeping) in a lock-up in Holbeck, various schools and private houses – all most inconvenient.
In spite of this, like the true professionals we are, our excellent work continues.
Neither have we allowed our annual programme of events to be affected (and these are many) nor our weekly classes, choir rehearsals and workshops.
We have achieved this through hiring rooms attached to different churches and a social club – at considerable expense.
Why?
Because we believe in our aims and we speak for all those many hundreds we serve who cannot speak for themselves.
All we ask is for West Park Centre to re-open both for YAMSEN and the many other community groups who, like us, have made it their home for very many years.
Name and address supplied

and

Letter: Seven months... and no repairs



SEVEN months of ‘temporary’ closure and as yet no repairs have been carried out on West Park Centre.

So much undervalued work, benefiting vulnerable children and adults with Special Needs is/was carried out there, in what had become, over the years, a valuable arts and music resource for people throughout Leeds and beyond, shared by many varied groups.
One of the main users, the Yorkshire Association for Music and Special Educational Needs exists – and is run mainly because of the regular and committed help of a large group of volunteers.
At the moment most of our activities are reduced due to lack of suitable alternative premises. In the case of YAMSEN, the lack of storage space for musical instruments, materials AND a Sensory Room has adversely affected the scope of activities we are able to offer.
We eagerly await news that at least a part of the centre will be renovated so that the building can be ‘reconnected’ to the people of Leeds.
A Gilliam, (YAMSEN committee member)

The West Park Centre Fell off the Agenda

Well, that was relief that they brought Agenda Item 18 forward; because that item was suddenly off the agenda; and that item was the Proposed Demolition of the West Park Centre, because of "new information".  We wondered what new information that could be. We had been bombarding the YEP with letters. Here's the first one:

Tuesday 18 June:
On Wednesday, Leeds City Council’s Executive Board will consider a recommendation that the West Park Centre is demolished.

In November 2012, this extremely popular and well-used building was unilaterally closed by the council’s Asset Management team – without warning, and without consultation.
There was no suggestion that it was surplus to requirements – even their scandalously one-sided ‘options appraisal’ (a disingenuous, misleading piece of work that does those who concocted it no credit whatsoever) acknowledges this.
Whilst there are no serious plans to replace West Park, it should be treated as a going concern.
Meanwhile, the closure continues to cause disruption and devastation to some of the most vulnerable people in the city.
It has been suggested that the building’s many users could simply be rehoused elsewhere.
If this is the case – show me the building that would provide perfect rehearsal, performance, office and storage space for the schools’ music service (a service, incidentally, that is one of the jewels in Leeds’s crown, judged outstanding by the Federation of Music Services – how much of that could be attributed to the excellent facilities it has long enjoyed at West Park?).
A building that can accommodate, at a peppercorn rent, organisations like Irish Arts, Blah Blah Blah, Paperbirds, Leeds Youth Opera – all of which contribute immeasurably to the cultural life of the city; and charities like YAMSEN and Musical Arc that provide a unique service to vulnerable children and adults.
A building with two huge gymnasia available to a huge range of sports and fitness groups, as well as being the home of the schools’ PE and Sports team.
We have that building – it’s called West Park.
The council should take note of the overwhelming tide of opinion, and make the right decision – to reopen West Park as soon as possible.
M Warwick, LS16
After practising at West Park choir and band played Leeds Town Hall 2006

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Council Should re-open West Park Centre, not Demolish it

Letter: Council should reopen West Park Centre, not demolish it
On Wednesday, Leeds City Council’s Executive Board will consider a recommendation that the West Park Centre is demolished.

In November 2012, this extremely popular and well-used building was unilaterally closed by the council’s Asset Management team – without warning, and without consultation.
There was no suggestion that it was surplus to requirements – even their scandalously one-sided ‘options appraisal’ (a disingenuous, misleading piece of work that does those who concocted it no credit whatsoever) acknowledges this.
Whilst there are no serious plans to replace West Park, it should be treated as a going concern.
Meanwhile, the closure continues to cause disruption and devastation to some of the most vulnerable people in the city.
It has been suggested that the building’s many users could simply be rehoused elsewhere.
If this is the case – show me the building that would provide perfect rehearsal, performance, office and storage space for the schools’ music service (a service, incidentally, that is one of the jewels in Leeds’s crown, judged outstanding by the Federation of Music Services – how much of that could be attributed to the excellent facilities it has long enjoyed at West Park?).
A building that can accommodate, at a peppercorn rent, organisations like Irish Arts, Blah Blah Blah, Paperbirds, Leeds Youth Opera – all of which contribute immeasurably to the cultural life of the city; and charities like YAMSEN and Musical Arc that provide a unique service to vulnerable children and adults.
A building with two huge gymnasia available to a huge range of sports and fitness groups, as well as being the home of the schools’ PE and Sports team.
We have that building – it’s called West Park.
The council should take note of the overwhelming tide of opinion, and make the right decision – to reopen West Park as soon as possible.
M Warwick, LS16

In Yorkshire Evening Post today

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

“The Forgotten Ones”, “The Homeless Ones”, “The Faceless Ones”.

From: Irene M Peace

 
YAMSEN:
SPECIALLYMUSIC
12th June 2013

West Park Closure

Dear Councillor Wakefield,

“The Forgotten Ones”, “The Homeless Ones”, “The Faceless Ones”.

All of these can apply to YAMSEN and all its members since Leeds City Council at a stroke, without thought for the “users”, on Friday 2nd November 2012 at 4.00 p.m. announced the immediate closure of West Park Centre. This was supposedly a ”temporary” measure because the ‘electrics were unsafe’. Now, seven months later we at YAMSEN are still homeless even though the cost for repairs to the electrics is, I understand, well within the capability of the Council’s budget irrespective of government cuts. The longer the centre remains empty the greater the risk of vandalism and the possibility of further costs.

What does this closure mean to us?  Remember that we provide a large and varied amount of experience in music and associated activity to many hundreds of children and adults with moderate and profound learning disabilities throughout Leeds and Yorkshire.

We have a large amount of specialised and valuable equipment and instruments scattered (for safe keeping)  in a lock up in Holbeck, various schools and private houses – all most inconvenient. In spite of this, like the true professionals we are, our excellent work continues. Neither have we allowed our annual programme of events to be affected (and these are many) nor our weekly classes, choir rehearsals and workshops. We have achieved this through hiring rooms attached to different churches and a social club – all at considerable expense to us.

Why? Because we believe in our aims and we speak for all those many hundreds we serve who cannot speak for themselves.

All we ask is for West Park Centre to re-open both for YAMSEN and the many other community groups who, like us, have made it their home for very many years.

West Park has excellent facilities for all users – large rehearsal/performance rooms, adequate storage, smaller rooms for classes and other activities, disabled toilets, large free car parking area and the centre is geographically well situated for all users.

I hope that as a councillor elected to work on behalf of the community as a whole you will give this request your serious consideration.

I remain
Yours sincerely

 
Irene M Peace
President and founder member YAMSEN

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Demolition! We Don't Think So! Sign This Petition

 
Message received from the people below.
 
A few hours ago Leeds City Council published the agenda for the meeting of the Executive Board (made up of senior councillors) which is due to take place on Wednesday the 19th. Item 18 on the agenda is a recommendation that the West Park Centre is demolished. (The agenda can be viewed here: http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=102&MId=6163&Ver=4).
 
This has come out of the blue and is a huge shock to us and to local residents and users of the centre.
 
We need to show the Council how strongly local people feel about this. Please sign our petition which you can find here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ybIwE1pg7P6201tTSPqMqTXSGfd1gJhMmDin1zaMKww/viewform
 
Please pass this petition onto as many people as you possibly can.
 
Best Wishes,
 
Greg Mulholland MP, Councillor Judith Chapman, Councillor Sue Bentley and Councillor Jonathan Bentley
 

Friday, 31 May 2013

Let We Forget: West Park Centre

Here's Sue's latest email to the Council.

--- 7 months ago the West Park Centre was closed overnight --- YAMSEN Specially Music was one of the groups based there, working with 100 adults and children with learning disabilities each week. No-one from the council has taken an interest in getting in touch with us to arrange to come and meet the people we work with and let them voice their concerns, despite being invited to choir rehearsals etc. The council should be working for the people and finding out what they want --- especially vulnerable people. It would be good if someone from the council showed a real interest in why we, and many other groups, really need  the council to be looking towards West Park opening again and gave some of their time to come and talk to us. 

Sue Tomassi --- YAMSEN committee member

Friday, 10 May 2013

Deputation to Council


What’s the Point of the West Park Centre?
An Unintended City-wide Arts Centre

My Lord Mayor and Fellow Councillors

Even though you are not discussing it today, I would to thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the case for getting the West Park Centre up and running again as soon as possible. I am speaking only on behalf of the charities and community groups.

I’d like to make 5 points:
1. On November 5th 2012 100 or so of us turned up as usual for work there only to be called into an extra-ordinary meeting.  Here, in the main hall we were told that the Centre’s electrics had been condemned, and we were to pack enough equipment to last 2 months, and leave. The Council groups were immediately given a previously mothballed room in Merrion House.
Then we were asked to pack everything ; pack 20 years worth of bags, filing cabinets, gamelan, resonance boards, cupboardfuls of costumes, and we were given 3 days to do it in. Then we got 3 weeks.

And we were 30 plus displaced organisations amounting to 2000 or so regular users, including of course all the council services and then all the charities, who had bumped along in harmony with each other for decades, and now, who hardly or never meet at all.

It’s fair to say that we were taken aback the manner of the “temporary closure” – One minute the electrics needed fixing; the next minute there was a consultation on the building’s future. Not only were we asked to leave with nowhere, or nowhere suitable to go, but six months later we are still operating from our garages and spare rooms.

2.Numbers and types of people affected, We feel that the numbers of users, and how much the centre was in demand was under-estimated. The last report talks about underuse, not so. The place was buzzing from morning till late evening. What was lovely about West Park, and what made it so special was the combinations of arts and sports, education and leisure, adults and children, disabled and able-bodied. Groups included the Travellers Education Service, children and adults with Special/Additional Needs, unions, self-help groups eg gamblers etc anonymous.  And all day Sunday, every Sunday the Church filled it. Many groups of vulnerable people, And all surrounding the wonderful foyer for all the serependitious meetings.

3.The practical building design – At the end of three spurs,, and in the middle - four good performance spaces [the former gyms, the Rehearsal Room, studio and the Main Hall] the main hall’s acoustics are good, in fact they were recently improved. Many, many toilets, including disabled adapted. YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic and ArtForms Music Service installed multi sensory classroom. [result of ten years planning taken down in a morning] Exceptional and absolutely vital storage – PE equipment, the orchestra’s shared instruments, the Opera’s costume cupboards. Carpark to fit a 100 piece orchestra or a fleet of minibuses for the disabled, with disabled access.

4.West Park serves as a base for city-wide and regional work, a happy accident, but its geography, near Leeds ringroad, on best bus routes [1, 56, 96], Players come from as far away as Scarborough for the orchestras, and from Sheffield for YAMSEN. Has open aspect surrounded by open spaces and playing fields, gives an extra feeling of security, convenient for shops.


5.West Park the Accidental Inclusive Arts Centre didn’t start as a plan. It just grew.– 25 years plus in the making, groups developing links. The Music Service and the Music charities worked together; Northern ballet sent 2 dancers to the YAMSEN singalong; Orchestras shared timpani;  Etc.

The council petition that we ran collected over 500 signatures in the 2 weeks that it was live. There are organisations still unplaced or not satisfactorily placed. There are children and adults with Special Needs who are missing their regular rehearsals; there are orchestras missing the hall, the space, the storage – all the reasons they chose West Park in the first place.
Victoria and Mavis waiting to be called into the Council Chamber

I am here on behalf all the groups, and on behalf of people who can’t speak for themselves. We need the £170,000 or whatever it takes spending on the electrics, and we need to get back into the building, which, until this year, never suffered from the regular petty vandalism that is beginning to appear.

The important thing is for the basic repairs to be done in order to enable us to get back into the West Park Centre, and then we can start to plan for the future and then have the debate whether to be a CIC, or remain inside the council.