Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Tale of Two Buildings: West Park and Royal Park

I wrote this to the paper:

I am curious as to how these two miscarriages of natural justice have endured, the one for seven years and the other maybe at the beginning of its sentence of neglect.

Nice car park
As far as I can make out, the Leeds Council department of “Asset Management” has made a decision that providing a proper professional musical education to children and adults with special additional educational needs is pointless; that supporting Leeds Youth Opera, described by the Guardian as a “national treasure” is irrelevant; that offering rooms for most of Leeds principal orchestras [Leeds Symphony Orchestra and Leeds Festival Chorus, to name but two] to rehearse and to store their timpani etc is not important. [And all the rest!]

It took our pioneers in the Music Special/Additional Needs World [including our very own music educator, Mavis West and composer Jan Holstock] decades to persuade the world that children with Special Needs deserved equal access to a musical education, and eventually persuaded the Leeds Music Support Service to create the Department of Music for Children Special Needs. 

Nice gymnasia
And this department has gone from strength to strength. Any school wanting music for their children with Additional/Special Needs can book expertise and specialised equipment from the Music Special Needs/Inclusive Department from Leeds ArtForms Music Service. And any community group or parent wanting similar could apply to YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic, a charity working in beautiful harmony with the Music Service, sharing resources, sharing expert staff and, yes, sharing the space at the West Park Centre.

top foyer West Park
It was seven years earlier that the same council department mothballed the incredible Royal Park School building. Bad enough that the incompetent Education Leeds predicted a fall in population growth and four years later was adding onto the other primary schools in order to cope with the rise in population growth. But why oh why are children walking past this beautiful Victorian pillar of its community to reach the overcrowded other schools?

The community cries out for more school capacity, and for that building to bustling again with people; Royal Park School yearns to be used again.

West Park
So what is it about these two buildings that gives them the right to live on? Both West Park and Royal Park were built at a time when specialist workers were paid peanuts to build palaces. From the outside Royal Park is an elegant stately iconic building, totally in keeping with the surrounding architecture.  West Park, from the outside is no architectural beauty, but go inside and you’ll find offices, cupboards and storage spaces the envy of many a new building user this country over.

I suggest that people paid to manage assets recognise their value and respond to local demand. And, actually, if you want to hire the gamelan, or the resonance boards, or go ballroom dancing, or use the Sound and Light Room or put on any of the hundreds of concerts and events that you once could attend with free and easy parking and with disabled access, well you may have to wait.

Victoria Jaquiss FRSA [ex-West Park user, and ex-teacher, parent, governor Royal Park School]

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