Monday, 11 February 2013

How the West Park Centre Looked after Everyone with Disabilities

newly installed disabled toilet
One of those hardest hit by the closure of the West Park Centtre is YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic [YSM]. This is, as it says on the tin, is a Yorkshire-wide organisation dedicated to the musical education of children and adults with ALL Special or Additional Needs.

Sue and props

We provided everything from fully trained music therapists to a music instrument library containing an entire original Javanese gamelan, a set of steel pans, sound beams, several resonance boards, marimbas, djembes, gathering drums, keyboards, guitars, specially adapted percussion instruments. And all this and much much more was housed in a specially adapted suite of rooms at end of the West Park Centre, named after one of our pioneers, the Gordon Parry Centre. Besides the musical insrument library, there was a book library, several storerooms of multi-sensory props,  a deliberately plain room for those on the autistic spectrum, and a Sound and Light Room [a deceptively simple name for a fiendishly complicated IT installation].

dismantling the Sound and Light Room
Up the corridor were the adapted toilets, hoists and hygeine suites; outside was a newly built wheelchair access to this lower part of the building; further up the building again was the disabled lift, and the splendid hall where the Christmas Singalongs, the Multi- Sensory Days and the like brought children and adults together with similar disabilities for great uplifting and educational music days or mornings.

Outside is the great huge commodious carpark, just 1/2 mile from the Leeds Ringroad and all routes North South East and West. Useful then also for delegates to attend the Music for Special Needs Conferences that we have been able host at the West Park Centre, and of course easy to find for charity members who come to attend and to present workshops at the six-times yearly meetings, and all the training sessions.

packing away gamelan and marimbas
gamelan boxed up
And when YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic members give talks and worshops in Leeds and around the country, as we do at the College of Music or for NAME [National Assocation of Music Educators], FMS [Federation of Music Services] or SMA [Schools Music Association], we could collect the equipment we needed for here.

loading up Bart
Making maximum use of the space, the equipment, and the staff knowledge and expertise, YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic shared the accomodation and many of the people with ArtForms Music Service Inclusive Music Department.

It took weeks to dismantle everything, pack it away and then squirrel it round our houses or in friendly schools [Richmond Hill, Victoria Park]. Some of it went to this  warehouse place down by the Gyratory. Storage? What use is that?

For nearly three decades, YSM has put on its wonderful Christmas Concert at Leeds Town Hall, hosted by Leeds own choirmaster, Simon Lindley; every year except 2010 when it snowed up a blizzard; for nearly three decades the Inclusive Music Department has presented the Christmas Singalong at the West Park. Every year except for 2012 that is.  And that's one generation of school children who won't get that chance back.
We need the Centre back now so that that is not two generations of children and adults with Special Needs who miss out.

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