Musical Arc [ http://musicalarc.wordpress.com ] gave me this letter, and these pictures to post.
This is a letter on behalf of all members of Musical ARC, a registered charity group based in Leeds. We are writing with regret regarding the closure of the West Park Centre, a rehearsal space which served as our home for seven years. We shall not only voice concern for the way we were treated during the event, but also bring forth an appeal for the centre to reopen.
Firstly, an overview should be given of what exactly Musical ARC stands for. The intrinsic value of its work, which took place under West Park Centre’s shelter for many years, will also be expressed.
Musical ARC is a collective of adults who congregate weekly to share and create music, both as an outlet for themselves and as a way of promoting disability equality. The members of the group are of varying musical ability, and many have sensory and physical impairments. In recent times, they have made a powerful impression on many of Leeds’ primary schools, by conducting workshops in which they teach and perform.
Consequently, we are sending out a fundamental message to people of all ages: Disability should not lead to segregation in the community. It can feel like much of life concentrates on our disabilities; however Musical ARC focuses only on our abilities, our potential. It is a place we can individually contribute to a union, and many of us have been attending regularly for years.
Therefore on 5th November 2012, it came as a huge shock to hear of the abrupt closure of the West Park Centre. This discovery was particularly disappointing for those who had already left their homes for the session that day, and as a result of late notice were stranded outside the practice area. The lack of information given about the imminent closure was highly unethical. Thankfully, no harm came to the members (who were potentially without transport for over three hours in a November climate).
Although now settled in a new location (Meanwood Community Centre), there was every chance that the group would be left without one. Any information on the closure had to be sought out personally by the members of Musical ARC. The vision that it would be unable to continue its necessary work due to an ‘electrical fault’ and a ‘problem with the water’ at West Park (as told to Shehnaaz in a phone call with Greg Mulholland) was distressing enough. Yet being shielded from a formal warning by leading bodies was purely unjust.
West Park Centre’s closure came around the time that Musical ARC were preparing for a series of school workshops, but despite the disruption of continuity, we are finally able to reflect on the experience and put forward our expectations. Our main principle is that we will witness a re-opening of the West Park Centre. It provided us (and countless others) with valuable territory for the growth of Leeds’ art forms.
Additionally, we believe that its revival should go ahead with some amendments. Investment is essential to any business, and the arts should be treated with a parallel outlook. If West Park had a creative and performing arts venue with accessible, communal facilities such as recording studios, craft/rehearsal rooms and storage space, then groups such as our own would have the means to generate revenue for Leeds City Council. Venues such as the West Park Centre warrant further recognition for the profound way that its groups have changed lives.
Lastly, we at Musical ARC propose that a significant improvement is seen in the communication of the council and other organisations. What happened to us as a result of the closure was disconcerting. We hope never to witness the same lack of consideration again, where a change affects us so personally.
Melissa Thompson [on behalf of all members of Musical Arc. ]
Melissa Dawson Bowling