Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Using the West Park Centre - As Soon As Possible Please

On Friday - or maybe they will defer it - Council will decide upon one of the options offered for the West  Park Centre. We are trying to offer up all the facts. Here's another ex- West Park user's view:

Dear Councillors 
These are my initial thoughts after reading the report to the council meeting about the future of West Park:
great storage:gamelan, marimbas, more

I cannot reconcile the comments about 40% of the building not being used - what does this mean? 

I understood that the building had a weekly footfall of 2000 people and was one of the most used buildings in the city - even when some rooms were being mothballed - but not 40%.  Not only being used by all those on the list but also in regular use for staff training by NHS, Children's Services for CAF and Team Teach Training, head-teachers forums and many more.
To say Artforms has been re-housed at Merrion House and at City of Leeds is to totally misrepresent the vast work that this organisation does, misunderstanding the need for easily accessible instruments storage used on a daily basis for the effective delivery of lessons. 
Why are taking it all away?
By accessible I mean -  the ability to collect essential teaching equipment from storage areas on a daily/half daily basis with accessible loading, free car parking and available and close to hand for the admin team to update and administer for all the team's use.
For my team the new regime has meant that frequently used instruments and equipment have had to be  stored in people's homes. After emails and phone calls the equipment has to be loaded into cars and then swapped between staff in car parks such as Sainsbury's etc. This is not only inconvenient it eats up staff time, energy and petrol. We have gone from being a nationally recognised centre of excellence for our work with vulnerable children to appearing to be an amateur group of people who meet in cafes and car parks.
A few more for the users list:
Youth Opera - they had a huge costume store as well as weekly rehearsals.
In the week before it closed City Varieties had started to use the building. Not sure if it was for prop design or rehearsals.
Just some of Youth Opera's costumes
Special features of the building not mentioned
I haven't seen any mention of:
1.             The Gordon Parry Centre for children with SEND - with it's Sound and Light room along with dedicated Music therapy room, instrument library including Javanese Gamelan and resource library. It cost to have the Sound and LIght dismantled, the Music Therapy sessions have been temporarily re-housed at HEART.
2.             Nor the second performance space - the Rehearsal room. One of the amazing features of the building was the ability to house many large scale musical activities at the same time without major sound interference problems. I.E in Rehearsal Room, Main Hall and the 2 gyms.
The large number of toilets and the 1 disabled toilet plus 1 disabled changing room made it possible to run large scale events for as many as 300 children at the same time without serious queuing issues. 
emptying Room 5

ex-Sound and Light Room
Exhibition Space
The excellent foyer area led to a synergy where all these user groups could meet together informally and housed the Kiosk and had Exhibition Space.
Several art exhibitions have been hosted using foyer and classrooms - eg Travellers’, Irish Arts. ArtForms visual  Arts and Artemis displays.
A major feature of the centre is it's excellent car parks - we regularly need space for up to 10 minibuses, conferences can guarantee parking spaces (up to 80 – I think)
the shops at the Roundabout

nice toilets!
Plus the secure overnight parking used for: ArtForms Van, Opera North Van and Travellers’ Van.
Reduced Absenteeism
During last year I do remember the ArtForms Team being commended for having one of the lowest absenteeism rates in the council.
It is hard to say this was due to the building but I do know that many people liked the working  environment - although I don't deny they would have liked it more if they felt it had been kept in good repair and had a future.
re the decorations  - most  of the frequently used rooms had been recently redecorated by the caretaking staff. 
Why do many people like working there
I can only give my personal view
                The  outlook onto grass and the general environment made the building  calming and pleasant to work in.
specially designed steel
pan store
                Wide corridors, a feeling of space, good sized rooms with excellent and flexible storage. 
                The ability to walk into a room or hall and know that all the equipment that  you need is on hand for creating an imaginative and creative session cannot be overestimated. 
                The amazing hall which several times a year we were able to convert into an imaginary world for some of the most severely disabled children in the county to enjoy an interactive musical day out.
What has been frustrating about working there:
The knowledge that you cannot upgrade your facilities because of fear of being closed. 
Not being able to decorate or re-carpet or put up new lighting - because of the doubts about its future.
Not being able to apply for the funding to upgrade the building  - because of the doubts about its future.
Not being able to apply for grants to upgrade the outside facilities into proper playgrounds and a sensory garden that children can enjoy safely - even when such grants were available  - because of the doubts about its future.
Not being able to put in 2 lifts to make all the upstairs accessible  - because of the doubts about its future.
Not being able to have a full lighting rig in the hall - Ah yes - the electrics??

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