Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Irreplaceable West Park Centre.

West Park Centre
Time marches on and it is now half a year since West Park Centre was ‘temporarily’ closed overnight – with no warning to the many organisations and groups using the premises.
another Greggs' donation to YAMSEN:SM

West Park Centre has been the heart of Yorkshire Association for Music and Special Educational Needs (YAMSEN) for the past 16 years.  Children and adults arrived there for all the regular specialised activities, educational and social, and came to depend on the Centre’s friendly and supportive atmosphere, where they were made to feel welcome, accepted and at ease.

As a charity, so many of our Special Needs activities rely heavily on our local team of invaluable volunteers, without whose willing support our many music activities could not be run.  Most of our volunteers and ‘customers’ would not be able to travel to other areas of the city so easily. West Park Centre is ideally located,  being close to the Ring Road and with ample parking facilities.  It is convenient for the mini-buses transporting our groups.

100% of our YAMSEN of our musical instruments, equipment and materials were hastily ‘temporarily’ relocated in early November 2012 to different storage facilities where they cannot be readily accessed, limiting the scope and range of our ‘temporarily’ re-located activities.

As the grandparent of a boy with Autistic Spectrum Disorder I’m very aware of the adverse effect of the sudden and unexpected disruption to a settled and accepted routine. Fortunately, my grandson lives in Newcastle where the facilities for such children are excellent – there the Tim Lamb Centre at the Rising Sun Park is run by volunteers. Certainly the ‘closure’ of West Park Centre caused considerable distress to several members of ‘Off by Heart’, our choir for adults with special needs, which had practised fortnightly there for the past 14 years.
yes, it's a music library, nowhere useful now

One would like to believe that most Councils make sensible decisions. However in such a case of the West Park Centre, the Leeds Council are failing the people of Leeds. It is people not buildings that matter. If ever the Council set out to provide a Centre such as the one at West Park, they would be hard-pressed to choose anywhere else in Leeds where 2000/3000 people would be able to attend each week. The majority of 2000/3000 adults and children using the Centre appreciate its internal layout and would want the current building made safe and watertight – not new, modern and expensive.

Please spend tax payers’ money wisely, as if that money were your own.

Anne Gilliam 

Monday, 22 April 2013

West Park Centre - the Petition

props for multi-sensory etc days
The The West Park Centre lies empty, uncared for, and inevitably will decline in health. Twenty years of hard work devasted by one thoughtless act.

gamelan [some of it]  in boxes

YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic for years worked in tandem with ArtForms Music Service, sharing rooms, personnel and equipment, and providing more than the statutory requirements for children with Special Additional Needs, not just round all of Leeds but also all round Yorkshire.

Now the equipment lies in storerooms, and backrooms and bedrooms, and front rooms and garages all round Leeds, difficult to get hold of, by arrangement, impossible on the spur of the moment.

 e.g. "Ah, you've brought Jack* with you. He just loves an ocean drum. I'll just nip to Whinmoor and see if Mavis has one in her garage."

pans at Town Hall concert
YAMSEN had a permanent base at the West Park Centre, storing its extensive music library with everything from specially adapted xylophone beaters [for children with hands that find gripping normally hard to do] to a whole gamelan, bought with a donation and imported from Java. 

pan players at Town Hall concert

We put a brave face on it; have meetings here and there, run the muti-sensory days and the Town Hall concerts and everything else, as if life was normal, because the people for whom we provide extra specialised music education have it tough already, and don't need our problems on top of their own.
marimbas and stuff in the front room

But five months later, the officers who closed us have still not provided any decent even temporary accommodation, and quite frankly our own health is being affected.

So, here's the petition to sign. Let's get the numbers up before the new council date of 8 May. And go onto Twitter, follow and retweet the ShoutOut4WPark tweets. 


1.* not his real name.
2. only pictured steelpans at Leeds Town Hall - can't picture all the children. Just imagine several hundred on the raisers behind us.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Adults have Special Additional Needs as well, you know

Mavis has written to the leader of the council - again:

To Councillor Keith Wakefield
Leader of Leeds City Council.

Dear Councillor Wakefield

I am writing as Vice President of YAMSEN and as coordinator of YAM (YAMSEN Adult Music) Activities hoping that you are aware how vital decisions that you are to make in the Council meeting this week are to our Association.

 We are a voluntary Charity working with youngsters and adults to promote opportunities for our Special People to develop confidence, competence and experience new ideas through Music and the Arts.

Each Friday morning we have over 60 people with Learning  Disabilities   plus approx. 40 support workers and volunteers attending our Workshops and Choir rehearsals.

We are using West Park United Reform Church and completely fill the church –there is no room for visitors or friends who want to come and share the work and we are limited to which activities we can offer because our equipment is spread all over the city.

We really are desperate to have the storage space and access to a large room under one roof so that our special people have the opportunity to continue with their music making and confidence  and competence. They find it very difficult to understand why we are not able to be planning to move back to a building which has become home to them and frankly YAMSEN members feel very much the same way. We are a dedicated team who want to be allowed to continue the work which the City of Leeds have recognised time and time again over the years.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Benefits of a Vibrant, Culturally Rich City

Checking through the minutes of the actual council meeting which presented the West Park Centre Options Appraisal I find that the court, I mean the council, did indeed agree with (or rather say yes to] the Report's recommendation to consider two options: partial demolition or total annihilation. So Corporate Property Management (the very name conjures up the antithesis of West Park has been about!) writes up five notional options then dismisses three of them, without debate. Eh! How does that work?

In the situation we find ourselves in i.e. with a thriving council arts centre specialising in

1. music for children and adults with special/additional needs and including [rather a nice role reversal]main stream learners, and with the toilets, hygiene suites, disabled minibus parking and access

2. housing a music service [office, rehearsal and performance areas and storage], and

3. housing four of Leeds main classical ensembles [orchestras, opera and choruses and storage and parking]

in a building needing a makeover (and especially its shoddy electrics putting right), having endured  a "temporary closure", but where finances may be an issue, there should be three simple options:

1. Destroy everything (in the name of health and safety)
2. Keep some of it (in the name of compromise and money saving)
3. Refurbish the lot (after listening to reason)

Now I have not here even touched upon the 30-odd other regular [part-time and full] users of the centre]. They are well documented earlier on in this blog.

But the beauty of the West Park users is that we don't have to go looking for them, for tenants. They all want permanent  offices and storage space, and regular rehearsal and performance space and free parking.

So either you want the Culture and the Arts or you don't. You want to care for your most vulnerable children  and adults. or you don't. You want to care for your minorities [Travellers, Irish Arts, unions, gamblers, weight-watchers] or you don't. And actually I think that Leeds does.

"All people of Leeds will enjoy the benefits of a vibrant, culturally rich city".

So, what we are saying is, if you care for these things, then you won't close down the very building that have given them life all these years, or make it so small that it cannot function.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

It's Okay for Some

Just got this email from Carol:
I have just driven past West Park Centre, to my amazement I saw Yorkshire Television doing filming inside and out side the building.
The back car park was full of vehicles, including the chuck waggon. Most of the front of the building was full of vehicles to, and lots of
crew about. The front door was open with people going in and out, so much for a dangerous building.
Best regards,

Well, that's not very nice is it! That's where our offices, our storeroom spaces and our performance areas are. That was our home. That's where we are trying to move back into. Who let them; why weren't we informed; what were they allowed to do? Did someone say, Oh don't worry - it's going to be knocked down?

How very insensitive, and how very rude. Sue wrote this:

Today the West Park Centre was open for filming --- car park full --- electrics on --- all singing and dancing --- fab! ---  On Friday our YAMSEN group is having again to struggle with 100 people in a n=much smaller space just over the road at the URC and the same for our children next Tuesday.

YAMSEN are running their weekly Friday morning session this week - space is very tight for 100 people --- the West Park Centre was closed to us and  so many more groups  overnight last November because of electrical problems with no mention of finding us another suitable space. I would like to know why a film crew is allowed in and we're not --- a bit like the Russians in November! I would like an answer as soon as possible  please  --- Sue T --- YAMSEN