Monday, 1 June 2015

Digging Deeper to find Leeds' Culture heroes

Thanks for Yorkshire Evening for letting me enter this debate. [I've added pictures]:

YEP Letters: May 30


Check out today’s YEP letters.

Dig deeper to find the city’s culture heroes

Victoria Jaquiss, Meanwood
If Leeds is serious about its City of Culture bid, I think it should look past the usual suspects.
Instead take a look at the background boys and girls who have been beavering away for years teaching the arts, putting on shows, and including them all, from those with additional needs physically and mentally to those whose life chances are reduced by social circumstance.
I will mention the two activities that I know best and am personally involved with: YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic, formerly known as YHAMSE is an organisation set up over 30 years ago by a group of Music and Special Needs teachers, which is now well established both within our schools and in community settings.

East Steel and choirs 2004

Apart from teaching and training we run festivals, including the Christmas Town Hall concerts, when the stage overflows with the three choirs. These choirs meet fortnightly, and play other events throughout the year.

rehearsing 2014
Town Hall 2014 waiting for East Steel set
My other area of expertise is steelpans: Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows, East Steel and Foxwood Steel. When the Tour de France needed a big steelband at its events, we all came together to be Leeds Pan Central in the Victoria Gardens on the Monday, outside the Arena on Thursday and Briggate on Friday, in just one week, June to July.
outside Arena [Thursday] Grand Depart
outside Arena [Thursday] Grand Depart
Between them our steelbands play about 80 gigs a year, including Wharfedale and Harrogate Festivals, and also Otley, Huddersfield and Manchester Carnivals. After a decade of playing we are sadly not now invited to Leeds Carnival. Four years ago the Leeds Carnival Committee informed us live music on the parade might “cause a riot”. Playing Leeds Carnival, on a float or mainstage used to be the highlight of our steelband year.


Victoria Gdns [Monday] Grand Depart
To play our own hometown now a small group of us have had to resort to popping up, predictably not causing a riot, in Savile Park.  
“Authentic” carnivals, in Port of Spain or in London, include many steelbands. With the costumes, they are the backbone of Carnival.
Briggate [Friday] Grand Depart
Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee, at public expense, only invites its own steelband to play.
Being “bigger and better” is meaningless in itself.
If Leeds is serious in getting people to flock to our city for other than economic reasons, it needs

Popping up in rain at Leeds Carnival 2014
a proper audit of what’s already going on, or not, and actions taken now to plug the gaps.
Popping up at a sunny Leeds carnival 2013
If you want to book a steelband, work with a steelband, or join a steelband, please contact Victoria or Bex on

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Why would any children of no faith in Moortown be directed to a faith primary school in Chapeltown?

I wrote this letter to the YEP before the tragic Tory success in the latest UK general election. Sadly this "success" will mean that the Conservatives think they have a mandate for dismantling our public education system:
This debacle over the allocation of places to the Khalsa Science Academy throws up a number of uncomfortable issues.

1. It is a free school/academy. As such it doesn't need to conform to national or even local educational standards, such as employing qualified teachers or providing healthy meals. Despite Gove and Cameron defending this "freedom", no one else in the country is buying this is as a good thing.

2. It is a Sikh school. Are the parents religious? Sikh even? Well, for me this begs the other question of why are Christian schools bursting with Muslim children? And one answer is that church schools only survive because they include children from other faiths. Is this a good thing? Debate. But when my Muslim friend was in 6th form at a Catholic college she had to attend masses in order to qualify for EMA - the allowance that sixth-formers used to get to help them finance staying on in education.

4. By its name this new school seems to be a Science specialist institution. At primary age! Research clearly show the value of the Arts in education. This title does not bode well for them.
5. This local school isn't actually yet in Moortown, but presently housed in Chapeltown, not, I think "local" at all!
So, it's up to Leeds to sort this out, because this will be being replicated around the country and making us the world's laughing stock