Martin Hamilton, Director of Leeds Civic Trust, introduces the new AboutLeeds blog.
The most obvious question is why have we decided to create this blog? But first of all, I had better explain who “we” are.
We are Leeds Civic Trust – a volunteer-led, membership-based charity whose aim since its creation in 1965 has been to speak up for our city, with an interest in its past, present and future. You may be familiar with our Blue Plaques scheme (over 180 of them across the city), celebrating famous Leeds people, events and places. But we also co-ordinated the Rainbow Plaques Trail, celebrating LGBT+ people, events and places and supported Leeds City Council in celebrating the contribution the Windrush generation and communities have made to the Leeds through plaques decorated with flags from the Caribbean. The city’s history is important to us – we write about it, put on lectures about it and generally celebrate it. We also co-ordinate Heritage Open Days in Leeds – a national celebration of heritage and culture.
People often associate us with historic and listed buildings – and we have certainly campaigned to preserve some of our most important listed buildings – including the First White Cloth Hall and the amazing Temple Works, but we are equally concerned with the present day – we comment on many planning applications, lobbying for the best in design and placemaking. Whether this is the proliferation of tall buildings in the city centre, development of the South Bank or the design merits of volume-built housing estates, we are interested and have a view.
More recently, we have taken on other “quality of life” issues – the quality of our air, our creaking transport systems, making the most of the city’s waterfront. We have always been keen to champion the best facilities for people in Leeds. We campaigned for many years for an arena for the city, for example, and have long called for a proper city centre park (now to be provided as part of the development on the site of the former Tetley Brewery). We are in the middle of a competition we launched called Liveable City which invites people to re-imagine a currently road-dominated part of our city.
So in a nutshell our interests are around design and the built environment, the city’s heritage and culture, and quality of life issues. And this is what we hope this forum will focus on.
Why a blog and why now?
We have decided to launch this blog because we do not believe that anything similar exists that covers these broad issues. We want to create a space where anyone with something to say about the development of the city, from its earliest days to the 2030s and beyond, can put forward their views for discussion and debate. Written blogs are welcome (up to 1000 words in length) as are images, clips and sketches or a combination. The usual legal and ethical requirements naturally apply, and whilst the blog should be a place for opinions and the opinionated, it is not a forum for party political platforms.
We have decided to launch this now because as our city is under siege with Coronavirus changing our way of life, at least in the short term, what better time to discuss how our city should evolve in the future, mindful of the big leaps it has made over the centuries.
What is Leeds Civic Trust’s role?
Our role in all of this is simply to administer and moderate the blog. This is a blog for Leeds, not for Leeds Civic Trust. We will post articles from time to time, but we hope that this blog will become the home for views from anyone with an interest in our city who has something they want to say. If you want to write an entry, please get in touch.
Director, Leeds Civic Trust