Leeds bizarrely named in worst 10 UK places for Culture…

Leeds recently featured in an article in the Independent named, “Britain’s worst places for culture named.”  We were in the bottom 10.

Thinking back to the incredible performance of ‘Kiss me Kate’ I saw last week, at the Leeds Grand Theatre by Opera North (based in Leeds), or to a few weeks ago where the West Yorkshire Playhouse hosted the world premiere of the ballet of ‘1984’ – put on by Northern Ballet (based in Leeds) – I did initially wonder how the Independent came to this conclusion.  But then, of course, culture goes far beyond the Opera and Ballet.

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Leeds Grand Theatre – no culture here!

I mean, Leeds has the highest number of listed buildings in any city outside of London, so this certainly can’t have been a factor in this judgement.

Perhaps instead this judgement is based on Sport?  At Headingley Stadium, in Rugby (League not Union) and Cricket, the Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket have both won the Challenge Cup and the County Championship trophy respectively.

Leeds also last year hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, which has left a legacy of the Tour de Yorkshire! We have great figures which have affected our sporting life here in Leeds, from Beryl Burton to Jane Tomlinson.  So no, perhaps this judgement isn’t based on sport.

Maybe it’s music, I mean, aside from the Leeds College of Music and the Leeds Symphony Orchestra what have we got?  The Kaiser Chiefs maybe?  The Pigeon Detectives from Rothwell or, dare I say, Chumbawumba from Armley?  Is Soft Cell not enough?!  What about Mel B?  If the Spice Girls don’t count as culture then I want no part in these rankings.

If we’re going to talk about cultural assets, let’s talk about Louis le Prince.  Louis le Prince made the oldest surviving moving picture in Roundhay.  This is a legacy which has gone all the way to Hollywood starting a multi-billion pound industry.  No offence to Worcester (5th highest), but that tops your sauce.

For architecture, we have the Brotherton Library, Kirkstall Abbey, Harewood House, Broadcasting Tower and the Corn Exchange to name a few.

Authors who have lived and worked here include Alan Bennett, Helen Fielding and JRR Tolkein.

In Chapeltown we have the oldest West Indian carnival in Europe and next year will have our tenth year of Leeds Pride.  Our Universities and other local groups host Light Night in the city centre, a whole evening of free arts events for everyone in Leeds to visit.

So using what metric was this idea of Culture based?

The article states that one factor in how cultured an area is is how many historical ships there are… My efforts to have the HMS Victory brought down the Leeds-Liverpool canal have so far proved unfruitful but from today I shall redouble my efforts.

Another was the number of historical battlefields – perhaps we in Yorkshire get along better than some politicians would have you believe.

I would argue that culture is alive – yes it is about the past, about what brings an area to where we are today.  But if culture is not relevant and accessible to everybody, then what is it for?

Leeds is currently in the process for putting in a bid for the European Capital of Culture 2023.  Our bid will be based of course on our history, but on our present and our future too.  We want to be the best city for culture in the UK, and we have a real fighting chance.

I’m off now to book tickets for the Hyde Park Picture House, a 100 year old cinema down the road.  Perhaps whoever put together this list of cultured cities would like to come with me?  They’re showing Clueless.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor – Headingley Ward
Lead Member for Culture

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Democracy in Danger. Shout about it!

In a democracy, should a governing party change electoral processes in its own favour without a public debate? Big changes are afoot, which will be defended as sensible and appropriate, but all of which will benefit the Conservative Government, and which have not been agreed by any other Party:-

• English Votes for English Laws, will prevent non English MPs from voting on matters deemed purely English. This can be justified by devolution to the other home countries, but favours the one Party that has long won the most seats in England, and because under the Barnett Formula that affects financial allocations to the whole UK, it will directly affect the other home countries;

• Individual voter registration (IVR) means households can no longer register their members. Individuals must register personally. But this has already led to the disappearance of around two million voters in Inner City areas that would be expected to Vote Labour;

• Reduction of seats – the Conservatives plan to reduce the House of Commons from 650 to 600 MPs, drawing new boundaries on the numbers of voters produced by Individual Voter Registration, and so affected by the missing voters in the Inner Cities;

• Trade Union reform – Unions will lose most of their power to fund Labour, while the power of Businesses to fund the Conservatives will be untouched.

The current electoral system is badly flawed. No party in modern times has won a majority of votes cast nationally. In May the Conservatives won power with 36.9% of the vote. Even the Labour landslide of 1997 was won on only 43.2% of the vote.

But fundamental changes to our democracy need open debate taking full account of the views of the public and parties across the spectrum. These changes are dangerous and partisan whatever your political outlook.

Cllr Bill Urry – Roundhay Ward Leeds
Support Executive Member for Homelessness and the Causes of Homelessness

Government’s anti-trade union Bill will damage industrial relations in Leeds, says Council Leader

Trade unions working for Leeds City Council have joined forces with the political leadership to fight the Government’s Trade Union Bill.

The Bill currently being debated in Parliament would severely restrict workers’ rights to take industrial action to protect jobs and services.

UNISON, the GMB, UNITE and UCATT all represent members who work for the local authority and they have welcomed the support of Councillor Judith Blake and her leadership team for the national campaign to oppose the Bill.

Councillor Blake said:

“The proposed Trade Union Bill could adversely affect the positive industrial relations we have. We believe it is unnecessary to raise ballot thresholds in respect of industrial action, as industrial action is a last resort and we can work together to avoid it.”

“If workplace issues are important the trade unions will always remain able to organise industrial action, regardless of additional regulations the Government seeks. ”Councillor Blake added that any plan to prevent public sector employers from deducting trade union subscriptions would be “unnecessary and petty”.

Councillor Blake added that the Council believed collective bargaining provided a positive framework for positive employee relations.

UNISON Regional Organiser Dean Harper said:

“We welcome the support from the Council because this Bill is grossly unfair and anti-democratic.” and Jon Smith, Regional Officer for the GMB said “It is welcome that the employers from Leeds City Council are standing shoulder to shoulder with their employees in fighting this bill. It certainly calls into question who this government is representing. As a member of the Tory Government, David Davis MP, has said, the Bill would not be out of place in Franco’s Fascist Spain but has no place in modern Britain.”

“We will campaign against this attack on our human rights with all the energy we can muster and we are delighted the leadership of Leeds City Council share our opinion.”