What’s life like in the east of the city? This month we caught up with Kerry Harker, Founder and Director of the East Leeds Project about opening up a creative conversation to look at the future of East Leeds.
Through the East Leeds Project I want to open up a creative conversation about what life is like in the east of the city, and how it might develop into the future, questioning ideas around community, identity, sustainability, and participation. The project focuses on the corridor of green and blue space following the Wyke Beck route between Roundhay and Rothwell, linking these as one space for artistic exploration.
When the open call came in summer 2017 to submit ideas for the Leeds 2023 bid, it acted as a catalyst and provided a platform to get things up and running, giving voice to ideas I’d been developing as a long-term resident of Gipton. Collaboration is key, and I’m in conversation with potential partners including Canal Connections, Chapel FM, local ‘Friends of’ groups, Leeds City Council, LS14 Trust, Space2, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and Foxglove’s ‘Leeds Lighthouse’ (John Smeaton was from Austhorpe in east Leeds).
The East Leeds Project intends to respond to deep-seated social challenges and the disconnect between communities on the fringes and the burgeoning city centre. The Wyke Beck route is a wonderful asset that could enhance the lives of residents in some of the most deprived areas of the city. There’s an opportunity for the project to make links across areas such as Gipton, Harehills, Seacroft, Cross Gates, Killingbeck and Halton Moor among others, engaging people more with the green space on their doorstep and contributing to improved health and wellbeing.
With conservation at the heart of the project, this ‘green lung’ is essential for future sustainability, both locally – in terms of breaking down the problem of a ‘two-tier city’ that the Leeds2023 bid sought to address – and in helping the wider city find creative responses to urgent challenges such as flood alleviation and pollution. If you’re interested in these issues and east Leeds, please get in touch!