Thursday, 25 February 2010

Big Hug for City of Leeds School

It's been a while

I keep meaning to post but I've really been so tired and needed to get back to my family for a while.

Not that I've stopped by any means.....

.....on Saturday I went to a hustings at Leeds Met and challenged the Labour MP, Hilary Benn on the National Challenge policy and the closure of schools in deprived areas.

On Sunday I answered all the emails I hadn't found time for before the election and made cards for some particularly lovely well-wishers who phoned me and left messages on election day.

On Monday I spent all day helping my son with his coursework for his A-levels - being autistic he finds it hard to understand what is being asked of him and needs someone there to help him organise himself or he gets frustrated - far harder work than standing in an election.
I had his statement review too; he's doing really well and everything is now set for his next school year.

On Tuesday I actually managed to get round to some housework.

On Wednesday I took my son to his card club, did the shopping, picked up all the stuff I left at Victoria's election day and then took over 3/4hour to get all of 500 yards from her house to the student union to collect him because I bumped into so many people wanting to wish me well and hoping I'm going to stand in the next election.

And today I joined the community choir at Little London Primary School and then went to steel pans at City of Leeds.

The choir was great.

When I arrived the hall was crawling with small children and everyone was getting orange juice and tea.

Before I knew it, though, the session had started and very quickly everyone joined in 'baking a cake' with all the sound effects; I think that was by far the best bit, great fun.
Then we did some breathing and voice exercises - riding a motorbike up and down hills was pretty chaotic but the kids obviously loved it.

And then we got down to the singing.

I really enjoyed myself; I love singing but have never had the confidence to join a 'real' choir, this was just so much fun and I felt completely at home, I'll definitely be back there next week.

Friday, 19 February 2010

There are more ways to win than just getting votes

I got 150 votes and came 4th - not bad for a complete unknown with just 4 weeks to establish herself.
I got 7% of the vote which I'm told is pretty acceptable, especially as the Lib Dems and Labour had hundreds of people on the street and I had my very small team who, however hard they worked, could not hope to compete with the sheer hours of campaigning that the main parties put in.

Gerry Harper, Labour, won with 1054 and the Lib Dems got just 671.

But who won wasn't really the point for me - every candidate declared against closing City of Leeds, almost all supported Royal Park (I'm not sure about the Conservatives as I never saw any election material from them) and I know that the importance of those issues was only because I was standing on them and all the parties knew that if they didn't support City and Royal Park they would lose votes to me.

And to cap it all, Gerry Harper said he would so his 'damnedest' to stop City from closing on camera!!!!!

Thanks to everyone who supported me in this campaign, especially my team who were truly wonderful.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Tomorrow's our big day

Life has been a little busy since Saturday but tomorrow is our big day.

The responses I've been getting from people as I've been canvassing have been great; I can hardly believe how many people have said they will vote for me though it isn't surprising that most people are thoroughly disillusioned with the three main parties at the moment.
The combination of neglect from the Lib Dems and Tories in local government (most see it as the Lib Dems here as all three of our councillors have been lib Dem for a while) and the complete farce we are seeing in central government with Labour further right than the Conservatives, the banking mess, the schools fiasco, the increasingly unpopular wars we should never have been involved in anyway, the expenses scandal and the widening gap between rich and poor, means that nobody has anything good to say about any of them, never mind giving them their votes.

My team has worked really hard and I am so proud to be part of it, whether we win or not we know we have put our all into this fight and deserve every vote we get.

See you all tomorrow bright and early!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Friendship Bench

The Royal Park Public Meeting was well attended and a great success.
The presentation of the bid went very well and was much more interesting than Friday's presentation to the council which obviously had to concentrate more on technical details and finance.

As Sue Buckle spoke about the history of the school and the fight for the building I was struck by how important it was to tell the public about the image on the cover of the bid, projected on the screen behind her and I asked to speak at the end.

This image was of the Friendship Bench, built by children, parents and staff with a local artist in the final year of Royal Park's history as a school and still standing proud in the playground.

When I spoke, I told the meeting about helping to build the bench, and that my son had calculated the amount of concrete needed to build it. I pointed out my daughter's face and told them that I know the name of every child pictured on that bench, that they are all now teenagers and many are at City of Leeds.

I then explained that when it was built the children were told that if ever they felt lonely or needed someone to talk to, all they had to do was sit on the bench and they would find a friend. I went on to say how glad I was that this was the image they had chosen because the Royal Park community centre would be there for everyone, for help, advice and friendship.

It was a very emotional experience, the bench has become the symbol of Royal Park and carries its ethos from the old to the new. I feel very proud to be part of that.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Royal Park Jamboree

The presentation of the Royal Park Bid at the Civic Hall today went well and those attending seemed very positive.

The team spoke brilliantly and answered all the questions put to them.

It was all a bit formal but Saturday's presentation to the public should be a really good event with all sorts of things going on for everybody from 0-100+

I aim to be there for as much of the day as I can manage

Royal Park Public Meeting
12-4 pm Saturday 13th february
All Hallows Church
24 Regent Terrace
Leeds LS6 1NP

Pressure from the dcsf

Gerry Harper, the Labour candidate who, incidentally, was the only candidate not to speak in favour of keeping City of Leeds open, has denied that central government, specifically the Labour Party, are putting pressure on Education Leeds and Leeds City Council to close City but I have seen the letters from Ed Balls and Vernon Coaker to Chris Edwards.

The one from Vernon Coaker appears to be in the public domain and can be accessed with a google search.


I was interviewed at the City of Leeds Public Meeting by John Baron of Guardian Leeds.
I didn't quite finish my last sentence but I think you can tell what I'm going to say......

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Locked out by Education Leeds

Chris Edwards didn't come to face the people of Hyde Park and Woodhouse last night, he wasn't there at Primrose tonight either.

Primrose is part of the Federation with city of Leeds and I am against it becoming an academy but, unfortunately, I couldn't be at Primrose because my daughter is ill.

Apparently Councillor Brett was there though but the doors were locked by 7:10pm and he had to wait over half an hour to be let in.
I wonder how many other people arrived and found themselves locked out and simply turned away?

How can Education Leeds run our schools when it can't even run a consultation? People have a right to attend a public meeting, locking the doors denies them access and in my opinion there should be a public investigation into how Education Leeds consults on proposals.

They didn't advertise the Primary Expansion Public Meeting for Blenheim and Brudenell properly and I was the only person to turn up.

So when the City of Leeds one was due I decided not to wait for Education Leeds to advertise it, I did it myself (with my team, of course) and delivered almost 10,000 leaflets with the details of both the City and Royal Park meetings.

And they had a bit of a shock.

So what do they do to stop people having their say this time?

They lock people out of the public meeting.

I think they don't like public meetings!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

We all stood up!

Tonight was stunning!

This was by far the biggest public meeting Education Leeds have ever faced; there must have been well over 500 people there with councillors, local primary heads, university lecturers, and loads of parents and pupils.

The welcome was wonderful, everybody had worked so hard on the displays, and the food was excellent.
The dvd the pupils made was really moving and throughout we had the Silver Sparrows in the background.
The meeting itself was a bit of a farce, it was so clear that nobody in the room supported the proposal to close City of Leeds and every speaker was passionate about the need to keep the school for our children and community. At the end of 2 hours there were still people wanting to speak but so much had been said and our hands were red with clapping at the hard hitting points that were coming from the public. Education Leeds did not get one clap but Sue Buckle managed a standing ovation!!!

There was a very generous offer from Leeds Metropolitan University to work with City of Leeds to develop it for the future.
And also a proposal from Jill wood, Head of Little London, to form a partnership with the feeder primaries and to develop City as a school for the community it serves.

I hope very much that Education Leeds listens to what we had to say tonight and acts on it with some level of integrity but I somehow doubt it; Chris Edwards didn't even have the courtesy to show his face, never mind answer a question, after slagging the school off on the radio today.

The campaign goes on; the letters need to keep going to the newspapers, the leaflets need to keep going out to the community, the objections need to keep going to Education Leeds.

And I have to get up early tomorrow - vampire hunting at 6am (staking I think Mike called it)!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Royal Park

Tonight was the last Royal Park gathering before the public meeting and it was really encouraging to see how much planning was going into the presentation of the Royal Park Bid to the public.
It looks like it is going to be a real community celebration and well worth going to with activities for children, food, opportunities to pledge support for the refurbishment of the building and to explore and contribute to the wealth of ideas that are coming together.

The two core groups have decided to unite to simplify organisation and to pool their skills so they can really focus on getting behind the bid and acquiring the building for the community first and foremost and then, develop and evolve their ideas together with the wider community as they make the building usable in the first stage of the project.

I am so glad I got involved in this campaign, before I ever thought of standing in an election, because it has given me the energy and passion to stand up for City of Leeds, for our children and for our people throughout Hyde Park and Woodhouse. It has reminded me that there are many things worth fighting for in our area and together we can win.

Royal Park Public Meeting
12 pm Saturday 13th february
All Hallows Church
24 Regent Terrace
Leeds LS6 1NP

And don't forget City of Leeds Public Meeting today


City of Leeds School
Bedford Field
Woodhouse Cliff
Leeds, LS6 2LG

Monday, 8 February 2010

City of Leeds Public Meeting - Wednesday February 10th, 7pm

I've been really busy leafleting and canvassing all weekend.
It has been both depressing to see so much of the ward in such a neglected state and yet heartening to talk to people about their communities. So many really do value City of Leeds School and I'm sure now that we will be seeing a packed public meeting there at 7pm on Wednesday night.

I spent some time leafleting with some of the staff from City of Leeds in Woodhouse today and it was great to see how committed they are to the school and to their pupils. Talking to them, not one has mentioned that they all stand to lose their jobs if the closure goes ahead, they talk only about the children and the difficulties of trying both to campaign for them and at the same time support them through a time when their school, their teachers and they, themselves, are being rubbished by Education Leeds in spite of a great Ofsted report just a few months ago.

The public meeting will be quite and event. The staff and students are working really hard to make parents and local people feel welcome. They have produced an excellent DVD with pupils which is going to be shown at the meeting and are going to be offering refreshments, displays about the school, and music from the Silver Steel Sparrows so getting there early is a must.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Bringing communities together

I'm really beginning to meet people now and so many are interested in my campaign; perhaps the time really is ripe for someone to stand apart from the point scoring of party politics, someone who knows the community and comes from the community and is prepared to work directly for the community instead of bowing to central government policy.

I know I won't be able to do everything I want to do; budgets are real, laws limit the actions of the council, and some people's needs can conflict with those of people elsewhere in the ward, or even just around the corner - but I am determined to work towards building our communities and making our ward a better place to live. I want to stand up for this community and be counted and I want my children to be proud of the community they have grown up in.

Today I spent time in several different parts of the ward, mostly delivering leaflets, and I was noticing how many homes have security gates and fences, there was one row, obviously all owned by the same landlord, that just made me think of a prison.
We should not need to be so frightened in our own homes that we feel we have to barricade ourselves in, yet it is the same all over the city.

How do we make our streets safer and our local areas feel more comfortable?
I don't think it's just about preventing crime and getting police and community officers out there, I think it is also about supporting and working with people to build communities where residents know and trust each other again.

In October I went to the Little London Lantern Festival and it was great to see how many people came out to join the procession.
It has been held for the last two years and this year was 10 times the size as last year.
This is one of the ways our schools support their communities and I'm hoping that the Head Teacher, Jill Wood, will continue to expand the festival and follow through her plan to involve more and more of the local schools. I would love to see processions through every part of the ward meeting on Woodhouse Moor, starting at the local schools and community centres with the steel pans from City of Leeds School and choirs and other musical groups from the primary schools. Perhaps the community choir working with Opera North at Little London and supported by pupils from City of Leeds School could be part of the festival too, bringing together young and old across Little London, Hyde Park and Woodhouse.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Little London Community Centre

I went with Ted to visit the Little London Community Centre this morning. There were just a few people in and it was really peaceful and welcoming.
I'm told lunch time on Wednesdays is a different story though - they do a healthy lunch that is very popular. Unfortunately we didn't have time to stay that long, maybe I'll try it out next week and take the opportunity to talk to more of the local residents.

The manager of the centre was very helpful but also concerned about the new centre being built. She didn't know when it would be happening or whether there will be a time between the closure of the current centre and the opening of the new one.
This centre provides a lot of services for local people and is obviously popular and well used, it would be a great shame to have to have a break in that and very disruptive for the community. I think the community needs continuity of this provision throughout the building period which will be disruptive enough without losing such a valuable resource even for a short time.

We got lots of information and left some leaflets before heading round to Space where we had a chat about the area with the receptionist who took some leaflets to deliver to other centres.

We have about an inch of snow here now and leafleting is very cold work.
I'm enjoying it though, especially now I've found a pair of fingerless gloves - not only do they keep your hands warm, the letter boxes don't bite quite so hard!

From tomorrow we'll be out in the daytime more which is much better because people are more willing to stop and chat.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Out in the snow

It snowed tonight and the paths were lethal but we were still out leafleting.

At one house the door was open. We handed over a leaflet and briefly introduced ourselves, then as we turned to leave the man called into the house, "Have you filled in that form yet?"
And we knew one more family had got the message about City of Leeds and is going to return the consultation form.

Monday, 1 February 2010

We need more green space

I spent a lot of today colouring in maps of the ward ready for delivering our leaflets.
It is incredible just how many people live in such a small area of the city; blocks of flats with 300-400 residents, acres of back-to-backs. Apparently over 22,000 people live in the ward.

It's no wonder we don't have enough green space to go around; we are supposed to have an additional 40,846 sq metres to meet the School Premises Regulations 1999 alone, and that is before Education Leeds expands the primary schools in the area which will obviously mean using playgrounds and fields for the modular classrooms they intend to build.

I really do think we need to buy as much of the land left by the Leeds Girls High School as we can and I think we need improve a lot of the green areas we already have. I hope that the refurbishments in Little London are going to include efforts to make the surrounding grass areas more creative and attractive for people to use.