2012 will be remembered in Britain as the Olympic year. Never mind Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins or Ellie Simmonds, on Monday 25th June the Olympic Torch came through South Leeds.
Thousands of people came out to see the torch make its way through Hunslet, up to South Leeds Stadium, then through Beeston to Elland Road. Among them were our network of community reporters. South Leeds Life covered the event with eight reporters along the route submitting stories, photos and video. It was our biggest day in terms of readers and demonstrated just what a community based news blog can do.
South Leeds had a number stories that developed throughout 2012. The greatest number of column inches were give to the titanic battle between Tesco and Asda to build a supermarket on Old Lane in Beeston. These “Store Wars” raged back and forth and the supermarkets’ PR departments went head to head, promoting petitions, sponsoring local community organisations and submitting their planning applications. And it’s not over yet! Of course we’ll be covering the outcome of this story in 2013 (and in 2014? and 2015? …).
Other big stories last year included proposals for Park & Ride scheme at Elland Road; the building of a new Police Headquarters, also on Elland Road; the Trolleybus scheme to will run from Stourton, through Hunslet to the city centre; and the future of the South Leeds Sports Centre.
The summer saw our communities coming together to celebrate at Belle Isle, Holbeck and Middleton Galas; Hunslet and Beeston Festivals and South Leeds Life reporters were on the ground to cover the events. We also covered the stalwart work carried out by the various community forums including TRAC, Beeston Community Forum, Middleton Community Group, Voice of Holbeck, Cross Ingrams Area Community Association and New Forest Village. We also covered Middleton Railway’s bicentennial celebrations.
We had some unusual stories that impressed. Christine Robinson-Perkins fascinating and moving article about her autistic daughter, Ewan Mitchell’s taste testing of Leeds Pork Pies and Bruce and Debs articles about the smallest arts space in Leeds: Basement Arts Project in Beeston.
2012 was only the second full year for South Leeds Life, but we made some big steps forward. We formed ourselves into a proper democratic community group; we redesigned the site, bringing new features such as our What’s On calendar; we started two regular features – Wednesday’s news round up from other South Leeds sites and Friday’s South of the River column. We didn’t win an award in 2012, but we were delighted to be shortlisted in the Blog North Awards.
Our proudest achievements have been the creation of the Community Reporters website and running our first Community Reporters course. One of the blog’s aims is to encourage more people in the area to write and make their voice heard on the issues that are important to them. The Community Reporters website gives you a simple step by step process to write your own news story or promote your event. The Community Reporters course has built on that, taught a few “tricks of the trade” and built up people’s confidence. It’s been great to see stories from Andy, Carole, Martyn, Steve and Tree and we’re looking forward to more posts from them. We will also be running more courses. One is planned to start in February for people living in Belle Isle and Middleton and we’ll be announcing a shorter, workshop based course running in the evenings.
It’s been impossible to cover everything South Leeds Life wrote about in 2012 – some 1,000 posts, but hopefully we’ve reminded you of some of the highlights of a momentous year. What were your favourite stories of 2012? and what would you like to see us cover in 2013? Please let us know by adding a comment below.