7/7 ten years on: Mending community tensions

Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of 7/7, the London bombings. South Leeds Life has spoken to a range of local figures about those events, their aftermath and the decade since. Rev Lindsey Pearson is the Vicar of Beeston, she introduces the article which was first published in January 2015.

“The article below was written by Jeremy Morton following a conversation around the beginning of this year. A few months on I still stand by what I said but I would express some things a little differently.

“The suggestion of a South African -style Truth and Reconciliation Process is not something I would now suggest. My comments about fears came from things people had said to me, but I do believe it is possible for us all to rise above this. There is so much that is good that happens in Leeds 11.”


Rev Lindsey PearsonRev Lindsey Pearson is the Vicar of Beeston. Having lived on Dewsbury Road in the 1990s she knew the area a little, but was working for Christian Aid by 2005. She remembers that Leeds thought of itself as a city with good relations between the different faiths and more diverse and mixed city than, say, Bradford.

“I remember the contrasts of those few weeks. I had just been chartering trains to the huge Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh which was such a positive experience with different faiths coming together in a common cause. Then it was announced that London would host the Olympics and the next day the bombings. It was so shocking to discover a few days later that Leeds was connected to it.”

“The media frenzy was most destructive. It didn’t feel fair what was being said about us. We knew that wasn’t where most people in Leeds or in Beeston were.”

Ten years on and fears about Muslims still surface, for example in the debate around the Aspiring Communities project.

“Some people feel let down or betrayed. They welcomed Muslim people in the community, chatted in the shops and then some of them turned out to be bombers. That’s very difficult. I think we need something like a Truth and Reconciliation process as they did in South Africa and Rwanda. People came through those horrors and now live and work together again.

“If we don’t rise above this then we’ve failed for ourselves and future generations.”

She points out that Beeston is still changing, for example there is now a large Eastern European population.

“We need to be better at engaging with new people coming into our community. We have to ask ourselves: What sort of society do we want to live in and what responsibility do we take to make that happen?”

Lindsey went on to talk about the economy. It’s said to be improving, but she’s not sure it is in Beeston. The cuts agenda is damaging and it is “ridiculous” that people work for less than a living wage. She doesn’t apologise for raising these issues,

“You can’t avoid the wider political questions, it does impact on how you feel towards your neighbour.”

2 Replies to “7/7 ten years on: Mending community tensions”

  1. Hi all

    I have been following many a debate and update quietly hoping and praying people will find common ground to come together. Looking past the barriers of skin colour, faith and other social and economical backgrounds. But today I am sorry to say the silence has been broken due to a group of individuals who have misrepresented and not told the whole truth about how they really feel about Muslims and Islam. The group so called Save Our Beeston who are against the Ice Pak site application, what are you really opposing against..? Is it really on the grounds off traffic, air pollution? And noise? Or is it something else entirely?

    I attended the public consultation evening at St Mary`s. The atmosphere in the room was not one of a united community fighting a injustice been done upon them. But one rather of us verses them. The white community verses the Asian Muslim community. The 3 councillors are all witness to this. Angela, Adam and Asghar. Who ever seemed to agree with the the organisers Aspiring Communities were shunned and told to move and go sit with “THEM” even Asghar a councillor who lives locally was told to move because of the colour of his skin. Angela and Adam were a witness to this. At the start of the meeting a elderly gentleman tried throwing his shoe at one of the opening speakers and was held back. Sean Sturman one of the main speakers just bullied and barraged his views across the meeting not even giving consideration for others to ask or voice the opinions. I understand people are scared and fear full especially with Islam and how it is being portrayed in the media. But not all Muslims are like that. It is a very small minority to which the majority have no affilliation.

    Don’t use your fear or prejudices as an scapegoat to railroad this wonderful community provision out of the window. After attending that meeting I really don’t understand how the local councillors are supporters of S.O.B.

    I applaud individuals such as Lindsey, Jeremy, Ed and the organiser of the charity who continuously work hard through this struggle to unite the people and breakdown these barriers and stereotypes to make this community a better safer place to live in.

    I would love a private organisation investing millions into my community, creating jobs, a place that the entire community can use for social and recreational purposes, dedicated sports facilities for young, old and people with learning disabilities. The community is crying out for spaces that our children and elderly can use. A place we can call our own.

  2. Hi Muhammad,

    I have read your response to the article, and feel that you are being exceptionally unfair to the people of Beeston, who have objected to this application (in it’s three forms) in large numbers.

    Your opening statement points out that you had hoped that the people of Beeston would come together regardless of skin colour – I’d actually say that in many instances you have been proved right, the Beeston festival, which I was unfortunately not able to attend due to work commitments, was clearly a success, naming just one example, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, people live together happily, use each other’s businesses and such like.

    However, trying to use racial grounds to attempt to de-rail/undermine a large number of objections to a planning application is wrong, and unfair.

    There are plenty of legitimate reasons why this application should not proceed. The site in question is located within a densely populated residential area, in close proximity to three primary schools, and the road upon which it sits is used during both the school run and as a shortcut to the M621 in both directions.

    Constructing a new facility that would bring additional traffic to the area is counter productive, and when people already feel that the area is overused by vehicles, they have a right to be concerned, and have their views listened to.

    Additionally, as someone with experience in the construction industry, I don’t feel the development can be completed without significant disruption to the local area – there would be an extensive demolition operation, including the removal of a large quantity of asbestos sheeting, and following that, a large scale excavation programme bringing added noise and air pollution, and the need for wagons to be using Barkly Road and the surrounding area for large parts of the day, for a significant period of time – that’s before a single brick has been laid.

    Leaving the ‘build-ability’ issue aside, Beeston has a significant shortage of affordable housing, primary school places and sheltered housing for our elderly and disabled populations. This particular site would be an ideal location for some low density housing and perhaps an extension to the school, to satisfy at least two of those three needs.

    Additionally, many people I have spoken to in the area feel that they have been mislead by Aspiring Communities with regard to their intention for the site. Is it a mosque, a community centre or the national HQ for the Sufi brand of Islam? Answers on a post card please.

    As for the meeting at St Mary’s Church back in September, I was also in attendance and acknowledge that at times it was a tense affair, several people in the audience, both in favour and against the proposals might reflect on their behaviour that night and wish they had acted differently, perhaps not.

    It didn’t help that the meeting wasn’t chaired by anybody, and there wasn’t a particularly rigid agenda to be followed. The main thing I recall was the representative from AC who did most of the talking possessed a very short temper and didn’t seem particularly willing to engage with anybody, the sort of attitude that feeds and gives rise to intolerance. Agree with me or else, you might say, was his way.

    And of course we had the plant in the audience, who at the point when the AC representatives were on the back foot, decided to play the race card, a classic tactic used to stifle free speech and debate, primarily because ordinary, decent people do not like to be painted as being racist, for good reason of course.

    As for the two councillors in attendance (David was strangely absent…) and their objection to the proposal, I must disagree with you that they support the Save Our Beeston group. The objections are primarily based upon the time taken by AC to answer to queries raised by the planners, rather than objecting to the proposal on other grounds.

    The job of a councillor is to answer to the wishes of their voters – Adam Ogilvie has previously been quoted as telling one resident that he wasn’t allowed by the party to voice an objection, that his hands were tied. Then all of a sudden, opposition grew and he was basically forced to present himself to a meeting six weeks before the election and come on board.

    Now, I have criticised all three councillors on several occasions in the past 12 months, but it must be said that Adam has stepped up to the plate and has started to get things done, credit to him for doing so, and credit to the residents for holding him to account. The same is true for Angela to a lesser extent, whilst David as usual has continued to collect his pay and done nothing to justify why he even has a position on the council.

    I acknowledge the need for additional facilities in Beeston and South Leeds as a whole, caused partially by the policies of the Labour led council, closing our facilities – South Leeds leisure centre, Middleton golf course and swimming pool, however this particular location is the wrong one for a development of this nature – and would be irrespective of the skin colour or religion of those intending to proceed with it.

    I call on the decision makers at the council to issue a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ verdict on behalf of the people of Beeston, and for AC to find a more suitable location for their proposals, either in Beeston or elsewhere in the city.

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