2015 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. 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.”