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.
Hanif Malik is the Chief Executive of the Hamara Centre reflects that it was a very traumatic and stressful time. The initial response when it became clear the bombers were linked to Beeston was one of shock. Hamara is a grass roots organisation, very engaged in the community, but didn’t know anyone was contemplating such an act.
“Beeston is an ordinary inner city locality. We were focussed on regeneration, jobs and housing.”
He points the the major SRB4 regeneration scheme which focussed on community development, physical infrastructure crime and anti-social behaviour. It didn’t deal with race relations or community cohesion, because this wasn’t seen to be a problem in the area.
Faith Together in Leeds 11, the organisation that built the Hamara Centre and Building Blocks nursery is a coalition of churches, mosques and community organisations. Hanif points out that it wasn’t formed because there was a problem with community cohesion. Just the opposite, in fact, the groups were already working together and trying to maximise the impact of regeneration funding.
“The community response was fantastic, people showed real solidarity. The legacy of that coming together is to stop long term damage to the community.”
He was surprised at how long it affected the organisation. There were investigations and the organisation was infiltrated by undercover reporters. They had to speak up for the community and co-operate with the authorities. This went on for three years.
“The sad aspect is that the locality will forever be associated with those tragic events.”
For over a year the Yorkshire Evening Post finished every story about Beeston with a paragraph reminding its readers that the London bombers came from Beeston. Eventually when they put this on an article about a youth football tournament, Hanif had had enough and went to see the editor.
He sees positives in the way third sector organisations came together in the aftermath, but worries that they didn’t build on it as much as they could have.
“Beeston Festival is absolutely great on the day, the whole community comes together. But we haven’t managed to bottle the formula to use for the rest of the year.”
Rather than get downbeat, Hanif points to the many projects still going on in the area, despite the recession. He points to the curry teas provided by Hamara to go out with Christmas meals delivered by the Ciaran Bingham Foundation Trust on Christmas Day.
“I’m concerned because Beeston and the whole of Leeds suffered reputational damage as a result of 7/7. So I think we need a city response to mark the tenth anniversary and show our empathy with the victims.”
A final thought? “I don’t trust the media anymore.”