You see there’s a family feud playing out on our streets. I don’t know the full facts, but one the more persistent and plausible rumours is that an Asian businessman has died and his sons are falling out over the will, or rather the inheritance. It’s a cross between the Sopranos and a primary school playground and its been going on for the last year.
First of all there was a spate of car fires. As all the cars were owned by Asian families, the fear was that these might be racist attacks. The Police reassured the community that they had evidence that the perpetrators were Asian too. I’m not sure how much more reassuring it is that your car’s been torched by someone who doesn’t hate you because of the colour of your skin, but I suppose it’s something.
The attacks have carried on and the Police have kept reassuring the community. ‘It’s a family feud, if you’re not involved then no one is going to attack you.’ I have to say I was pretty reassured, certainly to start with. The trouble is the longer the attacks go on the more likely someone will hit the wrong car or the wrong house or someone will inadvertently get in the way. If it carries on someone’s going to get hurt.
Apart from the pathetic machismo of the situation – you guys are going to have to talk, you can’t fight your way to an agreement – there’s something more precious than cars or houses that’s getting damaged here.
I’ve spent the last fifteen years working, sometimes paid, sometimes voluntary, to improve the reputation of Beeston. Whether it’s been about improving the housing and environment, schools or cultural life, it’s always been about making things better in the neighbourhood and demonstrating the areas strengths to the outside world.
For example when we converted Hillside to a meeting venue I wanted organisations to come and spend their money in Beeston on room hire, but I also wanted the people at the meeting to come to Beeston (perhaps for the first time), have a good experience and discover it’s a safe and friendly community.
We started this website to counter the negative image that all parts of South Leeds suffer from. The mainstream media only seemed to come here to report on crimes and tragedies. Readers who don’t know the area assume that’s all that happens here, missing all the wonderful positive stuff that goes on here everyday.
Of course it’s not just me, lots of people have put a tremendous effort in. Building, or rebuilding a reputation takes a lot of work and a long time. Damaging a reputation is easy-peasy as these numbskulls are proving.
Beeston is back on the front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post with talk of shootings and photos of armed police on the streets.
There is an insidious damage to community pride. I think I’ve said this before, but for me the regeneration of Beeston started with Beeston In Bloom. It wasn’t that hanging baskets were going to tackle health and employment issues, but it showed that at least some residents cared about their neighbourhood. If you want to tackle litter and recycling, if you want people to feel good about themselves and raise their aspirations they need to have pride in their community.
If you talk down the area you aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any favours. And if you’re involved in this feud – please just stop, you are doing more damage than you can possibly imagine.
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.