Time to look beyond Beeston’s bad press

Beeston Hill resident Alison Neale has sent us this post…

Earlier this week I saw Jeremy M0rton’s blog post on South Leeds Life, ‘Hugh Grant, press intrusion and Beeston’, about the media reaction in Beeston following the 2005 London bombs… This is my response:

I didn’t live here then. In fact, I lived in London and was in my office around the corner when the bus bomb exploded. Five years later, my partner and I were ready to make the long-planned move to Leeds. After days of house-hunting, we unexpectedly fell in love with a house on Beeston Hill. We hmm-ed and hah-ed all weekend, back down south, trawling the internet for information about the area. Having read jeremym0rton’s words, I can more clearly understand now why all we could find were articles about the ‘Beeston Bomber’.

We chose to ignore both this biased online view and the advice of our surveyor, who actually asked if we knew that ‘the bomber’ had lived only a few streets away and advised us not to move here for that reason! What we had seen of the area while visiting looked positive and, after all, one lunatic does not a neighbourhood make.

So in December 2010, amid freezing, snowy weather, we moved in. Since then, we have been asked repeatedly, why Beeston?

Why? Because its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages: a 20-minute walk or eight-minute cycle ride into town; easy access to the motorway, train station and airport for my other half, who works all over the country; row upon row of delightful Victorian terraces at affordable prices; local shops, including a post office – unheard of in many southern towns now; and (shock, horror) neighbours who say hello when you pass them, which I found rather disconcerting when we first arrived.

Since moving here, I have also seen just how many groups and individuals are doing their best to help local residents and improve the area in multiple ways, from aesthetics (e.g. Friends of Cross Flatts Park, Beeston in Bloom), and health (Hamara, Health for All), to society (the residents’ groups, Tiger 11), not to mention the various religious groups and the work being done by the Council and businesses.

I can see the problems: there is more racism than I expected, but that doesn’t seem to be south Leeds-specific and at least there’s a lovely diversity of people here; the streets of closed-up houses rather encourage anti-social behaviour, but we can hope that this will change when the PFI regeneration gets underway early next year. Most of all, though, it seems to be down to reputation: people think that crime is high here, yet don’t actually check the figures, which tell a different story.

So my point is this – and I’m grateful if you’ve read this far – I think that people are given too much credit for a long memory.

Positive press will soon overcome a former, more negative reputation, and there is plenty going on here to achieve that. Let those evil journalists (and not all are evil, of course) work for us, rather than against us.

However, to succeed we need all to work together to sort out the problems in Beeston, and elsewhere. If you have complaints, say something (the links on this website will show you how). Indifference and lethargy help no one. 

Jeremy expressed the hope at the end of his article that South Leeds Life would make a difference: I think it already has. It has given us all a voice. Now we just need to use it.