In October 2011, thirty people joined us on the “Leeds Turned Upside Down” guided walk. They were taken on a secret path above the city from which we could look down onto the key sites in the history of Leeds. We talked about history but we were also interested in the present and the future. We talked about the ‘undead’ plans the big developers and their compliant council have for our city.
One area we visited is now called ‘Holbeck Urban Village’. Interestingly it’s a development plan that comes with its own historical narrative, in which the story of Leeds is reduced to entrepreneurs, businessmen and gentlemen reformers. In many ways our walk is an antidote to that ‘official’ history. The ordinary people of Leeds are written out of the official story, mere pawns, to be housed here or sent to work there. And they’d like to keep us as pawns in their future Leeds.
But that Leeds is never going to happen, it’s been killed by the economic crisis. We now need something fundamentally different but it’s not going to come from the economic and political elite..
Luckily the real history of Leeds has many stories of ordinary loiners organising themselves, taking action and bending the city to their needs. On our walk we saw how, again and again, people had to step up and struggle for control over their lives, whether struggling for the vote, for the 8 hour day, or just for some dignity. It seemed to us walkers that we are long overdue a turn of our own.