Leeds city council isn’t helping non-smokers

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A Freedom of Information request has revealed that Leeds City Council prosecuted four people in the two months to November 2013, for breach of the smoking ban. The information revealed that those found to be breaking ban were fined on average £500 for each offence.

The ban has previously been the subject of controversy from critics for its tough approach on smokers, and has been blamed for the failure of many small pubs and restaurants since it was implemented in 2006. 

Mark Dolman, speaking on behalf of the council, commented: “More of a deterrent has been the costs awarded against the defendant which in one case was £5,000. Since the legislation was enacted we have taken four prosecutions all successful against owners of premises failing to stop someone smoking in a public place.”

The figures have come to light as the city council has launched another scheme to help businesses comply with the ban, taking a hardline against the city’s shisha bars. 

Council spokeswoman Rachael McCormack said: “The issue of shisha bars in the city has recently been raised, and the team is carrying out work with these businesses, this includes an advisory and compliance visit to the business.

A business can contact us, and we will offer advice and support to assist them in complying with the legislation. Where a complaint of smoking in a smoke free place is received, we will investigate and offer advice and assistance.”

The news comes as central government have agreed to go ahead with legislation to standardise packaging for all tobacco products, legislation that is supported by 62% by voters, according to a YouGov poll conducted in March 2013. 

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the UK’s leading charity campaigning for a change in smoking legislation. Hazel Cheeseman works for the charity and commented: “We’re really welcome of the government legislation to bring in plain packaging. It’s good news for local tobacco control, preventing young people from taking up smoking and we hope it will help local councils implement further anti-smoking legislation.” 

Europe’s best hostels – an expert’s guide

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So, you’ve got this far into ReIssues ultimate travel guide. We’ve got you on the edge of packing your suitcase, telling your boss to forget about tomorrow’s meeting, and booking a flight out to the continent? Good. Finding the perfect place to stay is all part of the knack. Choose the wrong hostel and you’re already off on the wrong foot. ReIssue recommends;

Czech Inn, Prague

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Aptly named and just on the edge of the former Eastern Bloc provincial capital, the Czech Inn is as cheap as they come.

As low as £12 for four nights, it’s a revolution for backpacking travel. The breakfast is to die for, and you get to feel like a real local taking the tram to and from the city. Part of the charm of this hostel is the bathrooms, giving you a real feel of ultra-modern design – rainforest showers and sleek glass doors to boot.

The hostel has won awards for its design, and has received excellent ratings on hostelworld. com. Well deserved, the staff are friendly, the beer good and the location excellent

Prices start from around £3 a night, breakfast isn’t included, but we’d recommend it. http://www.czech-inn.com/

St. Christophers Hostel, Berlin

Located in the city’s former Eastern section, it is clear to see the Soviet influence in these parts. St Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, so rest assured you’ll sleep well at this hostel. The hostel offers beds in rooms from cosy doubles to huge 16 bed dorms – perfect

for the insomniacs out there. The lively bar is the perfect setting for the start to a night on the town. Berlin is a revelers paradise island, Alexanderplatz being the palm tree of the proverbial island. Weekend (which is actually open 7 nights a week) is just around the corner, probably the only club in the world on the 7th floor above a motorway. 

Transport wise the hostel is located less than 10 steps from a metro station, which will take you all over the city in a matter of minutes. St. Christopher’s is part of a larger chain of hostels, taking in locations all over Europe, but we’d say this is the best one, for value, socializing and comfort.

Prices start from £15 a bed, but worth every penny. http://www.st-christophers.co.uk

Maverick Hostel, Budapest

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Palatial. No, really. Set in an old Hungarian palace this has to be our favourite place to stay. The hostel has a mix of dorms (best for solo travelers) or private rooms if you’re in a group. It’s right next to a metro stop that will take you everywhere in the city in a matter of minutes, including any of the thermal spas of which Budapest is famous for. With over 100 to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Food wise, there are great restaurants around the corner on Vaci Ucta, dishing up local cuisine, everything from Goulash to Goose. If you’re going on the cheap then the communal kitchen is a great place to meet fellow travelers and cook up a feast, the shared food drawer is helpful for when you find you’re fresh out of ginger powder, too. Prices start from as low as £9 a night, but book early, word has got around about this treat making getting a bed last-minute a bit of a challenge!

http://www.maverickhostel.com

+36 1 2673166

Europe on a shoestring – an expert’s guide

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Packages holidays are a thing of the past, it’s all about going it alone. We’ve been thinking of some of our top places to visit in 2014, some off the traditional tourist track, punctuated with some staple backpacker gems.

Budapest, capital of Hungary has got it going on. Forget Ibiza, Malia is off the list, even Kavos can go in the trash, it’s all about this Eastern European delight. 50 years of Soviet oppression has sent the Hungarians wild. By day the city is the eastern block’s centre of culture, by night it’s an insomniac’s paradise.

The days of battle in Hungary may long be over, but the city has kept some its dented charm, in the form of the ruins bars. Imagine a courtyard open to the elements, a tough door policy, cheap beers and ear shattering bass, until 7am, every night of the week. Instant, Szimpla and Fogas Ház, to name but a few, host some of the best nights this side of the Rhine, where dilapidation of the buildings may be cool, but the crowd are very much more refined.

The city boasts over 100 museums and galleries, over 40 theatres and the oldest subway line on the continent. Take a trip down the Danube, it boasts architecture that’d fans of South Bank would be proud of, whilst Andrássy út is a boulevard of high-end boutiques and international fashion houses. Summer sees the appearance of Sziget, a week-long festival come party come ravers dream, attracting acts from around the globe, headliners in 2013 included Netsky, Franz Ferdinandand Chase and Status. It is safe to say Budapest holds a special place in our hearts.

Tear down those barriers and head to Berlin, Western Europe’s nightlife capital. Saturday night was the crown jewels then Berlin would be the Tower of London.

Albeit a bit more pricey than further east, Berliners don’t wait until the weekend to get their gladrags on, it’s not unusual to be heading out for breakfast and rubbing shoulders with revelers still going from the night, or even the weekend, before.

However, it isn’t all house music and cheap beer, Berlin has a more serious side. The city serves as a living museum to the times of the Nazi-party, when Hilter ran the roost. Evidence of the wall is fading, you won’t find any monuments to the dictator, but the city is still very much aware of its past.

Our favourites for reflection include the Jewish memorial, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the death place of over 100,000 people in WW2, and the site of the burning books in May 1933 at Babelplatz. If you’re thinking of doing Berlin on the cheap check out the St. Christopher’s Hostel in Mitte, the area is a bit soviet, complete with an echoing horn opposite the entrance, but the chilled out atmosphere and young crowd make this refueling stop the ideal weekend resting place.

Prague is a bit like York, just with better breweries and an incomprehensible language. Atraditional stop-gap for stag parties the Czech capital has a rep for being a great place for a night out. It lives upto expectations, with Eastern Europe’s biggest nightclub in the city boasting whole 5 floors of lager induced cheesy pop – yeah, it’s a bit crap really.

If the hangover allows it’s well worth taking a trip up to the majestic castle first established in the ninth century. The elevated structure gives magnificent views across the city, and is a fairy-tale setting for a picnic. The castle complex is huge, one of the largest in Europe, so be prepared for the long-haul on this one.

Our favourite parts of Prague are Bakeshop on Kozí (best brownies in the Czech Republic, don’t just take our world for it!) Náměstí Míru is also well-worth a visit, if only to while away the hours listening to the locals dab a hand at the outdoor piano. For ultimate cheese check out the gingerbread museum in the old town, it is surprising how long you can spend looking at load of biscuits. For what Prague lacks in style it makes up for in architecture, and a bloody good pint…

Last, but by no means least, Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, and the best place to feel like you’re being watched by the mafia (you probably are). Brat’s a strange place; it’s the capital city that didn’t really exist until, they re-built a former castle out of concrete on the top of a hill in 1956. The structure is made out of breeze blocks, and is a massive anti-climax after the mammoth walk up from the city, the views make up for it though, proof is in our photo above.

Bratislava is grimy, a bit risky, but hands down fun. We like to be up front here at Reissue, and to be honest, Bratislava doesn’t have an awful lot going for it, think Middlesbrough with a castle. But we love it for its San Andrea’s- esque graffiti, scary looking locals and slightly apathetic (read; crap) tourist attractions. It has been said that the best thing about Bratislava is the good transport connections to Budapest, Prague and Berlin.

Meeting the Leeds’ grandfather of antiques

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On a showery Tuesday afternoon we took a trip to Leeds’ most successful vintage shop, Retro Boutique. The emporium of ‘20th century antiques’ has been trading for the past quarter of a century, making it a bit of a modern relic itself. 

It’s the kind of place you can spend hours wandering around between the lamps, tables and wooden suitcases looking for that perfect embellishment for the house. The exposed brickwork gives the shop a cosy, relaxed feel; the sort of place you’d be happy to spend an afternoon pottering between the relics and artefacts. 

Taking a seat with Richard Ray, the owner of the shop, over a hot cuppa’ to have a chat about what it means to be in the business of trading the old for gold. We sat down at an old French table, drank from china cups, with Bowie playing in the background. It was the kind of setting you’d expect to find in a period novel, not a modern day antique shop on the edge of one of the UK’s most thriving cities.

I asked him, why do you deal in antiques? What is it that does it for you? He told me; “For me, it’s about better quality. The items you can buy here are things that have been, and will be around for a long time. As people are seeing more of a pinch in their finances then they are reassessing what items to furnish there homes with, and that is where we come in.”

In the building, a rustic stone built establishment theres a collection of relics from across the ages. Richard told me “All the stuff in here is chosen by different people, so we have a real collection. I think it would be hard for me to choose a favourite piece.”

“One of the true pleasures of working in this kind of a place is that when I see something that I like I can take it home. After a bit when we get bored of it I can bring it back and I know it’ll fit nicely into the shop again.”

I asked him about how he felt about mass-produced furniture, like the kind you’d find in Ikea, and would he have it in his home. “Some of their stuff is okay, it’s all about taste though. I wouldn’t denounce Ikea, but I think you can get a lot of stuff that is much better quality, and for a better price too. A lot of people buy things from places like that as they’re pushed for cash, but want decent furniture for their homes. In the long run though it’s false economy. I’d much prefer to invest in something that is time-tested.”

Furnishing a home in this from past is now more in-vogue more than ever, Leeds’ most prestigious residential development, Crispin Lofts, furnished all of their high-spec flats in retro-esque furniture. 

I asked Richard about what does the future hold for the old, he comment; “I think we’ll see a real resurgence of modern antiques in the home, as people are having to find better value for money and it is becoming more fashionable to have retro in your home.”

You can find Retro Boutique at Hyde Park Corner in Leeds, perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon. 

Changes to parking fees in city centre cause worry amongst city traders

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New city centre parking charges have put pressure on the local economy, according to local retailers. 

Leeds city council have extended parking charges to 10pm, seven days a week, meaning that shoppers now have to pay to park in the city for four hours more than previously. 

At a time when small businesses are struggling under the pressure of the recession, many retailers have complained about the impact of new regulations that are affecting their businesses. One market trader, operating in Kirkgate Market, said that he had seen a reduction in trade of around 15% over the Christmas period, compared the same quarter last year.

Anthony Blackburn, the entrepreneur behind Handpicked hall, the regeneration project that has seen the formerly neglected Grand Arcade has been one of the most vocal campaigners hoping the convince the council to do away with the parking charges. 

He said: “I’ve spoken our customers, and they’re being put off by the new charges. Ultimately it will drive people away from the city.”

The charges mean that shoppers, residents and anyone hoping to enjoy the city in the evening will be forced to pay £4 to park on the streets for more than four hours. The new charges are predicted to raise £400,000 a year for the council budget, which is currently having to make cuts to the tune of £130 million. 

Blackburn commented; “It is a real concern for many of our traders. The new regulations mean that we are having to park illegally to be able to unload stock that means our shops can thrive. The council seem to be more heavily weighted toward big business. They’ve shown great support for the Trinity development, and they have just given the go ahead for Hammerson to start work for Victoria Quarters development. 

“In my opinion the city council have got it all wrong. Whilst central government is promoting schemes to help the our town centres thrive, local government is doing the exact opposite. The policy that stops us from being able to operate effectively doesn’t apply to Briggate, where a lot of the big brands are. They can park an articulated lorry on the pedestrianised street at almost any time, we have to unload before 9am or risk fines.”

Research conducted by the council prior to the implementation of the new parking charges showed that 66% of people polled did not agree with the policy, in addition to this 930 visitors to the city signed a petition against the council. 

A city council spokesman defended the policy, stating: “We do understand that charging for something that was previously free was never going to be popular, but we were faced with the finding a delicate balance between managing the increasing demand for parking alongside the need to keep traffic and the economy moving and encouraging people to make the most of public transport.

“It is important to remember the charges are very modest and competitive – only £1 for the first four hours on a Sunday (that’s 25p an hour) and £2 on weekday evenings. 

“Introducing a reasonable charge for parking actually allows a steady supply and turnover of parking spaces which we feel will have benefits for businesses because more people will be able to access city centre facilities. In fact these charges address the issue that traders have previously raised with us – that there is insufficient supply of long-term spaces on a Sunday.”

Hilary Benn, MP for the city centre ward of Leeds said: “Councils are under great financial pressure up and down the country  – because the Government has imposed the biggest cuts in funding on local government – and parking charges are going up in many places. However, I think we need to monitor the impact and see whether it has an effect on the number of people coming into the city centre, but at the moment it is too early to tell.”

However, local businesses have said that the charges are “confusing and a deterrent to shoppers.” Anthony Blackburn commented: “in other region cities the implementation of parking policy is a lot more friendly, Skipton for instance employs a team of people who are happy go give guidance about the town, instead of hitting motorists with excessive charges.”

The charges come at a time when central government are exploring plans to change how local councils can charge and prosecute motorists for flouting the parking restrictions. Many consumers are hoping for lesser charges, and more lenience if they go over their allotted time in a space, however these policy changes are only currently plans, and to have any real drive will take considerable time. 

Photo courtesy of the Guardian

A new face for Leeds retail

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The Merrion centre, based on the edge of the city centre, is undergoing a revival. A multimillion pound project has seen the centre undergo a facelift, adding a new facade to compliment the recently completed arena. 

The arena quarter shopping centre, which has anchor chains O2, Home Bargains and Morrisons opened its doors in 1964, and has seen many changes since then. Originally the development housed a cinema, which is now sealed off from the public, but still has it’s original features. 

‘The new front’ as the development is being branded will see, upon completion later this year, nine newly renovated units being opened, in a bid to help the centre further thrive from visitors to the 13,500 capacity venue located less than a minute walk away. The arena quarter of the city is currently seeing a renaissance, with more brands entering into developments in the area. Although all the units are not currently let, Costa coffee has recently opened its second store in the centre, alongside cocktail bar Cosmo and Pure Gym as new anchor tenants. The new facade has a worker catchment of 70, 471 people within a 750 metre radius, it is hoped that this will bring an additional spend of £14.1 million per year for the centre.

Town Centre Securities, who own the centre, were unavailable for individual comment, but Helen Green, Associate Director for Town Centre Securities said in a press release that: “We’ve been making improvements to the Merrion Centre for several years now. As part of the Arena Quarter redevelopment, we have always been committed to regenerating this part of the centre. The delivery of Pure Gym is a crucial first step in our Arena regeneration plans. TCS, GMI Construction and Pure Gym are all well-established Yorkshire companies and so it is particularly exciting that we have come together to work in partnership on one of the most exciting and important projects in the Merrion Centre’s history.”

The redevelopment comes as the centre published footfall results showing that there was a overall footfall of 10.6 million visitors in 2013, 47,714 of which visited on one day in December. The new front is hoped to increase the total annual spend in the centre to £56.2 million per year, and attract new business to the development on the back of the rejuvenation of the arena quarter. 

How do you solve a problem like Leeds’ empty homes?

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7,000 homes in Leeds are empty, and have been for more than six months. With the council housing list currently standing at well over 6 months for some families, landlords are being challenged to make improvements to their properties, turning a house into a home. 

So great is the problem that a charity has been set up to tackle it head on, with support from the local council. ‘Leeds Empties’ are working in the city to improve properties, by giving landlords of vacant properties advice and support to help them get their houses tenanted, and get them back into the property market. The main focus of the improvements have taken place in south Leeds, in and around the areas of Holbeck and Beeston, where rows of terraced housing are often left vacant, and can become vandalised.

Gill Coupland, who works with landlords as part of the Leeds Empties project, explained at a meeting as part of Leeds Business Week that the idea behind the project was to “encourage investment, whilst getting young people into skill based training, in an area which scored badly on deprivation according to a recent council report, it is vital to have training opportunities in projects such as this.”

So far over 70 properties have been brought back into use, with more planned. Leeds Empties have gained support of local tradesmen and estate agents to help back up their plan of filling vacant homes. So far discounted supplies on essentials such as kitchens and bathrooms have been offered, and tradesmen working at cheaper prices to get the work done. 

A real success story has been a property in the popular student area of Hyde Park, which had lain empty for more than four years. With new fixtures and fittings, and a planned marketing strategy, the property let within four weeks with agent LetLeeds. 

Coupland commented that sometimes “the owners are more of challenge to get the work done, the property is the easy bit.” 

It is hoped that with increased investment in the outer suburbs of south Leeds, through schemes such as the NGT trolleybus transport system, that the area will become a more desirable location for renters. Leeds empties hope to continue their work improving properties, despite the ongoing recession, bringing former homes back to life. 

The impact of Trinity Leeds – prosperity in the recession

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Changes in the retail street-scene of Leeds are afoot. Trinity Leeds, a £350million development was the only outlet of its scale to open in 2013, bucking the trend of slow redevelopment in the wake of the global recession. The one million square foot development will boost the city’s retail rankings, bring it to 4th in the CACI UK statistics, behind only London, Birmingham and Glasgow. Projected retail spending is set to be £1,931 million. The development has been hailed a success by retail bosses, welcoming its 12millionth visitor in the sixth months to October 2013.

The one million square foot development forms part of a the city council’s wish to make Leeds “the best city in the UK by 2030” as quoted from their plan for development over the next decade and beyond. With the groundwork of the Victoria Quarter development on the horizon, bringing further investment into the city from developer Hammerson, it begs the question of how limited is the success of Leeds?

The myth of limitless pocket of the consumer is one that has become a terrifying reality in the wake of the global recession. As shoppers are becoming more savvy, retail spending in the months leading up to October 2013 showed a dip of 0.7% across the UK. In addition to this inflation has risen to 2.2%, consumers have the same amount of money, but are having to spread it further.

Exponential growth which has been predicted by developers overlooks that the economy of the UK is still operating in ‘safe mode’, with many predicting a debt-fuelled recovery. Based on figures released by the Bank of England (BoE) in November 2013, in the run up to Christmas it is estimated there unsecured consumer debt was at nearly £900million, a 150% increase on the previous quarter. On the whole part BoE figures show that lending levels are well above the average figures for 2012, where common ground lending figure lay at £160m.

The phenomena of growth within the region, with redevelopment of the White Rose Centre, Wakefield Frenchgate and the first sods being dug for Bradford’s Westgate shows the retail power of West Yorkshire. Residency in the county is 2.2million, with 5.5 million people being within the defined catchment area of the Leeds city centre.

However, mass investment retail within the city hasn’t prevented a lack of retail confidence on the streets surrounding the glass domed Trinity development. Research has shown that there are some 28 empty units within a 10 minute walk of the six entrances to the centre. Consumers have been sluggish to expand their shopping trips to areas more than a few hundred steps from the high-end boutiques of Briggate and Vicar Lane.

Local retailers have had mixed reactions to the development, with opinions covering all sides of the spectrum. Many are sceptical that the success of large developments is beneficial for the whole community, and that is taking cash out of the pockets of local people.

A business owner, who asked to remain anonymous said: “In the past few years I’ve seen this area change a lot. There has been a lot of businesses close down, as people move away from Hyde Park and want to be closer to the centre. When we first opened up shop here there was a thriving community. We had a butcher and greengrocer and a lots of other independently owned stores, nowadays it has all changed.

“I wouldn’t blame it specifically on the large shopping developments, it’s just that people don’t have the time, or the inclination to shop locally anymore.”

Stuart Trevor runs Bolongaro Trevor, a boutique store in Thornton Arcade of the city centre. Trevor previously enjoyed success setting up the first All Saints store in Leeds, but now runs his own brand which has seen national recognition and success, including opening a branch on London’s infamous Carnaby Street. Trevor commented: “Trinity has been great for Leeds, it has brought real confidence to the city, and a lot more people are coming here than ever before.” 

On opening a store out of the city centre he said: “I’d consider it, I think a brand like ours would do well in the affluent areas of north Leeds. We’ve had real success in Leeds, and we hope to open a further 50 stores across the UK in the next 5 years.”

Whilst the 120 store centre be seen to have brought a small amount of economic bleakness to inner city suburbs, for the most part the investment in the city and success it has brought is something admired and appreciated by retailers small and large. Despite regeneration projects outside the inner ring road, consumers are still sticking to the city centre, whether that for convenience or the array of amenities the city centre brings. 

6 best free (or nearly so) things to do in Leeds

All posts, armley, armouries, blog, blogging, cheap, clarence dock, Comment, culture, family, free, fun, Leeds, rainy day

Living in such a commercial city can have its pit falls. Having to spend money at every opportunity looses its novelty after a while. But, it isn’t all shiny pennies and handing over 20’s. Leeds has plenty of free, or nearly so things to do. Hardly a definitive guide, more a few ideas, take at look at my guide to the best cheap days out in the city, and its enclaves. Everything is family friendly, and there is something for everyone.

Leeds Art Gallery
The Headrow
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS1www.leeds.gov.uk/artgallery0113 247 8256Leeds Art Gallery
The Headrow is the main throughfare for the city, and the home of Leeds art gallery, boasting some of the finest collections of art from across the past few centuries. Current collections include the work of Henry Moore, Jacob Kramer and Turner to name but a few.The gallery hosts photos large enough to walk into, never mind just hang on a wall, including a room of 19th century artwork, with the majority of it over 8 foot tall. With something to please everyone, and located so centrally, the gallery is one not to be missed.The gallery is adjacent to the majestic town hall, a gothic style building more than fitting for the seat of the local government. Architecture in this part of town is predominantly that of mid-Victorian era, think sandstone, bay windows and the even odd gargoyle keeping its gaze over the city.Totally free to get into, and even open on Sundays. Best to ring ahead though, as the opening hours do change, dependant on what is currently being shown.

 

Leeds to Liverpool Canal
Right through the city centre
LS10 to LS1Leeds Canal
As the summer evenings begin to give us more light in the evenings to enjoy, it only seems natural to get out and about. The Leeds to Liverpool canal is a engineering wonder, stretching a mere 127 miles from city centre to the North Sea, next to Merseyside on the west coast.The locks along the canal provide an interesting focal point for a walk, a few miles from the city is Bingley Five Rise locks. There are regular ancient hand carved milestones to help you keep track, abandoned mill buildings reminiscent of Orwellian dystopia, and plenty of green space to stop off for a picnic.Best enjoyed on a sunny day, walking from Leeds to Armley Mills is about 2 miles. The next destination in the guide!
Armley Mills
Canal Road
Armley
LS12 2QF 0113 263 7861Armley Mills
For just a few pounds (yes, apologies, I did say nearly free) Armley Mills is an informative afternoon out, perfect for history buffs. The museum houses example of textile machines and railway equipment.About a 40 minute walk from the city centre along the scenic canal, the museum tells the story of what life was like during the industrial revolution, and how it really was a kick start for the booming Leeds economy. Reportedly haunted, the Mills do ghost tours several times a year. The area boasts natural beauty, and walks for miles around in the surrounding fields and countryside.Next to the mills is a sunken barge, which in a former life transported goods up and down the canal. The warning sign for the boat is written upside down, and back to front – so working out what is there can be quite a challenge!Opening time vary, but generally it’s until 5pm, all through the week. Adult entry is £3.40, and half that for little ones. Students can get in for £1.80, and they even do a family ticket for £6.70.

 

Kirkstall Abbey
Abbey Rd
Kirkstall
Leeds,
LS5 3EH0113 230 5492
Kirkstall Abbey
The ruins of the Cistercian monastery are linked to those Fountains Abbey, and are said to be some of the most impressive in the country. The Abbey is grade one listed, putting it in the same league as the Royal palaces, and Houses of parliament.Set in a extensive country park, with ample grounds to stretch your legs, the Abbey’s walls show off an impressive view of what life was like in times gone by. The visitor information centre has recently had a £5.5 million refurb, and now includes interactive displays and activities.Again, the Abbey is set along the canal, making it the perfect venue to stop off for lunch on an afternoon stroll. There are good transport links too, it’s within walking distance of two railway stations, and next to a major national road (but still manages to stay peaceful!)Occasionally there are free guided tours of the Abbey, where experts can tell you all about the building and its history. Failing that there are plenty of information boards around the site to fill you in on everything about the abbey.

Entry is free, but there is a donation box in the museum if you’re feeling generous.

Royal Armouries
Clarence Dock
Leeds City Centre
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS10 1LT0113 220 1999 Royal Armouries
Leeds’ Royal Armouries boasts the most impressive collection of armour, both modern and ancient, in the UK.The extensive collection combines pieces from around the world, virtually guaranteed to have something to fascinate everyone. The atrium style building next to the Leeds Liverpool canal has walls clad in armour, giant elephant, dressed in traditional Chinese weaponry and an arena where jousting events are held.Located next to the river, just a stones throw from the city centre (handy for the shops!) the museum is at Clarence Dock. The area is currently going through a bit of a renaissance, with restaurants and bars appearing all the time.On the way back to town from here, take a stroll down the Calls, a cobbled street with a medieval church, next to the river – its almost like not being in a city at all.

Like with all national museums, entry is totally free!

Leeds Farmers Market
BriggateLeedsLeeds Briggate
Olives, cheese, cake and soap.What more could you want on a Sunday afternoon?Showcasing some of the best produce from around the region Leeds Farmers Market runs on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.Briggate is transformed from a thriving metropolis of boutiques and mega-stores into something more usually seen in a small market town surrounded by fields. Leeds may have grown, but it sure knows how to get back to its roots.

The market has some of the best food from around Yorkshire, alongside crafts and carvings. Not many other cities can offer Louis Vuitton and rustic rural charms with striding of one another.

 

Growing up poor

All posts, Awareness, blog, blogging, child poverty, Comment, culture, funding, government, Leeds, The media

The global recession is like the Robin Hood of modern times, except in reverse. It gives with one hand, and takes away with the other, almost exclusively from the poor.

Times are hard. Bankers aren’t getting as much in their bonuses, utility company profits have barely risen, and over two million children are continuing to grow up in poverty. It will probably come as no surprise that those worse affected live in inner city areas of some of the UK’s most affluent population centres. The financial imbalance is affecting as many as 42 percent of children in some localities, not only having a detrimental effect on their quality of life, but also their education, diet, and ultimately their future.

Lets put things into proportion. Tower Hamlets, spitting distance from the site of the 2012 Olympics in East London, was ‘awarded’ the status of the area with the most child poverty. This means that the average earnings in a household is 60 percent below the national average of £359 per week – meaning a family could be living on less than £600 per month, or just £150 per week. Nia on impossible for two adults and at least one child.

Tower Hamlets is less than 2 miles from the UK’s financial centre, rather nicely demonstrated by the map below, for those not so familiar with our capital. Canary Wharf is home to the FTSE 100 stock market, where the average monthly wage is virtually guaranteed to be over £2,000. For many this disparity seems wrong, if not unnatural.

The figures, released in February 2013, relate to information collated at the end of 2012. They show how up and down the country, almost without exception, there are areas where youngsters are living in less than desirable conditions.

Poverty has become a real problem, especially in inner city areas, such as this estate in Holbeck, Leeds.

It is virtually unavoidable to avoid the news of benefit cuts at the moment. Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, claims he could live on £53.00 per week. At first glance it doesn’t seem that hard. Look deeper and you’ll see the reality, one of hardship, and being financially ruined.

The month after  Thatcher died it seems ever more poignant that the pioneer of self-reliance in the UK lives on, through policy and statute, if not so much in the flesh. Many do prosper from adopting this doctrine into their lives, however, many more suffer. Granted, it is wrong to expect the state to provide everything, and many will fiercely defend this belief.

However, in the age of austerity, where government funding to support our nations poorest is being reviewed, and ultimately taken away, it seems even more wrong to expect them to not lend a hand. Especially since millionaires, Osbourne included, are being granted high tax cuts.

Homelessness is the ultimate outcome of extreme poverty. Having spent time working alongside charities in Leeds that work with the most disadvantaged, it is easy to see what they go through. However, the reality of being homeless can never be truly appreciated until a night has been spent on the streets, alone.

Scott, 26, a former factory worker from Leeds is a familar face around the streets of  the northern hub city. Along with his dog, a bull dog of affectionate temperament, he spends his days walking the streets, trying to scrape together enough to buy a reduced sandwich. Despite appearances, Scott is an intelligent guy, having spent a lot of time talking to him, admittedly after a night out, but also when on the way home from work of an evening he has become a face it seems strange not to see on a daily basis.

Scott said “There isn’t enough help for people who are in the worst situations, and it is getting so much harder to get off the street and back into work.”

He continued, “All I want is to get back into work, and having a decent job, or even a job. I don’t care what it is. Living on the streets is no life, I feel I have no future. But getting help is too hard, there are too many obstacles.”

And Scott couldn’t be more right. The impact of the drawstrings on the welfare state purse being pull tighter is affecting so many. Only last week a grandmother committed suicide, after loosing out on £20 a week in handouts, due to the “Bedroom Tax”. A bit of number crunching reveals thats 18% of children are growing up in poverty, thats 1 in 5 kids. Shocking for a apparently developed country.

The facts show the reality. Harsh changes, and the longest ever global recession is affecting people right across the board, from the young, to the old. Policies dreamt up by those in central London are affecting everyone. Everyone, excluding them.