A successful children’s play event at a new Muslim-run community centre which had previously been the subject of demonstrations by far-right protesters has been hailed as a “small step” forward for the future of the local estate.
The Lingfield Centre, developed by the charity UK Islamic Mission (UKIM) in the long-abandoned Lingfield pub in Moortown at a cost of nearly £600,000, opened in the spring.
The building has a community hall available for hire and a lounge area. Plans to create a public gym, IT suite, library, training facilities. and a prayer room for up to 70 worshippers were approved in February 2013 despite Leeds city council receiving 400 letters of complaint.
Weeks later, a pig’s head was brandished during a protest rally organised by the far-right English Defence League outside the proposed site.
Kate Prothero, a member of a community group set up as a result of the protest, has now written a blog describing the divisions that still exist on the Lingfield Estate three years later.
She wrote: “The day after Brexit there was a tension on the estate. The local Baptist church had ‘Vote Leave, Immigrants out’, written all over it, there were heated conversations in the street, it was palpable.
With the support of some truly creative and determined people, these tentative events, will help build a positive place for everyone to live, despite our differences, we do have an awful lot in common.Kate Prothero
“The EDL had long gone, but the rhetoric of racism and Islamaphobia had remained. A small but loud minority of people locally still have worries about the centre. It was against this backdrop that The Lingfield Centre managed to secure a week long event on their property called Playbox.”
The event, which took place in the last week of August, saw a giant shipping container full of free activities for children delivered to the site, accompanied by several dedicated play workers.
Run by Playful Anywhere, the event was funded by Leeds City Council for a week with a play enabling grant, after the authority submitted an application in June.
Volunteers had planned children’s activities including den building, face-painting and a community picnic at the end of the week, while local shops contributed to the events.
Mrs Prothero wrote: “There’s an amazing thing that happens when children get stuck into something creative, as though the outside world does not exist, no news headlines, no Brexit, no worries.
“The sight of 20 children all splashing about in wellies, dressed as super-heroes and charging about is a lovely thing. In this age of technology and staying indoors staring at a screen, the importance of free and creative play can sometimes be forgotten.
“By the middle of the week, the sun had appeared along with more and more families, from all parts of the estate. Young and old, just hanging out, making and creating things, painting, playing in the sand, playing football, talking to each other.
“By Saturday the rain had reappeared, so we ventured inside The Lingfield Centre’s dedicated community room to eat our fish and chips.
“The last day’s picnic was busy. Everyone brought and shared food, flapjacks and samosas, all sorts! People were talking, swapping recipes, managing their children together, tidying away together and reflecting on the weeks activities. It had been a success.
“This little community, in an often forgotten about corner of north Leeds, situated in affluent Moortown, had made a small step in it’s own future.
“With the support of some truly creative and determined people, these tentative events, will help build a positive place for everyone to live, despite our differences, we do have an awful lot in common.”
Despite the plans getting approval three years ago, there is still opposition to the scheme and a group set up on Facebook, called Moortown and Leeds Against the Islamic Centre’, has been liked by 732 people.
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