East Leeds picture archive to be used to help dementia sufferers

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The documenting of local history is often undertaken by unsung heros, who dedicated vast amounts of their own time to collect and preserve pictures and stories which would otherwise simply be forgotten.

Two of those people hail from East Leeds and are Graham Hawkridge and Pam Wright. Together, they have already published three booklets chronicling the history of East Leeds and in so doing helping to preserve many aspects of life as it used to be, including the images of buildings which are, sadly, no more. Many of the memories revolve around people and places.

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Now they have unveiled the latest exhibition of old photographs and stories - there are over 400 photographs, many of them previously unseen. They include pictures of the infamous ‘Paddy train’, which once took miners from East Leeds to work, snapshots of Children’s Day at Roundhay Park, sporting events, old pubs, many of which have since been demolished or turned into flats, buses, trams and countless other aspects of a life which exists now only in memory.

Times Past was given access to the new exhibition, which is on show at the Richmond Hill Elderly Action (RHEA) building on Long Close Lane.

Graham said: “We started off with this about 15 years ago with just a handful of pictures and now we have over 400, all of East Leeds. We’ve got so many now we were running out of wall space to display them all. They’ve been well received by people, many of whom have recognised relatives in the pictures.”

Liz Zanre is Street Links Co-ordionator with RHEA and said she believed the pictures could have a wider use.

“It’s really helping us in terms of bringing the edlerly community back together. Old pictures like this get everyone talking. Many of our clients were brought up in this area, so it’s of interest to them.

“It’s also great for those with dementia, it turns a light on for them, it’s something they can relate to and recognise.”

RHEA is in the process of launching a dementia cafe, which will hopefully begin on September 28, running thereafter on the last Monday of each month, the aim being to get elderly people out of their homes more.

Liz added: “It reflects back on how neighbourhoods used to be and the sense of community which used to exist and which many elderly people miss. We’re trying to get a little bit of that back.”

Graham added: “We’re always on the lookout for new pictures and stories, it’s something we’ve done for a long time now. I think it’s important to collect these stories, because the area has changed so much. I can remember a time when I used to hear the miners going to work in their wooden clogs and when there were over 15 pubs in this area - most of them are now gone and so has the way of life.

“It’s important to remember it and put it down for posterity and that’s what I hope we’re doing here.

“We’ve come across all sorts of stories and people with memories, from people in sporting clubs to people who did National Service.”

Transport is another apsect of life which has changed dramatically - the pictures gathered by the East Leeds history group show a progression from horse and trap, through to trams and buses and then motorcars, many of which have poignant stories attached to them.

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