Residents have been tirelessly fundraising to restore a historic Leeds clock – collecting £30,000 in less than a year. But with £90,000 to go, will all their hard work pay off? Juliette Bains reports.
IT’S a race against time as dedicated volunteers try to drum up £120,000 to save a treasured Leeds landmark.
The 109-year-old Oakwood Clock on the edge of Roundhay Park is a symbol of nostalgia and community spirit for many residents.
One resident has told of how the site was a meeting spot for his first date with a young woman who is now his wife.
For others, it is the familiar bus stop where they used to hop off on their way home from school.
Whatever their memories are of the clock, it’s clear it has a special place in the hearts of the local community.
This is even more evident as thousands of residents are voluntarily giving up their time and money to help back a long-running campaign to get the much-loved clock back to its former glory.
So far a staggering £30,000 has been raised in less than a year.
But in order for the local landmark to be restored, fundraisers need an extra £90,000.
Most of the money will go towards strengthening the structure, as well as servicing the clock, which hasn’t had any maintenance work carried out on it since 1977.
North Leeds resident Tony O’Reilly has made a mini movie to raise awareness of the campaign to save Oakwood Clock.
The 11-minute film features interviews with campaign supporters, residents, schoolchildren and traders.
Speaking about the clock, Tony, 45, said: “It’s like our own mini version of Big Ben. It’s such an important landmark for the area.
“It is a nice piece of architecture to have in your community and I love the engineering that goes into clocks, it fascinates me.
“When I made the film I was allowed to see inside and I was surprised that there was just one tiny little lightbulb that keeps it lit up at night.
Oakwood Clock was made back in 1904 by William Potts and Son – one of the most important makers of turret clocks in Britain and the last firm of clock makers to receive the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria.
The tall clock was designed by the same architects who designed Leeds’ Kirkgate Market Hall – John and Joseph Leeming.
It was originally installed as the centrepiece of the new market hall.
But alterations to the market meant the clock was moved to Oakwood in 1912.
Tony Quinn is a member of Oakwood Traders and Residents Association (OTRA), which has played a vital role in saving the clock.
He said: “Without it, coming to Oakwood would be like seeing an old friend with one of their teeth missing.
“Something just wouldn’t look right.
“It’s not the Eiffel Tower or Nelson’s Column, but it’s our own little landmark.”
Fundraisers including raffles, concerts and sponsored walks have been held in a bid to boost funds.
Mr Quinn added: “The events aren’t just about raising money.”
“It’s about giving the area a bit of an identity and getting the community together.”
This weekend, a group of volunteers have organised a special festival of live music, food, arts and crafts, called ‘Clock, Rock and Two Empty Barrels’ to help the cause.
The family-friendly fundraiser will take place right underneath the clock at the junction of Roundhay Road and Princess Avenue on Saturday, September 7, and runs from 1pm to 9pm.
The jam-packed festival will include performances from local funk, soul, rock and acoustic bands, a marketplace full of food, drink and arts stalls, and face painting, raffles and a dog show.
Organiser Alexis Keech said: “We wanted to do something because it’s an icon of north Leeds. The clock seems to inspire people.
“It’s something that we want to preserve and we want to help ensure that it is there for future generations.
“This weekend’s festival is a very local event, with local beer and local bands and we’re expecting 2,000 people over the course of the day.”
She added: “It’s great to have so much local backing.”
Councillors Ghulam Hussain, Christine Macniven and Bill Urry (Lab, Roundhay) have donated £1,000 towards the event from their MICE fund and the Inner North East Area Committee.
The event has also been organised by community groups including OTRA, Friends of Roundhay Park and the Roundhay Environmental Action Project (REAP).
Coun Ghulam Hussain said: “The Oakwood Clock is a local landmark which is loved by residents and visitors to the area.
“The ‘Clock, Rock and Two Empty Barrels’ event will be a great day out for everyone and we look forward to being there to lend a hand.”
“We hope the event will help make more people aware of the hard work local volunteers are doing to raise much-needed funds.”
Visitors at the festival this weekend are invited to write down any of their own memories of the clock.
It is hoped there will be enough to publish a book that could help to raise more money for the cause.
WHAT’S ON AT THE CLOCK
The popular Farmers Market is held at Oakwood Clock every month. Stalls sell locally grown, reared or made food. The next Farmers Market will be on Saturday, September 21, from 9am to 12.30pm.
Oakwood Traders and Residents Association (OTRA) will hold its next meeting at Roundhay Parochial Hall on Tuesday, October 8, at 6pm.
Earlier this year, green-fingered residents from Roundhay Environmental Action Project converted one of the flower beds into a vegetable plot. Locals are welcome to take what they need from the community edible garden.
The ‘Clock, Rock and Two Empty Barrels’ fundraising festival will be held from 1pm to 9pm on Saturday, September 7. For more information about the event, follow @clockrockfest on Twitter. Alternatively, go to www.facebook.com/clockrockfest.
For more information about Oakwood Clock or for details of upcoming events, visit www.oakwoodclock.co.uk.