Leeds podcaster shining a light on her beloved Beeston home and the town's unfair reputation

Hazel Millichamp, a local Leeds podcaster, talks about shining a light on her beloved Beeston home and why the town gets an often unfair reputation.

By Alex Grant
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 11:45 am

There is nothing I love more than banging on about Leeds which is why I have a podcast called Light On Leeds where I chat to the brilliant people of the city about the amazing things they get up to (https://www.lightonleeds.com/).

Read More

Read More
Drug dealer attacked man with a machete in Wakefield street over debt - Leeds Cr...

So when I was asked by the YEP to write about Beeston for “Love Where You Live” I jumped at the chance.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Hazel Millichamp, a local Leeds podcaster, talks about shining a light on her beloved Beeston home and why the area gets an often unfair reputation. Picture: Tony Johnson.

I first came to Beeston almost 19 years ago as my partner at the time was accepted at (what was then) Leeds College of Music. At that point I didn’t know too much about the city and certainly nothing about this town in South Leeds.

My son was placed at Greenmount Primary and later I became the School Business Manager. It was this role which really helped me imbed myself in the community.

When the fasting was over at Eid, the Mum’s brought me delicious food and myself and my son learned a lot about the customs and festivities of others. It felt like a privilege to be included.

Over the years when people have asked me where in Leeds I live, on answering, there was often a sharp intake of breath from the questioner, as though the town is a “dodgy” area. I understand why it might seem that way to them, but it’s certainly not to me.

Over the years when people have asked me where in Leeds I live, on answering, there was often a sharp intake of breath from the questioner, as though the town is a “dodgy” area.

It has it’s problems as all places do, but nothing beats alighting from the Number One bus and making your way down Tempest Road at tea-time. The delicious aromas emanating from the homes that line the road will make you ravenous by the time you reach the bottom.

One of Beeston’s gems has to be Cross Flatts Park which runs the length of the town from Dewsbury Road to Beeston Road and covers 44 acres. In the past the park has suffered from neglect and a high crime rate.

Through the wonderful efforts of the Friends of Cross Flatts Park and Beeston in Bloom the park was cleaned up and made safe for all. In summer there is a running programme of Bands in the Park and there are dog training sessions.

Five-a-side football pitches, tennis courts, basketball courts, bowling green, artificial cricket pitch, outdoor gym equipment and children’s play park area all mean that the park is in constant use by a wide range of people.

The park holds Park Run every Saturday (over 1,000 runners have taken part in the event since it began in 2013) and my favourite day of the year (after Christmas and my birthday) - the fantastic Beeston Festival, which takes place annually in June.

Famous Beeston son, the poet Tony Harrison, wrote the poem “Shrapnel” which claims that all the bombs in a German raid in WW2 fell in the park rather than on the houses - saving the lives of local residents. Whether this is a myth is another matter – the tale has become part of Beeston’s heritage.

Beeston’s origins can be traced back to the medieval period and the town’s name is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as “Bestone”. In 1066 it had been worth a whole 40 shillings (£2) but had diminished in value and considered “waste” by 1086 thanks to the “Harrying of the North”. Sounds familiar…

The town has so much to offer from its own local publication, South Leeds Life offering news coverage on all that is happening in South Leeds to the Basement Arts Project which uses the basement of a terraced family home to exhibit and showcase art.

Despite its less than salubrious reputation I would not like to live in another Leeds suburb (don’t come at me if I win the lottery – things change!), I have known many of my neighbours for years and the diversity of our backgrounds provides all the more spice.

A family from Afghanistan live across from me and the children who call me “Aunty” remind me daily why I love where I live.