West Leeds: Friends to the end in Save Baths campaign

Supporters of the campaign to keep Bramley Baths open.
Supporters of the campaign to keep Bramley Baths open.
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If ‘community’ is about standing shoulder to shoulder with your neighbours in times of crisis, then the people of Bramley have it in abundance.

The fight to save the historic Bramley Baths leisure centre from closure is just one of many local campaigns featured in the YEP – but it’s one that has particularly fired the imaginations not just of the townsfolk, but the city as a whole.

Maybe it’s also about the old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’, but a mixture of need and nostalgia has galvanized the whole town.

The century-old building is at risk because of low usage and funding cuts.

And your YEP has followed every step of the burgeoning campaign – as the town sprang into action like never before.

The Friends of Bramley Baths, led by locals with the help of MP Rachel Reeves, know that any campaign needs good publicity, and that the local paper – a part of the town’s history for as long as the Baths themselves – has a “massive” role to play.

Campaigner Fran Graham said: “The paper’s readers reflect the local community. We have had so many people who have come to us and said it was as a result of reading the YEP.

“The readers are the kind of people who love and cherish Bramley Baths. ”

The Friends of Bramley Baths, set up this year as a potential management organisation to take over the running of the facility, are now putting together a bid to turn the Baths into a community asset transfer, taking it out of council hands.

A bid could be submitted to Leeds City Council’s asset team by January.

Miss Graham explained that if the BenComm – community benefit organisation – idea is accepted, the business would have a board made up from the community. People will also be be to buy shares in Bramley Baths “so the local community can have a vested interest in the Baths.”

“Bramley Baths represents more than a swimming pool or a gym,” Miss Graham said.

“With Broad Lane library closing, it’s one of very few community hubs left. People have met there and married, or come with their children and grandchildren. It’s rooted in the history of the area. It’s also a powerful emblem of the place.”

Miss Graham and her fellow campaigners, recognise that a decrease in usage is a contributor to its uncertain future. But they are determined to refurbish, re-invent and re-energise to save it.

“We want to carry on using it as a leisure space,” she said. “We need to animate it. We do need to increase the numbers of people coming in. It’s perceived to be really vital but yet it’s not used enough.”

Miss Graham said people had given “an awful lot of time” to develop the plan.

“What’s really nice is that people are developing new skills. It’s a massive learning curve for all of us.”

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