Why we should all love Leeds's Dalek

IF you listen very carefully you should just be able to make out the tap-tap-tapping of knitting needles as the Albert Steptoes sit round the bottom of the guillotine.

The future prosperity of Leeds has its neck perilously poised underneath the rope and blade but for now, thankfully, we've got a grip.

But that won't be enough for the knitting grouches underneath. Oh no. They're awfully worried about our development as a modern city, they'll just keep tap-tap-tapping, whining and sneering.

And if they distract us enough, we lose our grip and cut off our nose to spite our face, they'll suddenly feign innocence and cry: "'Ow'd that happen then?".

Just look at the reaction to this month's unveiling of the completed Bridgewater Place, now Leeds's tallest building. All the Steptoes have piled in there with all the predictably inane gripes.

"It's too tall." "It's too bland." "It's too garish." "It won't be filled"

Thankfully we've managed to avoid the old cliche of it being called a white elephant, if only because the building looks a little bit like a Dalek.

And, do you know what? I'm actually PLEASED it looks a bit like a Dalek.

At least it looks like nothing else in Leeds, after all if you're going to build the city's biggest construction do something big AND bold.

Create something distinctive and striking – otherwise why bother?

If the Steptoes had their way half the world's greatest structures would never have been built. The Eiffel Tower would have been "a bit too high", the Sydney Opera House "out of place" and the Taj Mahal "a tad extravagant".

And it's not like Bridgewater Place is that maverick a design anyway. As attractive as it is, it remains a mix of all the elements of generic office/ apartment blocks. This ain't a Guggenheim or Gherkin.

But I'll settle for a Dalek, if only because it's acknowledgement of the fact that it screams modern thanks to its extensive metal exterior.

Presumably the carpers don't like metal. Perhaps they'd like it made of wood, or brick, or what about traditional concrete? – concrete buildings always look nice, and they always wear so well over the years too.

And if the Steptoes stop knitting for a second we should be able to make out the howls of laughter from London, Manchester and Birmingham when they read about the bumpkins in Leeds who built a 21st century landmark using millennia-old materials.

Do the whingers ever stop to think, to REALLY think, about what modern buildings and modern design mean for cities like Leeds.

And have they ever considered the economic meltdown which would follow if anyone listened to their nonsensical sideswipes and we actually stopped building a dynamic post-Millennium city?

Contemporary constructions are the lifeblood of progress and milestones in our advancement. Bridgewater Place offers a proud rallying point for a boom city which, up until the 1990s, was often used as a reference point for how grim it was up north.

And whether you actually like it architecturally or not – and everyone is entitled to their opinion – no one could claim that there's anything grim about this building or what it stands for.

What it represents is a renewed confidence in Leeds and the manifestation of a willingness to invest billions of pounds here.

For the sake of Leeds the reasonable among us mustn't lose sight of what we stand to loose if we stop moving forward. As for the sneering Steptoes, they need to stop worrying and learn to love the Dalek.

Chapel of unrest

What's in a name? Well, quite a lot if a rather heated debate in north Leeds is anything to go by.

Up in Chapel Allerton the suburb's evolution into an urbanite enclave for revellers and young professionals has seen numerous alternative titles emerge over the past few years.

The first and most common is 'Chapel A' but there's also 'Chap A' or even 'The Chap' all terms which an increasing number of residents and visitors now use.

The particularly sloany types have also been known to call it 'Chappers'. Feel free to lynch anyone who actually uses this term.

But in some form of retaliation the longer-term residents have adopted their own phrase which is equally ludicrous. They prefer to call it 'The Village' which, when you're sandwiched between the urban sprawls of Potternewton, Chapeltown, Moortown and Meanwood is nonsensical, to say the least.

And there are even more elaborate connotations. One is 'Slapper Allerton' – a deeply unkind reference to the inordinately large number of young ladies who now frequent the suburb of an evening.

Another is 'Nappy Allerton' – a reference to the seemingly high number of mothers who move to Chapel Allerton for a more tranquil, cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Now as adversarial as this clash is, it is also a rather positive phenomenon because in virtually every case the variations of title represent a bid by people to claim the suburb as their own.

With the exclusion of those who fall into the Slapper Allerton category, virtually everyone likes being associated with the place, albeit for very different reasons.

Which is a far cry from those who live in slightly less salubrious spots who try and disassociate themselves estate-agent-stylee from where they actually live.

At least they don't do what some residents of Burley do and refer to their home as 'Lower Headingley'. Bridgewater Place offers a proud rallying point for a boom city which, up until the 1990s, was often used as a reference point for how grim it was up north.

And whether you actually like it architecturally or not – and everyone is entitled to their opinion – no one could claim that there’s anything grim about this building or what it stands for.

What it represents is a renewed confidence in Leeds and the manifestation of a willingness to invest billions of pounds here.

For the sake of Leeds the reasonable among us mustn’t lose sight of what we stand to loose if we stop moving forward. As for the sneering Steptoes, they need to stop worrying and learn to love the Dalek.