LEEDS 2023: How community groups are turning Seacroft into a hive of activism and art

Seacroft can play an important part in the LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture, says Tony Macaluso of Chapel FM.

By Tony Macaluso, Chapel FM
Sunday, 26th June 2022, 11:45 am

Circus arts, sports, live radio, creative challenges to the climate emergency, a giant chicken, a roving brass band and people getting to know their neighbours.

These happenings and much more filled the buzzing Seacroft Village Green during the jubilee celebration earlier this month.

The festive day was just one example of how Seacroft is coming together in unexpected and inventive ways.

The ‘We Are Seacroft’ group has used inventive tools such as a spruced-up vintage ice cream van that delivered information about vaccines

As director of Chapel FM Arts Centre, a community arts and radio project based in Seacroft, I’ve been able to see first-hand how, early in the Covid pandemic more than two years ago, a group of third sector organisations banded together with residents to respond to social challenges and activate artistic energy.

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The result has been the creation of the new network ‘We Are Seacroft’ consisting of a dozen organisations including LS14 Trust, Fall Into Place Theatre, Seacroft Community on Top, Kentmere Community Centre, St. Anne’s and St. Richard’s Church, Seacroft Friends & Neighbours, along with Chapel FM.

Seacroft has a long history of hatching inventive ideas and projects that seek to solve problems from the ground up, whether it be community cafes in unexpected places, the amazing and ever-growing litter-collecting Seacroft Wombles, or youth theatre projects that bring local history to life in wildly playful ways, Seacroft is full of incredible energy.

Seacroft is coming together in unexpected and inventive ways

The ‘We Are Seacroft’ group has used inventive tools ranging from a spruced-up vintage ice cream van that delivered information about vaccines, sports activities and pop-up broadcasting to half-term and summer holiday camps for young people.

When the LEEDS 2023 Roadshow comes to Seacroft next Tuesday, we expect a lively and challenging discussion about how our often-underestimated community can play a surprising role in this year of culture. One thing for sure about Seacroft: people don’t hold back.

While the Roadshow is focused on giving local residents a space to learn about plans for next year’s city-wide celebrations, people from across the city are welcome to come for free curry, a presentation about LEEDS 2023 plans, and a chance to meet and engage with the many local organisers who are transforming Seacroft.

Among the surprises in Seacroft is SCOT or Seacroft Community on Top, whose café, youth and family programmes, sports groups and more in the Dennis Healey Centre, has brought together hundreds of kids and their families in a patch of East Leeds that long lacked reliable gathering spots.

There’s also the new LS14 Trust community café, with cozy vintage furniture, great coffee and food, bookshelves crammed with unexpected ideas and the guarantee of striking up a conversation with someone who will surprise you with some happy accident of an idea.

Kentmere Community Centre is the place to be if you want to bump into someone with big ideas about how to improve themself and the local area: from the dance groups by DAZL/Yorkshire Dance; Seacroft Select Boxing club who have national champions housing their gym; Seacroft Friends and Neighbours running services there for the elderly in the area and many more groups and services formed by the local community.

Seacroft is also home to Chapel FM Arts Centre, based in a lovingly renovated old Methodist Chapel, where anyone can learn to turn their ideas into radio shows, podcasts, creative writing, music, theatre and other art.

Chapel FM’s latest project “Home From Home” is a three-year oral history, radio, theatre that will gather and share stories about the many places where people come together to find others, be part of something bigger, experience the kinds of “happy accidents” that people missed during these times of lockdown and cuts in services.

“Home From Home” is designed to celebrate all sorts of linked-up species of spaces and will begin with a story-sharing broadcast festival 22-24 July. Details can be found at chapelfm.co.uk.

The last few years in Seacroft has seen third sector organisations and residents coming together to support each other through some difficult times.

As we transition, we know there are still challenges ahead but our collaboration makes us stronger.

If we are sociable, passionate and supportive, we can inspire each other to create a culture where imagination and creativity can flourish.