a leeds revolution

Tales of Holbeck

February 28, 2020

Tales of Holbeck

The idea behind CEG and Slung Low collaborating over a short story competition involving the people of Holbeck was to acknowledge the rich history of this unique district of Leeds, but to also capture the power that its people have. That means ‘power’ in the sense of, a power to create laughter and tears, a power to make you think, but also a power of recovery and of resilience. The people of Holbeck have faced all these things; hardship, struggle and in some cases poverty, but throughout, they have retained an ability to laugh, inspire and rebound. This was all captured in the many stories submitted.

A deadline for submissions to the competition of December 14th 2019, passed with a healthy contribution received from an eclectic cross-section of the Holbeck community, and this diversity was also represented in the people that gathered at ‘The Holbeck’ on the evening of January 15th 2020 for an informal and convivial night of celebration. And this was not just celebrating winners, it was celebrating the spirit, endurance and creativity rampant in a community that is all-too-often stigmatised by the darker side of life.

(Photo credit: CEG - Slung Low artistic director Alan Lane addresses the room at the 'Tales of Holbeck' evening) 

This stark reality was present and acknowledged in many of the stories submitted; just like the regular local and national news stories that lazily zoom in almost salaciously on the depressed and disadvantaged for an angle. But unlike those throwaway snippets that become yesterday’s fish ‘n chip paper, these ‘Holbeck stories from Holbeck people’ also revealed another layer underneath; an enduring human spirit, a whimsical remembrance that recalled the past for what is was – not always better than today – a dogged perseverance and, most of all, an undiluted pride in Holbeck. A pride that sharply resonated by cutting through the sordid fluff and nonsense and said “hang on, this is our home. We live here and we’re proud to live here”.

An overriding positivity and a message of hope came out of the ‘Tales of Holbeck’ evening, as Slung Low artistic director Alan Lane hosted a room fit-to-bursting with people, smiles and honour. One by one, excerpts of stories were read out and the authors walked up to receive a prize and a round of applause. Stories were long and short, bizarre and poignant, earthy and poetic, but they all meant the same thing; that Holbeck had left a healthy impression. And they came from people of all ages and all walks of life.

Furthermore, the stories are all contributions to the rich tapestry of Holbeck life that is being created, now that the area is set to change again and undertake a transformational journey. This is why it is important to capture these messages, this history and these people now, so there is a permanent record of what Holbeck is and was, before we start to discuss what it is going to be.

In the room, many members of CEG and their various working partner organisations supplemented and mixed with the local crowd and saw for themselves the welcoming spirit of Holbeck, topped off by free food provided by the magnificent Manjit’s Kitchen. Many had submitted prizes and made a wholesome contribution to a rewarding and inspiring exercise; an exercise that is organic and ongoing, and one that, it is hoped, will enthuse and encourage others and be added to today, tomorrow and forever. For now, the stories have been collated and published together here, for all to see and to be inspired by, and to stand as an example of what extraordinary things people can achieve and what an extraordinary place Holbeck is, when people think they and it, are just ordinary.

So please read the stories and enjoy them for what they are; people being proud of where they live. Because after all, it is people that make a place and people that make memories. And as David Kelly’s winning story concluded: “I hope Holbeck won’t forget me, because I can’t forget this place”.


(Header Image: Photo credit - CEG)