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Succesful launch of Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market

April 29, 2010

Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market group was officially launched this week at a really well attended public meeting in Holy Trinity Church in the city centre. About 200 people, a mix of traders, members of the public, councillors and member s of Leeds City Council involved in market management attended. We heard from speakers discussing the market’s history, the difficulties facing it now and most importantly discussions about the future of the market. Ideas were put forward about how a group like ours can help protect the market from further neglect and greedy developers and also how we could promote our market as the wonderful place we know it to be.

Friend’s member, Carl McCarron who introduced the event spoke for many people when he said that the market was much more than a shop but a part of the public heritage of the city. He said: “It is not just a place where people go to work, to buy or sell, it’s one of the communities I’m part of…it’s my market – our market – part of our city. It belongs to all of us, the people who work there and the people who shop there and we should all have a say in how it’s run and what happens to it.”

Kevin Grady director of Leeds Civic Trust,  who presented a brief history of the market, gave the group his support. He said: “The market is very much the lifeblood of the city, and today it is very important as a tourist attraction and amenity. It is a wonderful place and it much have a future.” As part of his presentation Kevin also talked about earlier and hugely successful campaigns to protect the market. In the 1980’s more than a quarter of a million people protested against relegating the market to the basement of a giant shopping centre.

Market trader, Liz Laughton who also spoke criticised the council for its lack of investment, lack of transparency and for their admitted lack of management strategy and she also described the impact that cripplingly high rents were having on traders.

The meeting saw the launch of a petition calling for the council to make a commitment to:

• significant reduction to market traders’ rents – agreed in consultation with traders
• substantial investment over the next five years, including full repairs to the roof of the whole market
• ensure involvement of traders and greater transparency in all aspects of market management, starting with traders having a say in the recruitment and appointment of a new market manager

Coun Mark Dobson, who signed up to the petition admitted that all parties had got it wrong when it came to dealing with the market – his own party got rid of the ring fencing mechanism which many other council’s use to ensure that part of the profits made by the market are invested back into it. He also said that efforts were now being made to work with traders. And Paul Stephens – chief officer Economic Development committed to working with the Friends group.

Pauline Rowe and Saif Osmani from Friends of Queens Market in London came to share their experiences in their fight to save their market from property developers. Looking at the big audience that the meeting gathered and the fantastic Market they saw the campaign in a very hopeful light. They provided very good ideas about how to campaign such as setting up a promotional Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market stall in the Market, writing our own long-term strategy for the Market or promote its environmental and affordable nature.

For media reports of the event see: Guardian Leeds and Yorkshire Evening Post

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