Thursday, 23 June 2011

Yorkshire says 'yes' to high-speed rail with new campaign

A campaign to bring high-speed rail to the Leeds City Region is being launched today, as a Commons Select Committee holds its first evidence session inquiring into the Government's HS2 project.

Yorkshire stands to reap over £2bn in economic benefits from the Government’s proposed national network of 200mph + trains, known as ‘HS2’, which will cut the journey time from Leeds to London to just 80 minutes.

Visitors to a new website - - can find out how the planned high-speed link will support the creation of new jobs and encourage companies to locate and invest in the Leeds City Region. They can also sign up to support the national ‘Yes to High Speed Rail’ campaign.

With the Department for Transport’s consultation on the first stage of ‘HS2’ between London and Birmingham closing on 29 July, Metro, the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Leeds City Region LEP, and Leeds City Council are working together to urge businesses and residents from across the region to show their support.

Gary Williamson, Chief Executive of the Chamber said: “High-speed rail will bring huge benefits for our region. If the first stage gets the go-ahead, it will influence investment decisions by business for years to come, helping to create new local jobs and secure existing ones.”

“If we are to realise these economic benefits, we need the first stage of the scheme from London to Birmingham to be approved. We must not be derailed by a vocal minority in the Home Counties, who are opposing the scheme. That’s why we are encouraging local people and businesses to respond to the consultation and show their support for the scheme.”

Neil McLean, Chair of the Leeds City Region LEP Board added: “High-speed rail will play a major role in delivering Leeds City Region’s ambition of becoming a world-leading low carbon economy. The transformational benefits for the whole city region economy are clear: as the country’s largest financial centre outside London, new high-speed connections to the capital and European markets will shape business investment decisions and enhance our competitiveness on the world stage. We don’t just want to see high-speed rail in the Leeds City Region; we want to see it here as soon as possible, so that we can accelerate the benefits for the city region and the UK economy.”

Metro Chairman, Cllr James Lewis said: “Leeds needs high-speed rail because it has the potential to transform the shape of the national and the city region economy. A city centre high-speed rail station would provide a transformational new transport hub helping to spread the benefits of high-speed rail across the Leeds City Region.

“As well as campaigning for the long-term benefits of HS2, we will be pressing for more immediate improvements to existing routes, such as the electrification of the East Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line, trans-Pennine and Leeds-Sheffield links, which would deliver substantial benefits at modest costs.”

Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council said: “Leeds is a city that is going places and we need high-speed rail to improve access to the area as it develops further as a major hub for business, leisure, investment and jobs. High speed rail will transform rail journeys from Leeds and many other northern cities, providing travel opportunities and choices that we won't otherwise have.”

"With Leeds Arena and the Trinity Leeds shopping complex in development, the council is working with its partners in a concerted effort to attract jobs and further investment to Leeds, and we need the best possible transport links to support that.

"The forward-looking approach of authorities in our twin city, Lille, who started planning well before that city’s high-speed TGV Nord line was built, resulted in the expansion of the city centre with the development of a major commercial centre around the new station. A continuing development strategy has resulted in new offices, public housing and a large conference and events hall in other nearby areas – a hugely successful model which we believe could be of great benefit if similarly applied to Leeds.”

The new website at is also supported by a Facebook page - ‘Yorkshire needs High-Speed Rail’ and on Twitter @HighSpeed2Yorks.

Next Tuesday, 28 June the ‘Yes to High Speed Rail’ campaign bus will be calling at Leeds, when local business leaders, politicians and others will be turning out for a photocall in Millennium Square to show their support for the campaign.


Issued on behalf of the Yorkshire Needs High-Speed Rail campaign by Metro’s PR Office. Tel: 0113 251 7214.

If you would like a copy of the Yorkshire Needs High-Speed Rail logo and any photos of high-speed trains please email your request to:

Celebration of Leeds refugees

Picutre caption "The group from St Mary's primary in Horsforth with Cllr Gruen (far left)".

Picture caption "City of Leeds High School representatives with Cllr Gruen"

Picture caption "James Fallah and Charles Atangana - exiled journalists who spoke at the refugee celebration event."

Refugees and city councillors from across the city, came together this week at an event to celebrate Refugee Week.

Each year, Refugee Week is the opportunity to look at the contribution of people who have come to Leeds seeking safety and to recognise the achievements and contribution they have made.

They were joined by children from three Leeds schools who were awarded Schools of Sanctuary status, in recognition of the work they do to make their schools welcoming to children seeking safety. The event, at Leeds Civic Hall, also included a talk from two journalists who themselves had had to flee their home countries when their commitment to broadcasting the truth resulted in persecution.

Bishop John Packer, chair of Leeds Migration Partnership, said:
“It’s so important that we make time and space for people from different sides of stories to meet. It’s easy to believe myths and half truths about people we don’t take the time to know. And that probably goes as much for councillors as it does for refugees.

“It was a great evening to be in Leeds and see so much of what makes us a strong city. A place where people who have seen the worst the world has to offer can make a new life. And a city proud to give those people a fair chance.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council deputy leader, said:

“It was a great experience to host a Refugee Week event in the Civic Hall. To see people who came as refugees many years ago now contributing so much to life in Leeds, as well as more recent arrivals talking about the welcome they have received.

“Of course there remains so much more to do – both globally and locally – but Refugee Week really gives us the opportunity to look honestly about how we’re doing. And to celebrate not just refugees, but a celebration of all of the people across Leeds who continue to provide the warm Leeds welcome to those who most need it.”

The schools which took part in the celebration event were Hovingham Primary, Harehills, St Mary’s Primary Horsforth and City of Leeds High School.

For media enquiries please contact:
Sara Hyman, Leeds City Council press office tel: (0113) 224 3602

Public asked to be vigilant as Yorkstone thefts continue to rise

Members of the public are being asked to be vigilant after a spate of thefts of Yorkstone from around Leeds.

Over the last 12 months Leeds City Council has received nearly 300 calls to report stolen or missing Yorkstone slabs from footpaths in the city.

Many streets in Leeds have footways paved with these flagstones and their natural colour and texture is renowned for adding character to the surrounding area. This has led to a high rate of thefts and it is becoming increasingly difficult – and expensive – to replace them.

To help tackle the issue, Leeds City Council is appealing to anyone who has suspicions about any Yorkstone slabs being removed to contact the council or the police as soon as possible.

Councillor Richard Lewis, executive board member for development and the economy, said:
“There have been numerous incidents of Yorkstone being stolen from locations across Leeds. Each theft costs the council money and causes disruption to local people. Where possible we will replace like for like but we currently have no new Yorkstone flags which makes this task almost impossible.

“We have no choice but to resurface with alternative materials in areas where there is a likelihood the flagstones will be stolen again – something we regret as the original Yorkstone adds character to local areas and has often been in place for decades.

“I would encourage anyone who suspects Yorkstone is being stolen to report the incident to the council or the police so that we can help protect this historical local feature.”

Anyone who suspects that Yorkstone flags are being removed illegally should report their concerns to the police.


For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577

Phys-Cap playground opens at Temple Newsam

Media opportunity
Date: Thursday 30th June 2011
Where: Phys-Cap Playground, Temple Newsam park
Photo Opp: International Referee Howard Webb, former Lady Mayoress and Coronation Street favourite, Liz Dawn and Cllr. Judith Blake join local school children to release 200 balloons in the new playground.

After several years planning the Phys-Cap Playground, in the historic Temple Newsam Park has been completed and the official launch will take place at 11.30am on Thursday 30th June.

This new playground – one of the largest multi ability play areas in the north - is a fantastic space creating opportunities for children of all abilities. The playground has been designed by Leeds City Council in association with Phys-Cap Charity. Phys-Cap have raised the majority of the funding for the play area through securing of funding from a number of grant organisations including WREN, Caird Bardon, (via Grantscape) HESCO, Yorkshire Building Society, Garfield Weston Foundation, Beaverbrooks, Openworks, Brackenridge, Hanson Tate Golf Day in addition to Friends of Temple Newsam and Leeds City Council Playbuilder funding to name a few - all whom will be present on the day.

The playground creates enchantment, adventure and excitement for children of all ages and abilities, with a sensory maze, adventure unit, zip wire, swings and many more play features – providing a flagship play area for able-bodied, disabled children and their families for the city. It also has the first tactile map, at a play area in Leeds, allowing visually impaired and children with learning difficulties to locate and identify play equipment before entering the playground. This creates a security and confidence not available to them in other outside play areas.

Phys-Cap Charity Patron and international referee Howard Webb; former Leeds’ Lady Mayores and nation’s favourite, Liz Dawn; will join Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children’s services and Leeds Play Champion plus local school children and Phys-Cap beneficiaries to launch 200 balloons in celebration.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leeds City Council's executive member responsible for children's services says, “This new playground looks fantastic and is something the entire city should be proud of. Children of all abilities will be able to enjoy this brilliant new addition to the already excellent facilities at Temple Newsam and I would like to encourage as many families as possible to come along and see the new play area. Providing good quality play opportunities for the children of Leeds is one of our top priorities and it is such an accomplishment of the partnership between Phys-Cap and the council that we have been able to bring to Leeds a playground that all children can enjoy regardless of their ability.”

Phys- Cap Playground forms part of a larger scheme to improve facilities at Temple Newsam Estate. There will be disabled parking bays and a Changing Places toilet facility plus new interactive exhibits at the farm attraction are coming soon – making the park a perfect family day out destination from within and beyond Leeds.
Phys-Cap: Registered Charity No: 512422

Notes to editors:
Phys-Cap is a charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for children suffering from severe physical disabilities, by purchasing specialised and therapeutic equipment. The goal of the charity is to ensure that we always have the funds readily available to help children cope a little easier with disabilities and to offer financial assistance whenever the need arises. Our aim is to always be in a position to say YES when requests for help and assistance are received. We are known as the ‘last resort’ when all other doors have been closed.

Phys-Cap has come to the aid of many children in the region providing funding for equipment which makes a huge difference to their quality of life and that of their carers. Earlier this year the charity funded a Pavilion for Green Meadows Special School, having also supplied a sound and light system for their hydrotherapy pool.
To make a donation please contact David Bransby:

Media Contact for Phys-Cap: Sharon Brigden at SLB PR Ltd
Tel: 0113 269 8100 email:

Media contact for Leeds City Council: Emma Whittell, (0113) 2474713

Biggest film festival in the north celebrates 25 years

Caption: Television star Paul Merton will be appearing at this year's Leeds International Film Festival

The biggest film festival in the north returns this November with hundreds of screenings and exclusive special events as Leeds International Film Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Passes go on sale this week for the festival which runs from 3-20 November. The festival will welcome some famous faces to Leeds with comedian, writer and television star Paul Merton revealed as one of the star guests who will be appearing.

A fantastic and exclusive treat for the film festival, Paul Merton will present a night devoted to silent film comedy genius. Silent Clowns on Wednesday 9 November will feature the Harold Lloyd classic Safety Last! plus Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy in hilarious extracts, all introduced by Merton and accompanied by world-renowned pianist Neil Brand and the Prima Vista Social Club band. Live in the stunning setting of Leeds Town Hall with a giant cinema screen, Silent Clowns will be an unmissable and laughter-filled highlight of the year for all fans of film, music and comedy.

Film festival passes are now on sale with ticket prices frozen to remain at the same level as last year. The official Film Festival Pass provides incredible value for money, giving access to every individual screening throughout the packed 18-day programme, including Official Selection, Fanomenon, Cinema Versa, Short Film City and more.

Passholders will also receive price reductions on major events, advance programme announcements and a free copy of this year’s event catalogue.

Horror fans can also buy special passes for the Night of the Dead which returns on Saturday 5 November at its regular haunt, Hyde Park Picture House as well as Fanomenon Day of the Dead Five at the newly-reopened City Varieties.

Councillor Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council executive board member for leisure, said:

“The Leeds International Film Festival has a strong reputation of presenting exclusive screenings and special events in the North of England and the 25th anniversary edition promises to offer something very special for audiences. I would urge anyone who is looking to get a pass to get your requests in early so as not to avoid disappointment.”

Comicbooks, graphic novels, gaming and storyboarding are also celebrated with the return of the fifth Thought Bubble Festival. Featuring a huge programme of free workshops, masterclasses and special events across the city, Thought Bubble’s centrepiece is a huge comic convention at Saviles Hall and Royal Armouries Hall on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 November. Hundreds of exhibitors, from independent artists to retailers from all over the country, will join a massive line-up of some of the world’s biggest comicbook writers and artists from around the world.

Passes and special event tickets including the Thought Bubble convention can be bought online from or by calling the City Centre Box Office on 0113 2243801

Festival passes have been launched at the early bird rate of £80 for a single pass and £140 for a double pass and are available at this rate until Monday 24 October 2011. Prices will then increase to £95 for a single pass and £170 for a double pass.

For more information on the Leeds International Film Festival please visit

Passes can be bought online from or by calling the City Centre Box Office on 0113 224 3801


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn Tel:0113 247 4450

Mummy’s the word as transatlantic duo go the extra Nile

Caption: Allison DiMatteos's original visit to see the mummy Nesyamun in Leeds as covered by the Yorkshire Evening Post in July 1979 (please note Allison is correct spelling)

One of Leeds’ most famous and oldest residents is to have a visit by two very special transatlantic guests next week.

The Leeds Mummy Nesyamun, on display in Leeds City Museum off Millennium Square, will be visited on Monday 27 June by Allison DiMatteo and her 16-year-old stepdaughter Anna, who have travelled from New York to conduct a special recreation of a moment in time captured from 32 years ago.

Allison DiMatteo has a unique connection to Nesyamun, as she is the great great great grandniece of John Blaydes, the man who originally gave the mummy to the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society in 1824.

On a visit to her grandparents in the UK at the age of 13 in 1979, Allison came to Leeds and was given a private viewing of Nesyamun, in a story which was covered at the time by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Now, 32 years on, Allison is returning to Leeds again so that her stepdaughter Anna can meet Leeds City Museum curator of archaeology Katherine Baxter and enjoy the same experience of a private viewing and explanation of how Nesyamun lived and died over 3,000 years ago.

********MEDIA OPPORTUNITY*******************************
All media are invited to cover the visit by Allison DiMatteo and her stepdaughter Anna to Leeds City Museum to see the Leeds Mummy Nesyamun from 2pm on Monday 27 June.
***********MEDIA OPPORTUNITY***************************

Ahead of the visit, Allison DiMatteo said:

“It was thrilling and overwhelming for me as a 13-year-old to see an actual mummy, and to experience such special treatment from everyone at the museum. I am so grateful to Kat Baxter and everyone at Leeds City Museum for making this special return visit possible, and I know Anna is very excited to see and learn about such a fascinating part of world culture and history.”

Leeds City Museum curator of archaeology Katherine Baxter said:

“This is fantastic story of history coming full circle and we cannot wait to meet Allison and Anna. Nesyamun is so well known in and around Leeds so it will be great to meet the relative of the man who originally gave him to the city. The story of Nesyamun is a fascinating one in its own right and I am really looking forward to retelling it to such special guests.”

Much is known about Nesyamun's life from the inscriptions on his coffin and the objects buried with him. He lived around 1100 BC, was 5ft 6in tall, and died in his mid-forties. He was a priest at the Temple of Amun in the Karnak complex in Thebes (now Luxor), which employed 80,000 people at its height and remains the largest religious building in the world.

Nesyamun’s story is all the more remarkable as the mummy was close to be being destroyed by a bomb from a German air raid on Leeds in 1941 during World War II. The bomb directly hit the former Leeds museum on Park Row, destroying two other mummy specimens, but Nesyamum was untouched despite his inner coffin lid being smashed.

The mummy’s death has also been the cause of some debate, with some experts originally believing due to his open mouth and protruding tongue that he was murdered. More modern theories put forward include his sudden dramatic death being caused by a fatal allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting.

Nesyamun can be visited for free at Leeds City Museum Tuesdays to Sundays. For further information on Leeds City Museum, visit the website at


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, leisure media relations officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, email:

Emergency care service celebrates 25 years

A service that provides a 24-hour care line to over 15,000 people across Leeds is celebrating 25 years of service.

Leeds City Council has provided an alarm call service to people who are elderly or vulnerable since 1986. People who use the service have an alarm unit that plugs into the telephone line and connects them straight to the Care Ring Control centre. They also have a pendant that they can use in case of an emergency, such as a fall.

Media opportunity

When: Friday 24 June, 2pm
Where: Knowsthorpe Gate, Cross Green, Leeds LS9 0NP
What: Dedication of a plaque in celebration of 25 years of successful service. Cllr Gruen and Cllr Yeadon will be available for interviews, as will one of our service users. There will also be the chance to talk to the staff and be shown the service at work

Mr Stuart Dunning , a CareRing user from Cookridge, said:

“It is fantastic to know that there is a 24-hour service that I can rely on in case of an

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive member for neighbourhoods, housing and regeneration said:

“This is a fantastic service and one which has worked extremely well over the last 25 years.

“We want all our elderly and vulnerable people in Leeds to feel safe in their homes 24/7, and this service does more than just that. This is a service that really does save lives.”

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:

“This type of service is an absolute essential for our vulnerable people across Leeds.

”It is fantastic that is has been so successful, and we know that many people rely on the service, with staff taking more than 38,000 calls a month.”

The Right Honourable Hilary Benn MP will unveil the plaque at the event on Friday 24th June at 2:00.
Notes to editors:

Mr Dunning will be attending the event as one of our guests of honour. It is also his 84th birthday , we will be helping him to celebrate his special day with a surprise birthday cake.

When the service was launched 25 years ago a similar ceremony took place with a plaque being unveiled the late local MP Merlyn Rees. Councillor Bernard Atha attended the original ceremony in his role as chair of the Social Services Committee and he will be attending this event.

Key facts about the service
• There are more than 15,500 clients
• They receive 50 – 60 new referrals per week
• The ages range from youngsters in their 60s to 64 people who are over a hundred
• The oldest client is 107
• The team take more than 38,000 calls per month
• Two members of staff have been part of the team since the service started 25 years ago

For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450