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Leeds Citizens launches in front of packed crowd

As the nation paid its respects to those lives lost in the London Bombings ten years ago, a new people’s alliance was officially launched in Leeds last week to coincide with the landmark anniversary.

On Tuesday 7th July, over 650 people from faith, education and civil society organisations came together for the Founding Assembly of Leeds Citizens.

The group is a branch of the national community organising charity, Citizens UK, and involves individuals from across society working together for a better Leeds.

After raising £65,000 of local funding, from membership dues and founding partner contributions, the group employed a professional Community Organiser to support the work.

Over the past six months, a listening campaign has been run by members across different communities aimed at building relationships and managing campaigns to tackle poverty, improve mental health services and overhaul the bus network.

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Last week’s event, held at Elland Road’s Centenary Pavilion, was the official launch of Leeds Citizens and called upon local decision makers to pledge their commitments to work with the alliance on a range of proposals to improve life in the city.

Tom Chigbo, community organiser with Leeds Citizens, hailed the event a ‘tremendous success’ and hoped to see the group flourish in the city over the coming months.

“Leeds Citizens is not an idea that has come about overnight, rather we have been working with Citizens UK for almost three years now, to develop this alliance,” he said.


“The listening events over the past six months have given members the chance to talk about issues in their communities and through this group, they have a voice to be heard.

“Leeds Citizens encourages communities to work together for a better Leeds, as we identify areas that need improving.

“The founding assembly was a tremendous success with almost 700 people from all backgrounds turning out for the event.”

Amongst those who made commitments on the night included the Leader of Leeds City Council, Cllr Judith Blake, who agreed to meet with Leeds Citizens at least twice a year and seek Living Wage accreditation for the City Council and across the city.

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Paul Matthews, Managing Director of First West Yorkshire, committed to working with Leeds Citizens to improve the frequency of bus services and introduce a ‘Bus Covenant’ to promote mutual respect and good behaviour on buses by the end of 2015.

Finally, Chris Butler, Chief Executive of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, endorsed the campaign to provide ‘navigators’ for people accessing mental health services and create new culturally sensitive care for the elderly.

“Receiving these commitments to work with us from senior officials is exactly why we launched this group,” Mr Chigbo added.

“I hope more people will follow their example and we can improve our communities and cohesion in the city.”

As the event coincided with the 7/7 anniversary, 15 young people of different faiths and backgrounds were also recognised on the night with the title ‘Peace Ambassadors’ for their work in advance of the assembly, to build relationships, including a ‘Journey of Peace’ to London.

The trip, which mirrored the route taken by the three Leeds-based bombers, saw the young people visit the 7/7 memorial site, meet survivors and relatives of the bombings, and the Somali Bravanese Community.

Shammah Gwedegwe, one of the Peace Ambassadors, simply described the trip by saying: “We are not retracing their steps, but replacing them with a Journey of Peace.”

The Founding Assembly closed with a community iftaar where all attendees were invited to join the attending Muslims in breaking their fast for that evening.