The Friday Comment is a new section on BGL which gives people the space to talk about their lives in Leeds, posted at 2pm on Fridays; if you would like to have your say then please get in touch by emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org. This week we have Lola Wilson of Leeds Love Affair.
The demise of New Dock: I believe that children are our future…
So it’s been announced that the massive Alea casino in New Dock (formerly Clarence Dock) has closed and postmortems are taking place on radio and social media as to why such a great looking, modern development is apparently failing despite the fact is houses the national armouries.
With the last of its retailers, All Saints, closing a few months ago many people have pointed out that setting itself up as a ‘luxury retail development’ was a bad idea and will never work in a development that is at least a 5 minute walk from the city centre. Why would people travel from Briggate on foot to New Dock to shop at the same sort of shops? Yeah, exactly.
Aside from this seemingly obvious business advice to Allied London, the owners of New Dock, let’s stop dancing around the truth and address some of the real, not so pleasant issues that New Dock has going on.
Most significant is the fact that the journey on foot from New Dock to town, especially at night, is not very safe. And when I say not very safe, I mean I’d rather risk skipping through Honduras with a Tesco bag full of cocaine than walk alone to New Dock on an evening. On at least two occasions a friend of mine has interrupted criminal activity, one occurring against a group of young girls in broad daylight at knifepoint, on his way home in the canalside underpass between New Dock and Brewery Wharf. It’s not a question that New Dock is too far for people to want to go to, it’s the fact that people don’t feel safe getting there. And if people don’t feel safe, why would they even risk it?
Let’s move on to another issue with New Dock that people dare not speak of, the jewel in its crown, the Royal Armouries. It’s the national collection of arms and armour that manages to make magnificently regal history and, more importantly, objects that were made to maim and murder seem spectacularly… dull. That’s right, I just criticised our national armoury, something which inspires a huge amount of pride on a local level. And so it should. But the reality is that if 6 year old boys have to be dragged kicking and screaming round a museum of weaponry and warcraft then there’s something very very wrong. Did you know that a suit of armour rumoured to belong to King Henry VIII himself is in that very building? No. And why not? Because it only tells you so on a tiny piece of card next to the suit of armour which you only get to after already seeing 2 other floors of row upon row upon row of other stuff with similarly tiny description cards behind prohibitive glass cases. Yes it’s history that needs to be carefully preserved but we’re in a new age of interaction, where my friends’ 2 year old can operate an iPhone on instinct, so squirrelling our nations most lethal instruments of destruction and torture in a roped off area just isn’t going to cut it.
Call me a fantasist, but what I think New Dock really needs to do is pull its head out of its proverbial, stop trying to market itself as another ‘luxury’ destination (because the Victoria Quarter and Trinity Leeds already have that covered, thank you) and focus on becoming a dedicated family fun destination. Ok, so I just told you that I think the Royal Armouries stops short of being ‘fun’, but a little revamping could fix that and they’d soon be setting the standard for other family friendly places to set up at New Dock.
Maybe I’m getting on a bit, but my fear as I go hurtling towards my thirties is that when my partner and I think about taking that huge leap into parenthood, there won’t be anything in the city centre worth taking our kids to. And that’s terrible. Why are we excluding the younger generations from town? Times have been hard for families but they still have money to spend, and if there was one place they could go time and again to get cultural stimulation at a reasonable price in Leeds, well, I should think they’ll be flocking there faster than you can say ‘Leeds Liverpool canal’.