Monday, December 10, 2007

Leeds Corn Exchange under threat

Following the loss of Camden market and the threat to Manchester's Affleck's palace now Leeds Corn Exchange is under threat. Similar problem to the Glasgow event noted recently. Particularly interesting is the police campaign against alternative youth highlighted by this article:

As most people form Leeds know, the Corn Exchange plays a major part in the city's youth alternative culture and has done for decades. On any day you'll see goths, punks, emo kids and just general teenagers meeting there, making new mates, getting along and having fun.

Just over a year ago the owners of the building (Eagle Star Life Assurance / Zurich) and the centre management (Phoenix Beard) pressurised West Yorkshire Police, who were far from reluctant to act, to get rid of this young community through months intimidation; ranging from placing dozens of police officers outside the centre each weekend, arresting people for standing in the 'wrong place' and serving Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) on kids for doing what kids do. They have also tried a smear campaign telling people that the Corn-X is a hotspot for drugs and underage drinking when this is infact far from the truth. At first the police and owners claimed the reasoning for their actions was that people gathering outside were intimidating those shopping there, but this didn't wash because it is a fact that most of the custom of shops inside comes from the youth who meet outside. Now it's appearing that the police smear campaign was just to try and get rid of the young community outside so the sale of the building can go ahead and the Corn-x can be redeveloped as a posh food emporium.

The Corn Exchange is central to the alternative scene in Leeds due to it's high profile; it is one of the only places teenagers in the city hang out and keep entertained by friends instead of going off with a few mates and drinking in parks, or being reckless. Without it many people would lose friends they have seen on a weekendly basis; as well as the tight community where there is a large range of people from all different walks of life. If someone has something to talk about, there is always someone of their own age there who can help and even share experiences.

The stores inside the centre have been given until January to find an alternative premises, or face closure. These shops are small traders and cannot afford to move and pay the expensive rent for the other places in Leeds City Centre; and aside from the money aspect there is a lack of empty premises in town as they are all being bought out by large retailers - this is also another contributor to the rise in costs for renting space. Either way these shops will have to close down which will have an effect on the local economy, as well as the customers who shop there as due to many of the stores being specialist traders. Not only shops inside the Corn-X will suffer, but many of the alternative stores in the vicinity will lose a large amount of custom as they are a tight community of traders; not forgetting that there will be a lack of customers around for them...
Similar points are made elsewhere and in this protest video from 2006 which shows the feelings of locals:

Corn Exchange demonstration against exclusion order

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Youth Comment - James Roberts - 01/04/2006 - ...

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