Through this site and locations across the city we aim to create a narrative for Leeds which reflects our experience of living in the city and engage others in reflecting on their own experience.
Why Leeds Stories?
Our view is that over the last 10 to 15 years Leeds has failed to develop a narrative which explains itself to the rest of the world. It has become a destination for consumption (shops, bars, clubs, education) and that this narrative has drowned out alternative stories about the city. Stories that make the city and its inhabitants unique and marvellous.
Other cities, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, have managed a transition from regional business centres to internationally known destinations but Leeds hasn’t. We think this is because the people of those cities created stories about themselves and the city. Stories which make sense of their experience and explain it to the rest of the world. The stories of Manchester and the industrial revolution, it’s football team, the Madchester and Hacienda scene, it’s vibrant gay community, the inner city problems of Hulme and Moss Side and the city’s attempts at regeneration, are all part of a grand narrative which helps people to place the city and its inhabitants experience into wider contexts.
Leeds needs stories – real and imagined, historical and contemporary, marvellous and mundane which reveal more of the true nature of the city. Our view this will not come from the imported nature of consumer capitalism but from the people working and living in the city. From those who benefit from its successes and from those who are marginalised and excluded. Stories that reflect the poetry of everyday life.
How do we intend to do this?
Like all stories about a place they are never told in a single narrative arc but are fragmented, stumbled upon by chance and retold from a range of different perspectives. Our idea is to reveal these stories through a combination of storytelling and technology.
We want to create a series of web pages which tell the stories, provide information or ask the ‘reader’ to undertake an activity and reflect on their experience. Each story will be about a geographical location in Leeds. The reader will access the story by scanning a QRcode, where the events in the story take place, with their mobile phone and the code will take them to the relevant page. They will then be able to comment on the web page, creating new perspectives and reflections about the city. We hope that through the discourse on these pages a new set of narratives will emerge that tell a more complete and complex story of the city.
For instance, a story about Nirvana playing at the Duchess may lead to people telling their own stories of the bands they’ve seen there. Or it might be the place they met or lost their loved one. Over time, a story and information about a lost Leeds treasure would emerge as people contribute and reflect on their experiences. So, people walking down Vicar Lane currently only see only an international brand store, but these stories would reveal a much richer and more personal history of the city.
In another instance we may ask the ‘reader’ to look above the shop line and reflect on the architecture and ornamentation of a building. Asking them to see beyond the glare of the shop fronts, ultimately allowing the city to recover and re-invent its own collective memory.
Where do we go from here?
Would you like to contribute? Do you have something to say about our city? We would like people to contribute their stories and their technical expertise. In all honesty, we are limited in both areas. We can spin a yarn as good as the rest of them, but we don’t have all the stories and we certainly don’t have all the technological know-how.
We think the project can be as big or as small as the numbers and skills of the people involved.