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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Squatting a school to reclaim it for the community

Community led action shaming the quick-fix money making council...

Written by Grace Beaumont

A group of Squatters have taken up residency in an iconic building, Royal Park Primary School in Hyde Park Leeds, with the purpose to reclaim the derelict school for the local community and to take a stand against the possible demolition of the building in the future.

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Padlocking the gates to prevent police intervention and armed with colourful banners and plenty of determination the group first set up camp in an old classroom right beside the old Headmaster’s office, making sure they held the space until they could gain complete control before the building could be opened and enjoyed by the whole community.

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After various bids to the council from the community for the site to be handed over it was, of course, offered to private developers Rushbond PLC for the councils easy fix solution and a quick money making scheme. Thankfully the company had to pull out for financial reasons, and so after being left derilict for 5 years the school isn’t in the best condition and throughout the 30 rooms, including a large concert hall, there is a fair amount of damaged paintwork, plasterwork and flooring mainly due to the lead tiles on the roof being nicked 5 months ago letting in rain water.

But thanks to the commitment from the small group of activists that seem more intent on creating a decent community space than the council the school is now becoming a flourishing space for the local residents and students in the area.

Last week a jumble sale was held by the Royal Park Community Consortium (RPCC), the people who are currently living at the school, to raise funds to restore the building. People of all ages attended to show their support and perhaps with the hope of picking up a few bargains too.

Bright posters and children’s work still feature on the walls inside, as well as that distinct school smell which still lingers to give it an almost melancholy feel. Even tour guides were on hand to lead you around the safer and less damaged rooms and also to explain more about the potential the building actually has.

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The concert hall has a stage and would be an ideal venue for gigs and other performances or even as our tour guide describes as a space for children’s indoor sports and activities. There has also been talk of transforming one room into music studio.

The school is currently open to the public daily and welcomes everyone, and there are plenty of ways you can get involved in saving this incredible building. It is easy to become a member of the RPCC, simply go along to one of their frequent meetings, which are advertised on signs at the front of the school and around the area. Help is needed in restoring the building, cleaning and maintaining the rooms and playground and donating building materials. You could even uphold the buildings security and become a night watch-person on the site. To see this building tore down and replaced with a supermarket would be unjust; and hopefully with more support we could soon see the school made into a fantastic site for arts, music, sport and more, to benefit the whole of Hyde Park.

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