In Spring 2016, we began to explore Meanwood Park in the north of Leeds. The aim of our exploration was to make a book and a theatre piece about the area’s history and heritage. The park lies four miles north of Leeds City Centre and originally opened in 1922. Much of the land that it now covers was formerly the estate of Meanwoodside – a large private house belonging to the Kitson Clark family. The estate was bought by Leeds City Council in 1954 and has been open to the public ever since. Today, the park covers 72 acres and includes a wide variety of different environments – mixed woodland, open meadows, a beck, several ponds and mires, a children’s playground and various picnic spots.
Over the course of several months, we ran a series of walks with local residents and organised visits to Leeds Museums Discovery Centre and The University of Leeds to view their collections and talk with experts. We also visited older people at nearby lunch clubs to gather stories about the park in times past and went out walking with children from Meanwood CE Primary School to see what they thought about the park as it is today. On Wednesday evenings, we ran a series of writing workshops in the Ranger’s Hut in the car park, with a small group of local writers. These activities led to the creation of a book and a site-specific theatre performance.
Photography by Lizzie Coombes
Ways Through the Wood is a choose-your-own-adventure book which is set in Meanwood Park and The Hollies. The book was launched at East of Arcadia on May 29th 2016, as part of Meanwood Festival. Five hundred copies were printed and distributed to people in the local area. To accompany the book, we commissioned a sound piece by local artists Jonathan Lindh and Simon Bradley. Some of the creative writing pieces and the full recording are included below.
Way Through the Woods is a site-specific performance that took place in Meanwood Park in June 2016. It was created in collaboration with writer Peter Spafford, choreographer Vanessa Grasse. The piece was based around the story of Major Harold Brown. Major Brown’s father owned The Hollies estate, adjacent to Meanwood Park. The estate was gifted to the city of Leeds in 1921 as a memorial to their son, who was killed in action in the First World War.
Kirsty Arnold, Matthew Bellwood, Alison Grace Clissold, Anthony Haddon, Jaye Kearney, Matilde Torres Laborde, Shona Mackay, Daniel Marcus, Carol Sorhaindo, Laurie Spafford, Oscar Stafford, Sing Meanwood
Conceived and directed by Alison Andrews, Matthew Bellwood and Peter Spafford
Composer and choral director Beccy Owen
Design Kelly Jago
Graphic Design Amy Levene
Photography Lizzie Coombes
Administration and Publicity Mel Purdie, Anna Turzinsky
Production Management Dave Glenister
Assistants Florence Simms, Jo Ellis
Produced by A Quiet Word
Sculptures designed by Year 6 pupils at Meanwood C of E Primary School
The Bay Horse, Beck Arts, East of Arcadia, Fobi, Friends of The Hollies, Holy Trinity Church Lunch Club, InterACT Church and Community Partnership, Meanwood Valley Partnership, Meanwood Festival, Leeds Libraries and Information Service, The Leeds Library, Leeds Museums Discovery Centre, Leeds Parks and Gardens, Meanwood Café, Meanwood Fellowship, Meanwood Primary School, The Myrtle Tavern, Sing Meanwood, Stainbeck Church Lunch Club, The University of Leeds
Jean Barker, Avril and Brian Bellwood, Lis Bertolla, Christine Bewell, Simon Bradley, Vanessa Brown, Revd Kingsley Dowling, Alison Fell, Mary Greenwood, Gabrielle Hamilton, John Hepworth, Ross Horsley, Steve Joul, Andrew Kyrover, Jonathan Lindh, Linda Marshall, Ann Matthews, Clare Morgan, Lucy Nokes, Julian Oxley, Kitty Ross, Cynthia Ruston, Doug Sandle, Peter Smithson, Colin Speakman, Arthur Stafford, Doreen Wood
28) 28th January
There is a pair of underpants in the tree beside the park. They flutter in the breeze – all clean and white and full of promises.