The statue of The Black Prince on City Square sporting his new yellow jersey
Back row L-R Elizabeth Hiscock, from Leeds City Council transport, Dawn Barrow, who works at Holt Park Active, craft group member Doreen Mattison, 78, Delia Clarke, who has worked with the Holt Park group, Councillor Adam Ogilvie, the council’s executive member for adult social care, and Danny Roberts from Leeds City Council transport.
Front row L-R knitters Irene Walker, 84 and Sita Jain, 92.
Many of you may have noticed that there’s been a burst of the colour yellow in our city over the past few months; that and a surge of all things bicycle related. That’s because this Saturday the 5th July, the Tour de France is starting from our city. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) and Prince Harry will be attending the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in Leeds and they will be in the company of 3 billion other people watching worldwide. That’s a lot of people, many of whom may never even have heard of Leeds, or the places leading from and to Otley. They won’t have seen the beauty I believe is our little corner of the globe (well less corner, more area!). There’s something fairly major about this historic event however that I didn’t realise. That and how, predictably, many of you have risen to a different challenge in welcoming the world and now three Royals to our part of Yorkshire. What’s all the fuss about? Something very, very special it seems.
I’m not what you could call a consistent football fan but I do appreciate that as a sport, it’s probably at the top of the spectator’s league. I therefore understand the recent hype and hive of activity the World Cup has brought – flags on cars, hanging from windows and even painted on the faces of some of their loyal followers. I now also realise that the Tour de France, for cyclists and non-cyclists everywhere (including three members of the Royal family?), is the biking equivalent of the World Cup. I mean of course I’d heard of the Tour de France – the winner gets to wear a yellow jersey; it’s a long and arduous bike ride; competitors have to have incomparable stamina and fitness; and there are definitely no wicker baskets strapped to the handle bars! It’s serious stuff; but I didn’t realise just how serious or quite what a prestigious honour this is for Leeds.
The Tour de France is massive; 3 billion people watching any event suggests that it might be fairly important and to put it into a timely context 24m viewers in the UK watched the royal wedding on the BBC and ITV in 2012. Le Tour has never been to the North of England before and the fact that Yorkshire beat off bids from Florence and Edinburgh to host the prestigious race start, well it puts us under a little pressure to proudly showcase our city to the world. The best part? I believe we can, we will and we are. Already the residents of Leeds are rising to the challenge and I’d expect nothing less. If you wander round the streets of Leeds or Otley, or the roads leading into and out of our city, you may have noticed the pockets of parked up yellow bikes; all in recognition of the honour of the Grand Depart and indicative for me of just how proud many of the Leeds residents are that our city will be hosting the start of the race. But that’s not all… Some of our Adult Social Care service users have also really got into the spirit of the race. I think what follows will share with the world, what a great, great sense of humour we Yorkshire folk have. Well, it had me in stitches…
Yesterday, I was delighted to join Doreen Mattison (aged 78); Irene Walker (aged 84); Sita Jain (aged 92) their carers, Delila Clarke and Dawn Barrow and Bridget Glynn (Holt Park Active service manager) to witness the dressing of the iconic statue Edward the Black Prince in City Square. I say ‘dressing’ as thanks to a group of crafty knitters at Holt Park Active, this statue now has a 2 metre-long jersey to keep him warm! As a team from Leeds City Council rose in the ‘cherry picker’ to literally stitch the jumper on, it was so very apparent from the smiles and giggles, just what a great moment this was. Doreen, one of the attending knitters, said:
‘We’ve been so excitable about today! It’s really brought the group at Holt Park Active together and we’ve had so much fun’.
Irene also added:
‘I love the Black Prince. Always have ever since I was a child. I used to see it almost everyday growing up and now, who’d have thought, it’s got our jumper on it! When I told people what we were doing, they didn’t believe it but I’m so proud of it and what the group and my new friends have done. I’ll remember this for a very, very long time’.
At Holbeck Elderly Action, a group of women have also been busy – crocheting another yellow jumper. Not for the winner of the Tour de France, no, but for a nymph statue also in City Square (just in case it gets a little nippy!). This isn’t a stitch up (!), and to celebrate their achievement, the knitting group will be having tea and cakes on City Square this afternoon.
AVSED, one of our 37 Neighbourhood Networks who support older people in Leeds, held a French Themed Tea dance as part of Yeadon’s celebration of the Tour de France last Saturday. They even had a French band playing. I can hear the echoes of Edith Piaf now!
There’s so much more happening, all a small indication of the lengths some people have admirably gone to in helping showcase Leeds and Otley and proving what many of us know already, that we’re proud of our part of Yorkshire. We want to celebrate everything that’s going on. If you or your community are doing something to support the Tour de France then please let us know and we’ll share it with the world. On your marks, get set, go!
Here’s to a great day and a long legacy…