This is the last Tour de France blog from me. It’s been a very strange week as the excitement and anxious anticipation of the Grand Depart that spirited into the city seems to have sprinted away, perhaps on the tail of the peleton fleet. It’s all a little quiet and feels quite subdued but when you work in Adult Social Care, there’s always someone somewhere to drag you from the lull of real life back into a world of loveliness.
This week it seems that every other email has been a congratulatory thank you for all the hard work that the Council and partner teams did to put on the greatest Tour de France show of them all. To be recognised by the good, great and really very important (Chief Officers and Councillors galore!), was surely appreciated by all; it certainly was for me. But today, one email prompted one phone call that topped all the Tour thanks. 6 days after the biggest day Leeds has probably ever had and it seems for the now infamous crochet queens of Holbeck Elderly Aid, the legacy of the Grand Depart really does live on.
So the email. From the wonderful, inspirational, genuine, committed, compassionate and quite, quite extraordinary Elissa, Service Manager from the Holbeck team, a note of gratitude popped into my inbox.
‘….Wow we had a great time at Holbeck Elderly Aid and as for City Square and the Press coverage – it was awesome! Many, many thanks to you and the team for all of the support and help that you gave to us during this amazing event for Leeds and Yorkshire…’
For those of you that know me, I’m not the quietest of folk and far prefer to chat than email. And so, on receiving this, I called Elissa back to thank her because without their support, the Grand Depart would have been far less memorable not only for me, but for the thousands of visitors that spotted and then snapped photos of their yellow jersey on the nymph in City Square. What became clear from our chat was that I don’t think either I nor Elissa anticipated quite how HUGE the impact of plenty of men riding in a peleton would have on us and those around us. That and how one group of crafting ladies would save a nymph’s modesty and be remembered in the thousands for a very long time..
Here she shares her thoughts on what a magic was created after they received the call for the crochet queens!
Elissa, what is your role in supporting people of Leeds?
I’m the Chief Officer of Holbeck Elderly Aid, part of the Neighbourhood Network Scheme in Leeds who support people in the community in so many ways. We’re a locally led organisation that help older people in our communities to live independently and really be a part of where they live. We also provide services that reduce social isolation; offer volunteering opportunities and signpost advice, information, and services. More than all of this, we’re like an extended family and, just like our recent Tour de France experience, we have quite a lot of fun too!
What role did you and the people from Holbeck Elderly Aid play in the Tour de France?
The Craft group were invited by Adult Social Care to knit a yellow jumper to celebrate the Tour De France departing from Leeds. A fair few stitches later, the jumper was placed on a nymph statue in City Square, Leeds. To celebrate this we took our service users, who are older people that live in the Holbeck area of Leeds, to see the statue in situ. The restaurants were so busy in the build up to the event that we decided to have our own pop up afternoon tea and cakes! Table, chairs, proper cups and saucers and a some very fancy cakes too!
Could you describe what made you want to get involved with the Tour de France?
We just thought that it was such a great opportunity to be able to include the older generation of the City of Leeds. Some of us may not necessarily want to ride a bike again, but we still really wanted to be in the heart of the celebrations and be a part of this fantastic event. It was a proud, proud time for all of us – we couldn’t ever not be involved.
Why did you and the crochet queens end up having a tea party in City Square?
It was so important that the ladies who had given up their time to crochet this jersey, could see their achievements in person and what better way to thank them and celebrate than to have afternoon tea on a lovely sunny day with all of the celebrations going on around them. It was like we were local celebrities! People came to see what we’d done; chatted to us and it felt like hundreds of people took photos of us and the jumper.
I heard you had VIP guests turn up at your tea party! What was that like?
Awesome, just amazing, impossible to put into words, I shall remember this event always. Just amazing community spirit that everyone gave us such support at Leeds City Council. Tom Riordan, Councillor Ogilvie, Councillor Yeadon, professional photographers and the lovely Orla from Sky Sports television who interviewed us. That’s us – a group of ladies from Holbeck on Sky Sports news – you couldn’t make it up! If you’d have said a month ago, that we’d be creating such a stir, I’d have never have believed you. It was unbelievable. I get goose pimples now just remembering it!
You’ve also been heard on the radio and seen on TV and the papers – what was that like?
Surreal, I was more nervous than our ladies, they were amazing, so professional and they made quite an impression! You can’t beat the our Holbeck humour and I think we proved that.
What was life like before and after the Tour de France for you and the crochet queens?
A great build up, exciting, the team spirit at HEA was just amazing. I was walking across City Square and there was Sue Cawthray and Jenny Armstrong setting up afternoon tea, as if it was a common occurrence! And Steve Hall the Transport Manager arriving across the Square with our ladies on the mini bus. Just super…we have not come down yet, what’s next?
We’ve talked of the legacy of the Tour de France, what will you all take away from this experience?
A lasting memory that LCC set this innovative challenge and we ended up in City Square being interviewed by Sky Sports News, and the community spirit around Leeds and Yorkshire, throngs of people on the streets. How it all transpired.
Any final Le Tour thoughts?
Well done Leeds and well done our ladies of Holbeck Elderly Aid Craft Group!
– Well done from me too.