Reader’s letter: How you can get more involved in Kirkstall’s community

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Kirkstall Festival was last held in 2019, due to the pandemic. Photo: Andy Parnham

Dear Sir,

It was encouraging to read last week in West Leeds Dispatch about the success of the community campaigners A Place To Sit.

It is credit to the community volunteers across West Leeds that we are able to organise and come together for such campaigns, and long way it continue.

As a volunteer myself with Kirkstall Festival and Kirkstall in Bloom the continuity of community organisations through volunteers is a constant back-of-the-mind thought. How does one plan for the future when volunteer numbers fall?

The ongoing pandemic is currently having an effect on how both Kirkstall Festival and Kirkstall in Bloom have carried out activities. 

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Kirkstall in Bloom volunteers at work. Photo: Iola Shaw

Last year we held a mini-festival, which meant a much smaller group of visitors than a normal year. 2021 saw roughly 2,000 visitors over two days, the last full festival in 2019 drew more than 20,000 visitors over six hours.  

Kirkstall in Bloom has been operating on reduced volunteer numbers for a couple of years. Four committee members complete the majority of the work at the moment, so we are very concerned about keeping going.

The pandemic has seen some of our volunteers reassess their commitments, and we’ve been happy to support them. However, both organisations are also looking to recruit more volunteers.

‘Precarious position’

Luckily Kirkstall In Bloom have already had a start on this through the work of our wonderful treasurer Becky. Kirkstall Festival is in a different position, and to me feels a little more precarious. How can we welcome 20,000 visitors to Kirkstall Abbey if there are not enough volunteers?

On the date of writing (Monday, 24 January 2022), I cannot say that Kirkstall Festival will go ahead on Saturday, 9 July 2022.

If it goes ahead it will be a managed event in line with government guidance, meaning that the event will be fenced and visitors will come on-site through gates. It will be a free to enter event unlike the Mini-Festival of 2021.

I am hopeful it will go ahead. I’m looking after the activities in the grounds, and there’s change in what we might be offering. 

I am hopeful too that we will manage to recruit new volunteers. Over the coming months myself and the committee will be looking at how to do this, though if anyone is reading this and would like to get in touch come find us on Facebook or Instagram.

Obviously one thing in all community groups favour is having a supportive and pro-active local news provider in West Leeds Dispatch. Thank you.

Kind regards,
Jim Corah, committee member of Kirkstall Festival and Kirkstall in Bloom


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