We Are Seacroft!
With my folks, I lived on top
Of the North East Gas Board showrooms shop
In a row of flats called Parkway Mews
From which we had outstanding views
Of the back of Ladbrokes’, the Pathfinder pub
And the brand new East Leeds Labour Club.
Our house wasn’t in so much of a street
As a labyrinth built from cold concrete.
Not posh like how it should have been.
They’d even gone and got the Queen
To come up on a 16 bus
And unveil a shiny plaque for us.
Such a shame the shopping centre
Didn’t turn out how it was meant to.
Lovely shops and a brass band stand
Was what the men in suits had planned.
But the whole world turned its back and scoffed
As the heart was ripped from our Seacroft.
In the busy indoor market hall
There was nowt I liked except the stall
Where I could spend my weekly wage
On ex juke box records from a golden age
By Bowie, Bolan and by Slade
Within half an hour of getting paid.
And then the stall where they sold bread
Was another place I’d go to shed
A bit more of my hard earned cash
On a sausage roll and just a flash
Of a smile from the girl who used to thrill
My teenage heart as she rang her till.
Sometimes we’d go to the Derrisford caff
For a bottle of Coke and a bit of a laugh.
We’d waste so many afternoons
In the mother of all the greasy spoons.
Talking rubbish. Talking soft.
Of a romantic world beyond Seacroft.
The blokes would come home pissed and late
From the Cricketer’s Arms and the Monkswood Gate.
At least the ones who had a job
And could put aside a couple of bob
For Friday’s Tetley’s and their homeward stop
To buy their kids some chips and pop.
At the Universal Bingo Hall
Pat and Sheila had a ball.
‘It’s the weekend. Let’s go wild
With a packet of fags and a glass of mild.’
Win the jackpot? No such luck.
And they’d still have to scrub and clean and cook.
Nan and Grandad loved it there.
Lush green gardens. Fresh clean air.
Such hard times when they thought back
To their pokey terrace amongst the smokey stacks.
With home grown veg and a pigeon loft
Life was good in this new Seacroft.
Now a huge big Tesco fills the space
Where a caretaker would shout and chase
Us off for doing bugger all
Or sometimes kicking our football,
Or sometimes sitting on the steps
To the shoppers’ car park’s murky depths.
It may have seemed to other folks
Seacroft was fit for only jokes
Of drugged up youths and crumbling homes
And icy wastes where stray dogs roamed.
But the folks I knew, I’m proud to boast,
Were good as gold and warm as toast.
It broke my heart. You could hear my sighs
From South Parkway to Kentmere Rise.
The Centre’s shops and flats were gone
But its soul and spirit linger on.
We should stand and sing with our arms aloft
‘We’re not just Leeds. We are Seacroft!’
Seacroft is a sprawling estate of social housing on the eastern edge of Leeds. In the 1960s they added to it a grey concrete white elephant which served originally as a thriving shopping centre with entertainment facilities and residential units, but over thirty years it saw a gradual decline into an almost dystopian state and the decision was made to demolish it and replace it with modern shops, which I suspect will eventually go the same way. Looking back, it was never a pretty place but a lot of people have fond memories of it.
I wrote this poem in 2013 for a friend who was filming a documentary of the same name. He recorded me reading it and used it as a voiceover to accompany some still photographs I had taken. He also included some old television footage of John Betjemen commenting upon the place as he walked around it shortly after its completion. I brag that in this documentary I got to read one of my poems but the former poet laureate didn’t.
Also … the photograph is one I took myself.