Monday, 25 March 2013

Barriers

Image courtesy of Yvonne Roberts, Artist In Residence

Another full day but not a boat in sight. We are not even on the water, but that very subject is central to everything we talk about.
A meeting with the Environment Agency caused amusement within the school as the subject was salmon ladders. The conversation was opened with me expressing my desire to get salmon along the River Aire as far as Skipton. The salmon can get as far as Thwaite Mills but they face barriers – the weirs have to have fish passes. 
  
You may be thinking: “What does that have to do with Canal Connections?”
We quickly established the relevance. The River Aire flows through the centre of Leeds and there is an abundance of opportunity for it to be a training ground for the development of so many skills to suit all abilities and interests, a leisure opportunity, plus it presents a connection to commercial, heritage and nature centres. It travels close to communities whose residents face many challenges in their everyday lives and in order for people to appreciate its value to them, they have to understand its relevance and it has to bring ‘added value’ into their lives. The conversation was very much about this.
 
The day finished with a seminar at the Lifelong Learning Centre at Leeds University. The subject was ‘Positive approaches to supporting families’. The speakers gave very clear and disturbing facts and case studies about the issues that people face in their every day lives. Sylvia showed how the words we use hide some harrowing facts. “Young Carers” brings the media image of young people as ‘little hero’s’. This may be true but it softens the issues and impacts on their life. A ‘dodgy maths’ formula showed how in reality they were actually contributing over £10million in social benefit. The actual cost of caring shows itself in poor educational outcomes, poor emotional health outcomes and poor family outcomes, often demonstrated through low self esteem, lack of self confidence and social isolation. 

This is nothing to do with water so what is it to do with Canal Connections?

The seminar was all about working with families as a whole and I raised the awareness of the under realised asset in the centre of Leeds – The waterway. A community boat provides an opportunity to explore innovative ways to work for social benefit – important in these times of economic recession.
Canal Connections cannot provide the answer but we want to be a part of the solution. We want to show through examples from across the country how we can make more use of assets within our midst.
Image courtesy of Yvonne Roberts, Artist In Residence
It was certainly a thought provoking day but hopefully we will open some of the barriers too.

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