“’Wow’ is the word that springs to mind every time I come into this building… I really think the building has soul and spirit, if a building can have those kind of qualities.”
This is high praise indeed from LCF CEO, Sally-Anne Greenfield, in her opening speech at The Old Fire Station launch. However, for all those who visit the newly refurbished building in Gipton, it is hard to not to marvel at the amazing transformation it has undergone.
We were extremely excited to formally open The Old Fire Station in Gipton on Friday 15th September and are happy to say that its doors are now open to people from the East Leeds community and beyond.
From an active Fire Station, built in the 1930s, to a thriving community hub, the launch marked the end of a large-scale, two year refurbishment. Keeping many of the original features intact, the building is now home to five community organisations, meeting rooms for hire, a roof garden and a community café.
Managed by Leeds Community Foundation and made possible by the amazing generosity of self-made entrepreneur, Jimi Heselden, we were very excited and proud to at last share this amazing building with the local community, former Gipton fire fighters, and, of course, the Heselden family at the opening event.
It was an early start that day for LCF, with BBC Radio Leeds interviews from 7.30am with our CEO, Sally-Anne Greenfield, and The Old Fire Station project co-ordinator, Fran Etherington.
Leeds Cookery School began to warm up their ovens ready for their Sweet Morning Bread class and we were already starting to think about Fire Station residents, The Feel Good café’s, delicious canapes being served later on in the day.
As attendees gathered in Jimi’s Community Room, overlooking the Community Garden, they were welcomed with speeches from trustee Jonathan Morgan of Morgans City Living, Sally-Anne Greenfield and Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East.
The refurbishment undertaken by Leeds Community Foundation was funded by Jimbo’s, a fund set up by Jimi Heselden, the inventor of the Hesco Bastion baskets who tragically died 7 years ago. In her speech, Sally-Anne paid tribute to his amazing generosity and lasting legacy:
“If Jimi were here today. I think he would be very proud, and justifiably so, of the incredible facility that has been provided through his generosity that will, quite literally, change the lives of many, many people, day on day, week on week, month on month for many years to come.”
“And I truly hope that we have managed to fulfil his wishes – to do something special, to build something that is going to give people in East Leeds a more positive future, a job, a life, some hope.”
“I am confident it will be an inspiring space for the tenants, to help them deliver their work; a welcoming hub for their beneficiaries, who will come here and feel the warm welcome that it brings; and a base that local people can use and that will be full of fun, and laughter and celebration.”
Feeling suitably inspired, guests were then offered tours of the building, with many of the Fire Fighters who had previously worked at the Gipton station providing additional historical titbits along the way. Back in Jimi’s Community Room, we were then treated to lunch provided by The Feel Good café, and guests were able to share stories and admire photpgrapher Lizzie Coombes’ artwork on the walls.
So we hope you will visit for a coffee, come for a cookery course, make use of the state of the art meeting room facilities, or just succumb to curiosity and pop in to look around!
Further details about The Old Fire Station, café menu and opening times, and its rooms for hire can be found here: www.theoldfirestationgipton.org.uk