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That’s the title of a 1992 film based on a 1976 book by Norman Maclean about family life in early 20th century Montana. The book and film are presented from the view of older brother Norman who goes on one last fly fishing trip with his troubled younger brother Paul; the river being the focus to engage in an attempt to help him get his life on track. 

So why is it relevant?

Well, I’ve recently been to two events in Leeds. One was called ‘Blog on a boat’ – an event aimed at bringing people who write or have (or might have) an interest in the waterfront area together to help tell stories of what goes on in and around the Leeds waterfront. The aim is to promote Leeds Waterfront Festival. The second event was the latest #cityseriesleeds film at Hyde Park Picture House looking at cities, to stir debate about Leeds; how it is and might be.

‘Of time and the city’ by Terence Davies, is described as both a love song and a eulogy to Liverpool. It is also a response to the experience of losing a sense of place as the skyline of Liverpool changed.

So what’s the link?

What was apparent after talking to people at the waterfront event, unlike the film ‘a river runs through it’, the waterfront in Leeds isn’t seen by enough folk as something to engage with or as a potential focal point. Maybe there isn’t enough to attract them to go down there.  Many of the properties have turned their backs on any potential the waterfront has and face the other way.

Admittedly, the Mersey is a huge river, much bigger than our river and canal and no doubt had a huge influence on development of Liverpool as a city. Oddly it didn’t feature as much in the film as I expected it might. Maybe that mirrors Leeds’ relationship with its waterfront.

I visited Liverpool last year and was impressed.

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Parts of Liverpool has obviously benefited from being European Capital of Culture in 2008, something Leeds is looking at for 2023.

I was lucky enough to get to Brisbane too last year and saw how its south bank development along the Brisbane River has given a new focus for people to go into the city. Again this was made possible by hosting World Expo 88.

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The city beach is amazing. Fair enough, the weather is better than Leeds but it has indoor venues too.

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I’ve also visited Bristol and seen how its river and waterfront has been made a focal point.

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I know from work I’ve done that Leeds’ waterways have some real heritage are well worth seeing. The wildlife also enhances the waterways potential for recovery and wellbeing. Here is a link to a short video by Yvonne Roberts hosted on canalconnections.com. It shows a speeded up version of Leeds Waterways from the front of a boat.

So what?

It seems to me there might be some mileage in talking the waterways up a bit, perhaps including them in any next phase of #cityseriesLeeds films. At the blog on a boat event I met a chap called Trevor Roberts. He has so many stories to tell and has such passion for the waterways and showing people round that it would be good to buddy him up with the #cityseriesLeeds folk and also Lightnight folk. Maybe the waterfront could be a venue for Lightnight too?

If you take what has happened at the top end of town now the Arena is built, there is a new front end to the Merrion Centre; its backside is now it’s best feature. Why not apply that to the waterfront too.

Hopefully the work by Allied London to revamp Leeds Dock, will be a start of something and give folk a reason to visit.

Just maybe if you join elements of #cityseriesLeeds, Lightnight and the Waterfront Festival up, there might be something bigger than the individual elements.

A river does actually run through it.

Go see.

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