At a meeting on 5th October 2011 a Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery was formed to “enhance, promote and, including the monuments, buildings, landscape and burial records”. Half the 8-strong committee reside locally, but the fact that Lawnswood caters for a wide area is also reflected in the committee make-up.
Participants were invited to complete a questionnaire indicating their interest in the Cemetery. The results showed that most were interested in its history and that many visited to pay their respects to deceased family – with the frequency varying widely. There was interest in learning more about the cemetery through guided walks and lectures. But the most popular activity identified was the practical work party. The leader, Dave Blackham, Leeds Council Parks & Gardens ranger, was present and explained what was involved. A varied range of tasks would be tackled each time, with him supplying all the tools, equipment, training and insurance. Participants just have to turn up – the more the merrier. Although the group runs from10 am 3pm there is no pressure to do a full session – sandwiches advisable for those intending to do a full day.
Cllr. & Mrs Anderson were in attendance as well as members of staff involved with the Cemetery. After the business part of the meeting was over, they were introduced to the wider audience. Mr John Jeffreys, the Chief Bereavement Officer, outlined the plans for the approach to the Cemetery, including the missing gates. A time-frame for their reinstatement was requested. Another contentious issue is the leaving of floral tributes on the lawned areas – which considerably increases the time taken for mowing. Some new ideas are being trailed. The roof of the Columbarium was currently being repaired at considerable cost which hopefully will mean its removal from the Civic Trust’s buildings at risk register. We were also pleased to be introduced to Mr Chris Raines, the new Head Gardener at the Cemetery.
The help Leeds City Council played in getting the group up and running was noted. It was not entirely altruistic in that not only should the work-party “make a difference” but a community group increases the range of funds that can be accessed – another reason to feel confident that the Friends really can play a role in ensuring that this wonderful 65 acre space in our neighbourhood can be passed on in a good state for future generations to appreciate.