The people keeping Hyde Park ticking

Throughout May and June, three peoples work in the Hyde Park community stood out, they could even be considered ‘Community Heroes’. They discussed what they do to help the community, why they do it and ultimately describing the benefits of their selflessness.

By Rachel Johnston

Community is more than just a word or a collection of people. The word community has a power to it. It conveys a sense of fellowship and unity.

A community is a positive thing. It is allowing yourself to open up to the people you share an area with.

Since being in and out of national lockdowns, more people have realised that those who live and work around us, glue our community together.

Hyde Park in Leeds is a predominantly student area. You will find most students who go to the many different universities in the city will live in and around the LS6 area.

Frequenting this area is Guy Spandler. Guy is an eccentric Royal Mail postman who you may see delivering parcels around the LS6 area. Look out for the bronzed tan and the slick mohawk.

Guy posting parcels around Hyde Park
Guy posting parcels around the Hyde Park area

After 3 years on the job, Guy works 7 days a week, making sure everyone in the area gets their post on time and safely – Something which many of us take for granted. 

However, he still manages to do it all as if it is the greatest day on the planet, with a new topic of conversation to chat about each day.

Guy will always be found with a smile on his face, cheering up the community, especially during the national lockdowns where no one could see their loved ones. Some days, Guy would be the only person people would see.

Dream Job

Guy explains how it felt being in his shoes: “I felt very lucky to be one of the few people to whom the lockdown didn’t apply. I realised that I was the only person some people were seeing that day, but to be honest, I think I acted in the same way I always did, stopping and talking too much when I should be working.”

“It’s always nice for me when I stop and talk to somebody and they say I’ve made their day, that means the world to me, makes me so happy inside.”

He elaborates on how he stays so positive and happy especially during such critical times.

“I think this world is amazing, it’s just full of incredible people. We are so lucky to be on this little blue marble flying through space, I’m not sure why I’m always happy and smiling.”

Guy waving at his new-found friends
Guy loves to make new friends on his route

I believe it’s because I’m here and life is so precious, I feel being happy keeps your mind open. I love more than anything when you smile at a stranger and they smile back. I love to think every day I might meet a new lifelong friend.”

“I see all walks of life from the very rich to people who are struggling, it’s the help that the people of Leeds give freely to these people that make this city so special to me.”

Guy is heavily involved within the local community. Ask around Hyde Park, and it is guaranteed that someone will know his name. He is also known within many local businesses too.

Posting a letter
WrWorking 7 days a week is nothing compared to meeting people from all walks of life each day.

One being Coffee on the Crescent.

Coffee on the Crescent is an independent coffee shop based on Hyde Park Corner. It offers a selection of coffee, pastries, sandwiches, books, beer, art and plants. Everything under one roof.

Tim Linley, the owner of Coffee on the Crescent is a very community-focused man, who opened his coffee shop four years ago. The cafe is situated next to the ‘Birdcage’, which is a gated patch of grass opposite Woodhouse Moor. 

Tim takes time out of his busy schedule, and money out of his pocket to fund fixing up the area next to his establishment.

So far, Tim has restored The Birdcage Fence, taking 6 weeks, 20 volunteers, and 10 pots of paint. They have also cleared the public walkway to the side of the cafe and taken the excess rubbish from the bins. Their next job is gardening the area.

Tim gardening in the Birdcage.
Sundays are spent planting flowers around the Birdcage

Importance of sustainability

“As soon as I moved into the shop, there was rubbish everywhere. My business is super sustainable and very community-focused, so it offended me. I take a huge amount of pride in my shop, so I needed to do something about it.”

One of the reasons I moved to Hyde Park was that I felt that there wasn’t a shop like Coffee on the Crescent in the area, with has sustainable products, friendly staff and a super clean environment.”

Tim applied for funding from multiple organisations in Leeds, but ultimately they took too long to even acknowledge the ideas for the Birdcage, so he took matters into his own hands. 

Tim and Beth asking eachother what to plant next.
Selfless volunteers are what allows the work to keep going weekly

Tim decided to pay for the Birdcage renovation out of his pocket, knowing it would come back to him in different ways.

“I believe in taking action, not complaining about it, actually doing something about it and then you will find people are drawn to you who want to help. I have been in contact with every single group you could imagine. Just to keep them aware of what we’re doing, but not necessarily asking for permission.”

Not only has the Birdcage brought more custom to Coffee on the Crescent during Covid times, but it has also given local residents a new, clean space to sit and chat with friends.

Tim does this all with the help of volunteers, one being Beth Bingley.

Beth is a fine example of the perfect volunteer. With her vast knowledge of plants and desire to get her hands dirty, she helps Tim out each Sunday without fail. The generosity of people like Tim and Beth do not go unnoticed, with the Birdcage being fully utilised by coffee lovers from early in the morning until sun down.

Beth cutting the hedges to keep the path clear.
Beth is a volunteer who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty

Tim continued: “The Birdcage has helped the business with COVID because we didn’t have an outside space. Officially we still don’t have outside space, as this is a community space. Because people know that we’ve done this, they will say they want to contribute to the shop more and keep the area clean.”

If you go into Coffee on the Crescent you will immediately notice a Pay-As-You-Feel sign on the counter. This allows customers to pay for another coffee for those who may not be able to afford one, which is working in conjunction with Rainbow Junktion.

Rainbow Junktion is a cafe founded by Paul Magnall. It opened its doors on 11th September 2014 as part of The Real Junk Food Project network. In 2018 it became an independent Pay-As-You-Feel community cafe. The aims of the cafe continue to be to reduce food waste, feed hungry people and build community.

Helping those in need

Rainbow Junktion is a cafe that intercepts food that would otherwise go to waste from supermarkets, restaurants and other sources, and turns it into healthy, nutritious meals for anyone on a pay-as-you-feel donation basis.

When paying for your coffee, you can add £2.50 towards a ‘Pay A Coffee Forward’ coffee. At the end of each month, Coffee on the Crescent adds the total up and makes a monthly payment to Rainbow Junktion. 

Tim revealed how much the cafe has raised for the organisation: “Since we started in December, we’ve raised 2000 pounds for Rainbow Junktion.”

Rainbow Junktion performs a function that my shop cannot help basically like because the people who need that service can’t afford the luxury of going to a posh coffee shop.“

According to Tim, Guy has donated the most money towards the ‘Pay a Coffee Forward’ system, linking all three ‘Community Heroes’ to each other. You can even find a photograph of Guy up on the wall, as the post office used to be situated just behind the cafe.

The entrance to Rainbow Junktion, alongside the hot food and shop menu.
The indoor cafe turned car park takeaway isn’t hard to miss

Emily Carrigan has been the manager of Rainbow Junktion for around 4 and a half years. 

Emily explains: “We used to have a cafe 3 days a week. We would make a selection of starters, mains and desserts. We’ve got a red donation tin out the front and you Pay-As-You-Feel. People just put in what they want, I don’t monitor it. I think it’s nice to have it there because some people want to contribute, whilst others really can’t.”

“We now run 3 days a week out of the car park. We do takeaway hot food and people can choose what they want from the shop.

Behind the scenes at Rainbow Junktion, where volunteers make all the food.
Volunteers work hard in the kitchen to prepare hot meals for those in need

“We also deliver food bags around the area. We give one dry parcel with tins, cereal, pasta, and then one with fresh fruit and veg. After all, it is a global health pandemic. Some of the money should be spent on fresh foods.”

In many cases, to access food banks, you must either qualify for the service. In turn, constantly reiterating why you may need food, and repeating your story over again. Sometimes, once you have done this, the items you may receive can be limited.

“We are completely non-referral and non-judgmental. Anyone can join the queue and say what they need, we will then do our best to accommodate their wishes. No questions asked.”

It is not just food people need. Being in food poverty may mean you could be in another form of poverty too.

Those who are vulnerable may not have access to phones, phone credit or even electricity. This is why Rainbow Junktion has set up a signposting service within the community. 

“Sometimes it’s just helping people make a phone call. A lot of our customers don’t have a phone or credit, so there’s a lot of barriers to accessing what they are entitled to. The idea is to help them help themselves. To empower individuals to do those things.”

Free Tea or Coffee on arrival for anybody who may want it.
You can get yourself a hot drink made especially by the generous volunteers upon arrival

As mentioned before, Coffee on the Crescent has worked directly with Rainbow Junktion.

Emily explains how the two organisations have helped each other equally: “Right from the beginning, Tim turned up and asked ‘What can I do?’. He was bringing us his leftover pastries at the end of the day and now he’s selling our cookbook, which our volunteers put together. Tim is very caring and cares a lot about our community.”

That’s why we, as Rainbow Junktion, really want to work with other local organisations to serve our community in the best way.”

“There is such an amazing thing about eating and sharing food with someone. We have a diverse volunteer and customer base of asylum-seeking people, students, local people, retired people, professionals, all different ethnicities.”

Community spirit

It is important to bring everyone together and just share some food and realise that there’s more that makes us the same and separates us.”

As it can be seen, Guy the fun-loving, unique postman who warms peoples hearts on each of his shifts, alongside Coffee on the Crescents and Rainbow Junktions generosity, are all staple pieces amongst the Hyde Park community. An area that should feel blessed to have people who champion the area so much.

The three all have connections to one another, highlighting how important community spirit, and simply helping one another is. Whether that be selling a cookbook, or paying a coffee forward. It is the little things that count.

These three community heroes are prime examples of living and working harmoniously for a happier life.