Gatekeepers and Power
- Anna Dyson
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Gledhow Valley Woods is a beautiful serene woodland tucked away between Harehills, Oakwood and Moortown, and is complete with lake and many footpaths to explore. At the outer edge, behind fencing, lies the Gipton Spa bath house – a grade 2 listed building constructed in 1671. It is kept locked away as there are insurance considerations if it were readily available to the public, so the Friends of Gledhow Valley Woods (FGVW) protect it, and the public, except for certain days in the year when they open it up and invite people to see it.
In collaboration with FGVW, we now have a lovely walking group at TLC. On a Tuesday morning, people meet at the cafe and take a short walk to the woods to enjoy fresh air, chat with new people, and take photos together that will form an exhibition at TLC some time soon.
This week, FGVW opened up the bath house for the group. It was a really special experience, many of the participants saying they never even knew this tiny magical place existed, and felt really honoured to be invited to see it up close. They were really exhilarated to experience something so special, on such a beautiful day, with such a special group – it ticked a lot of boxes!
It got me thinking about power, and how we use it. Who are the people who hold the keys – in aspects of our own lives, in the places we live, the communities we are part of, and the places we work – and what do they do with those keys?
FGVW shared the keys with us. They literally opened up a place that they had complete power over, and shared it with a small group of local people who had never stepped inside that special place before.
But sometimes, the keyholders enjoy holding onto them tight; perhaps they feel powerful, perhaps it helps them with their own self esteem and confidence, perhaps they are scared of what would happen if they shared the keys. The imbalance of power is what allows injustices to happen, holds people back (perhaps on both sides), and keeps things the same.
When the power is shared, or those who are powerless are given a little boost, that’s when things can start to change. I was listening to a podcast this week – Reasons to be Cheerful – and they were discussing how to successfully campaign and change things for the better. They were interviewing, among others, Matthew Bolton from Citizens UK and he said something that really struck me; “Never do for someone what they can do for themselves”. How often do we disempower people without even realising it; speaking on their behalf, doing something because it’s easier to just do it yourself, by holding onto the keys?
The FGVW not only enabled a small group of local people to enjoy the magic of the woods on a beautiful day this week, they also opened my eyes to the many varied ways we can share power and the far reaching, positive effects they can have.