Neil Walshaw is a busy chap. With a very understanding wife, he says.
A councillor for Headingley, Neil was elected in 2011. Jonathan Pryor and Janette Walker complete the trio of Labour representatives for the area and, putting party politics firmly aside, their enthusiasm for Headingley is clear.
Labour councillors Neil Walshaw and Jonathan Pryor. Image source: Headingley & Hyde Park News/ Facebook
Neil sees his job as councillor to focus on growing this varied community. As he says,
“We’ve had a lot of success rebalancing the population in Headingley. The number of students compared to families is almost even. We’re seeing more semi-detached houses with gardens and the buy-to-let industry has exploded as people are receiving offers they can’t turn down.
“I met a couple recently who had moved specifically to Headingley to retire with their two miniature sausage dogs. Why? Because it’s a vibrant place. It’s cool. You’re close to the city centre and its attractions but you’re also in the town centre where so much is going on.”
This balance is the reason families are filling up homes in the area - not to mention the four Headingley schools reported either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted.
“If you pick the right part of Headingley, it’s like a village,” Neil says. “There’s a place near the cricket ground called The Cardigan Triangle: tree-lined streets where lots of families move to. The BBC called it ‘Leeds’ very own bohemia’. There are plenty of green spaces, such as Woodhouse Moor, that are brilliant for families, too.”
Cardigan Triangle. Image source: Headingley.org
Not only is it becoming a desirable suburb to move to, Headingley is also on the world map.
“People in Calcutta have heard of Headingley thanks to the cricket,” says Neil, “England played Pakistan at the stadium in 2006 - it was incredible. And the place is always booming when [rugby league club] Leeds Rhinos play.”
Employers in the area include the university but it’s the booming entrepreneurship that makes up the vibrant town life:
“A large amount of local businesses are owner-operated and long may that continue,” Neil says. “The Head of Steam has just opened. It’s a great small north east chain - in fact, I was there last night. Other favourites of mine are Whites Deli, Mint Cafe and Cafe Lento - how they manage to shoehorn bands in there in the evening I do not know.”
And foodies moving to the area are in for a treat. As Neil says:
“We have at least eight amazing restaurants in Headingley. Last night, the wife and I had our date night (the only night we’re kid-free) at Santorini. I have a weakness for Greek and Turkish food and this really hits the spot.”
The Headingley councillor also recommends The Cat’s Pyjamas (a new Indian street food restaurant from Michelin starred chef Alfred Prasad).
“Red’s True Barbecue on the high street is also amazing,” he says. “It’s an American-style smokehouse and successful restaurant chain founded by Leeds lads.”
A lot of Neil’s time is focused on vulnerable people in the area. The first Saturday of the month sees the team hosting an advice surgery at Headingley Library.
“The residents are an interesting lot,” Neil says. “The help and advice sessions can go from aiding those in the direst need of our help, such as those needing to be rehoused, to philosophical discussion about Kant.”
"We have a strong civil society in Headingley; there’s the literature festival, the festival of ideas and the lovely people at the HEART centre who arrange a number of events throughout the year.”
His advice to people thinking of moving to the area?
“Ignore what you might hear about Headingley, good or bad. Come and experience it for yourself: speak to locals, eat at one of the superb restaurants, enjoy a pint in a Headingley pub. Only then will you see how unique the place really is.”