The Harehills area in Leeds has a bad reputation. It is situated just north of the city centre and borders the notorious suburb of Chapletown, scene of many street robberies, drug dealings and riots over the past 40 years. Harehills is made up of mainly back-to-back and through terrace houses of the type seen on the opening credits of the TV soap Coronation Street.
According to the 2011 census, whites made up 42.4% of the population, 37.1% were Asian and 13.1% describing themselves as ‘black’. If 11 years ago the indigenous population of the area were in the minority, today that percentage will be even lower. Formerly a proud White working class area with pubs aplenty, today there is only one left – The Brown Hare, and that is situated on the outskirts of what is classed as Harehills. The Whites have left and the newcomers hate alcohol.
So when a bizarre story appeared in the local media headlined ‘Fried chicken man dubs ‘buzzing’ Harehills the best place for culture despite ‘fighting, dealing and drinking’, we nearly choked on our pint of Newton & Ridley’s Best Bitter. The report is based on the opinion of a single deluded ‘halal chicken shop’ employee who has only been in this country for 20-years.
Ahsan Khan (37), who hails from Pakistan and works part-time in the Best Fried Chicken (BFC)* shop on Harehills Lane, bizarrely described the area, which is notorious for hard drugs, as ‘buzzing’. Whether that is because of the poppin chicken he dishes up, we can only guess.
To most folk the area is run-down and dangerous, with very few amenities apart from the dodgy-looking fast-food shops where the main takeaway is a Delhi belly. Add to that the fact that fast-food takeaways are notorious for being a way to launder large amounts of cash from drug dealing and prostitution.
Despite the risk to life and limb, Khan would like more people to visit the area. He compares the area to Eastern Europe due to the vast amount of diversity and ‘buzzing’ parade of shops. Although “fighting, dealing and drinking” are a big issue in Harehills, he says every area has a “positive and a negative”. He also says it’s the best area in town to find great food and soak up different types of culture.
Speaking about Harehills Lane with pride, Khan said: “I call this area Eastern Europe. It’s a multi-cultural area, you see Romanians, Czechs, Slovakians, Kurdish, English and Pakistani here as well.” Notice how the English are almost an after-thought.
The takeaway worker also said the suburb used to be a “dead place” before people from different parts of the world immigrated in and transformed it into a “24/7 busy” spot. A choice location for anyone looking to try out some new culture. For Khan, a ‘dead place’ sounds like a place that most people would love to live, safe in the knowledge that their family and relations wouldn’t be harassed by thugs, drug dealers and muggers.
His opinion is not one shared by the majority of the indigenous population still living in the area, one of whom described the area as a ‘shithole’ to this website. But who cares about a little detail like that when the priority is pushing a multi-cultural agenda.
*The Best Fried Chicken shop has temporarily closed as we go to press. Having never had the pleasure of its beautifully cooked halal fried chicken, we are not sure of the reason for the closure. Perhaps a typical online Google review could give us a small clue:
“If you enjoy undercooked chicken, stale chips and dry tasteless burgers then this is the spot for you!” – Van B.
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