An interview with Nik Rutherford

Nik Rutherford is our candidate in the city council elections on May 5th. Here’s a bit more about his background…


Where did you grow up?

I was born in the Leith district in Edinburgh. My mum was a social worker and brought up me and my younger brother. I went to Drummond Community High School, a multi cultural inner-city state school.

What brought you to Yorkshire?

I came to study in Leeds in 2006 – a bit of a false start as I broke my leg in that first year but I got a place at Leeds College of Music and graduated with BA in Music in 2010, specialising in Jazz guitar.

As part of my degree I did a placement at St Anne’s homeless shelter organising music lessons and events for the homeless community, including singing groups and percussion workshops. This gave me an appetite for taking music out into the community.

What was your first job?

My first community music job was as a volunteer at East Leeds Music centre. There music was a fantastic creative activity being offered to the local community as a public service. It was inspiring to see the community that was created by bringing the people of East Leeds together on a Saturday morning to play music.

From volunteering, I was offered a permanent teaching post. I did this alongside setting up as a self employed musician and teacher. The first couple of years were tough but I eventually managed to make a living from playing and teaching music.

What do you do now?

Up to March I was Head of Centre at East Leeds Music Centre. I am hugely proud of that. In my time there I’ve grown the centre and set up an outreach programme, going into local schools to encourage children who don’t have much opportunity to play music to use our facilities. I want to show them that music and the arts is for everybody to be part of, and not just the well off. Creative activity is even more important in these times of austerity. Sadly I had to resign last month, because of election rules about not working for the council if you’re a candidate.

Another project that I manage is Flare. It’s funded by a local schools trust and brings together local primary school kids in Hyde Park and Woodhouse to take part in different musical projects. For example, we recently set up a six week samba band with an expert instructor and then performed in the local community centre. Flare’s been going for 2 years and we’re going from strength to strength.

I teach in classrooms right across West Yorkshire and now have a lot of experience of working in different communities, with people facing different problems and challenges.

I also work as a self-employed guitar teacher and professional musician.

I’ve performed all over the place in different groups. I work a lot with Tarantismo – a Cuban son band that tours the country playing Salsa clubs and events.

What got you interested in politics?

Politics decides who gets what, where and when. We’ve seen that if you leave politics to the rich and powerful, they get ALL the cake and we get the crumbs. By working together, we can change things so everyone gets a fairer share.

I was born in an NHS hospital, went to state school, my mum worked with vulnerable adults and children, my dad is a paramedic and I now work in state schools and other centres that provide a service to the community. I hate to see these and other essential public services being destroyed by a government determined to create a society that puts a price tag on everything.

I started becoming active in my teens when I led my school in a walkout to protest against the Iraq war. Since then I’ve been active in the Labour Party which is the only political party that stands up for working people and tries to protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities.

Why do you want to be the Labour councillor for Otley and Yeadon?

 I am immensely proud to have been selected by members of Otley and Yeadon Labour Party as the candidate for our ward.

There is no Labour councillor for our area at the moment but previous Labour councillors achieved a lot for our communities. I’m determined to add to that, even under the savage cuts that have been brought down on local authorities over the last six years. I want to get a better deal for Otley and Yeadon. With the support of the community, we can start to fix the problems, not fix the blame.

What are your personal plans for the future?

My partner Jen is a teacher, and we’re renting from a private landlord at the moment. Like most young people we’re daunted by house prices at the moment, but we do want to buy somewhere and settle down and I’d love that to be in Otley or Yeadon.

I never expected to become a politician but I believe whole-heartedly that we need our society to go in a different direction, one that values people instead of profits, one that allows people to work hard and achieve but that doesn’t sacrifice our NHS, our schools and all the other public services that are vital for our social and economic wellbeing. People everywhere are ground down by austerity, and hungry for a different and fairer way of doing things. As tough and as flawed as it is, only political action can achieve this.