A room within the renowned Civic Hall in Leeds has undergone a renaming ceremony to pay tribute to the esteemed statesman, actor, and public servant, Honorary Alderman Bernard Atha CBE.
On Friday, 1st September, a gathering took place to mark this occasion, with members of Mr. Atha’s family and distinguished guests in attendance. During the ceremony, Civic Hall’s Committee Room 1 was officially christened as the Bernard Atha CBE room.
Following a heartfelt address by Mr. Atha’s cousin, John Dixon, speaking on behalf of the Atha family, attendees were then invited to partake in afternoon tea within the Ark Royal room.
Honorary Alderman Atha held the position of an elected councillor for an impressive span of 57 years. His passing in October 2022, at the venerable age of 94, marked the culmination of a lifetime devoted to public service. Mr. Atha possessed a diverse range of talents; in addition to his political pursuits, he was a trained ballet dancer, lawyer, and actor, with appearances in over 200 films and television shows, including the cinematic classic “Kes” and the long-running soap opera “Coronation Street.”
In the sphere of public life, Mr. Atha emerged as a prominent figure in the arts and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1974. He had previously served as a Member of the Grand Theatre board. Furthermore, Mr. Atha held the esteemed position of Lord Mayor of Leeds from 2000 to 2001, a tenure that included the memorable granting of the freedom of Leeds to Nelson Mandela during the latter’s historic visit in 2001.
Mr. Atha also left an indelible mark in the realm of disability sports as the founding Chair of the British Paralympic Association (BPA). His efforts were instrumental in unifying various national disability sport organisations, culminating in the formation of the British Paralympic Committee, later becoming the BPA in 1989. In recognition of his exceptional contributions, Mr. Atha was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2007 Birthday Honours, cited “for services to the arts and to the community in Leeds.” He had previously received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year Honours of 1991, recognized “for services to sport, particularly sport for the disabled.”
Among the attendees at Friday’s ceremony were Mr. Atha’s family members, including his sister, Sheila, and niece, Helen. Also present were the Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor James Lewis; Chief Executive Tom Riordan; and Councillor Fiona Venner, along with several former Leeds councillors.
Commenting on the renaming, Councillor James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, said “Bernard Atha’s example is truly inspiring due to his selfless commitment to serving the people of Leeds over many years and in many different capacities.
“I really enjoyed working alongside Bernard as a fellow councillor for 11 years. I will remember his passion, his steel when he wanted to make things happen, and his wealth of stories from years on the council.
“Renaming a room where important decisions about the future of our city are taken, is a fitting tribute to a man who lived and breathed Leeds and its people.
“I hope that the Bernard Atha CBE room can act as an inspiration for generations to come.”