Saturday, 13 February 2010

Drones come to London

Great event with Michael Rosen on Thursday night, at Bishopsgate Institute, a beautiful, unexpected Victorian hall opposite the starkly demarcated Broadgate Centre. Put on by Newham Books the event pulled in lots of people from nearby Dalston, and local groups Southwark Cyclists and 'Space Hi-jackers', who lightly disrupt the regimen in privatised places by towing in an enormous banner, proclaiming the banning of photographs and the usual. Keep feeling surprised that every time I'm asked if policymakers have responded to the messages in 'Ground Control' I find myself praising Boris's Manifesto for Public Space, which states that streets and public places in London must stay under local authority control.

Unfortunately I fear that has come too late for Stratford City which is shaping up to be a scarily high security zone. When I give talks about the book I mention the Drones - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles used in Iraq - which now fly over parts of Liverpool and are set to patrol over Stratford City. After a talk the other day someone in the audience told me she had attended an Olympics reception where the Drones had a demonstration stand! So, not only are they certain to fly over London, they're clearly seen as something to be proud of.


  1. ha, some teething problems though:

  2. Hello Anna,

    enjoyed your talk with Michael Rosen at the Bishopsgate Institute. Unfortunately I didn't get to ask the following questions so I thought I'll try here. The first question addresses the process of gentrification, which surprisingly wasn't mentioned during the evening: Who (for example amongst that evening's audience) would be OK with seeing their house-value drop and their mortgage go into negative equity if real-estate-led regeneration schemes close to their home were not realised?

    Second a question about the focus on CCTV and other security measures - I am quite certain that many urban planners and council staff will pull out many a public opinion survey which states the public's concern with safety and security in public places as the justification for their ever-growing security infrastructure. So can we really blame urban planners and local authorities if they are following the express wish of the majority?

    As you can see I'm concerned with who the stakeholders in the urban changes you describe really are. My contention is that it's not only an unholy alliance of developers and local authorities but that mortgaged home owners and citizens concerned about their safety in public spaces are a vital parts of this legitimisation and dynamic of this process.

    Looking forward to any thoughts you might have.

    Regards, TS

  3. Apologies for the delay in replying - some tech problems which are now resolved.
    Your first point on gentrification: the issue with the type of state sponsored gentrification you describe is that it prices out local people and local businesses from the area, unable to afford the higher rents and prices. So it is more a case of local families finding themselves unable to stay in an area as house prices go up rather than regeneration saving existing residents from negative equity. Very often in these areas, well placed for the centre of town, a more natural process of gentrification sees the local economy do well and it is not often the case that these schemes rescue people from collapsed markets. That was certainly the stated aim in the north of England with the Pathfinder programme but the result has been the destruction of local communities.

    On your second point about CCTV: certainly the government is responding to increased fear of crime and the rollout of CCTV is based on the idea that it reassures people and reduces fear of crime. My argument is that the presence of more and more security actually makes people more scared. That's the conundrum: when asked most people say they would like more CCTV and believe it will make them feel safer. However, research (quoted in my book) shows that it does not and my central argument is that this appproach increases fear of crime.

    Hope that answers your questions.