Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Solutions to the financial crisis from Edinburgh

Just returned from Edinburgh where I spoke at a couple of events organised by the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust. Saturday afternoon saw a packed crowd of community organisors turn out for an afternoon seminar on the themes covered in Ground Control. The best thing about the day was the sense of enthusiasm about where the city finds itself post financial crash and what can be done. A key focus was the Caltongate site in Canongate. The development there, like so many others around the country, has stalled following the financial crisis and despite a number of possible alternative uses - including a literary centre - the council is so far failing to consider alternatives and hoping to resurrect the privatised mall model, despite very considerable opposition.

The upshot was a number of suggestions to take things forward and the Trust has a series of meetings and seminars planned to coordinate activities. The day produced a number of ideas that I really hope are followed up. These include setting up a 'Free the spaces database' to coordinate community groups engaged in similar issues around the country, which is a much needed resource. Another idea I particularly liked was 'Site Seeing', alternative walking tours organised around the key areas under discussion, to which local decision makers would also be invited.

Monday, 5 July 2010

From Docklands to the Olympics

Found myself immersed in the Olympics this weekend after leading a walk around Docklands and Stratford, curated by Ruth Ewan for the Chisenhale Gallery. It was an unusual event for me – a talk on the move, or series of talks – but it worked very well. We began at Crossharbour, outside The George pub, where Ground Control opens. I chose it as it seemed to draw a boundary line between the finance district and the Isle of Dogs which remains almost entirely untouched by the supposed promise of ‘trickle-down’. Next stop was the privatised Canary Wharf Estate, before crossing the dual carriageway which separates Canary Wharf from Poplar. There can be no better illustration of the stark segregation of the area than Aspen Way, a motorway which separates the glittering towers from local communities, who are literally on a different level. The walk drew to a close in Stratford, overlooking the Olympic site. With its reliance on Westfield Stratford City, Westfield’s 170 acre open air shopping mall, the development looks increasingly outdated. However, while Stratford City will effectively be a private city within a city, the Olympic Park might have a more promising future. While there is no doubt that the entire Olympic site will be a disturbingly high security zone it is by no means certain the park will be entirely private. I understand the details on who will own and control the site have not yet been finalised and I hope to do more work on this soon.