This is the third blog in response to the work being done by the team working to prepare District Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. Professor David McGillivray is Chair in Digital and Event Cultures at University of the West of Scotland, Project Lead for FESTSPACE and Deputy Director of the Centre for Culture, Sport and Events. He can be contacted via email or you can find him on Twitter @dgmcgillivray.
Our FESTSPACE (Festivals, events and inclusive public space) research project was conceived in a pre-COVID-19 world, where those interested in festivals, events and urban policy were debating how to best design and manage public spaces to bring people together, to encourage co-presence (and co-proximity), and generate convivial atmospheres involving as wide a representation of the population as possible. At that time, we were focused on how to ensure festive public spaces were inclusive and equitable, accessible, and reflective of the needs of the place (s) that host them. We heard about how festivals and events could generate civic pride, reflect the unique identity of diverse communities and the unique attributes of the cities that organise them. However, people also talked to us about economic imperatives exerting undue influence on how urban public spaces were being used, and managed, expressing concern about too many commercially-oriented festivals and events taking place in their parks or public squares, removing much valued civic public space for extended periods of time.
Pre-COVID, large staged events played a significant role in the promotion of cities as destinations. During the lockdown, and as measures are slowly being relaxed, we have seen evidence of interesting creative responses that reflect people’s desire for sociability, often with a renewed emphasis on locality, neighbourhood and the quality of the local environment. Everyday cultural activities have emerged, creating solidarity and strengthening community ties. For example, in Barcelona, spontaneous forms of festivity, initiated by individuals and communities, have been established with balconies and terraces taking on the role of public spaces. In Dublin, London and Glasgow we have seen streets operate as the site of different kinds of organised (socially distanced) small community gatherings, including playing bingo outdoors, exercise, dancing, musical performances, and street parties (during VE Day celebrations, for example).
Many of these gatherings have been localised in nature, building on the resilience of residential clusters and encouraging communities to operate collectively. Some public spaces that prioritised motorised vehicles or commercial use have, during COVID-19, been reconfigured as places to enjoy communal social experiences that many would like to sustain as they emerge from the health emergency.
Looking to the Future
The COVID-19 pandemic has significant implications for the preservation of face-to-face collective experiences, the division between the private and public spheres, and the future of the festivals and events sector (s). Post-COVID, new formats and new public spaces will emerge which can help rebuild social life, albeit under new conditions. Our streets, balconies, parks and the spaces in-between will need to be reimagined as environments for communal social experiences, albeit at a distance for now. What does this mean for how our cities might, or should, look in the future? We need to think more creatively about how to work with neighbourhoods to experiment with unused or underused space, at least temporarily. We should consider how to initiate and support meanwhile use, including appropriate, locally meaningful cultural festivals and events, to animate and enhance city centre areas, though being wary of gentrifying threats. We also need to explore models of ownership, management and resourcing to give communities the opportunity to influence what is on offer in their neighbourhoods without imposing unrealistic demands in respect of legal issues and liabilities.
Finally, with specific reference to Glasgow City Centre District Regeneration Frameworks, we also need to ask ourselves:
- What role festivals and events could play in the reconfiguration of city centre districts, balancing the need for showcase events that attract visitors with locally-rooted and meaningful cultural celebrations that represent neighbourhood and community interests?
- How can we ensure that the imperative to conceive of city centre districts as only economic drivers does not accelerate processes of privatisation/commercialisation and the loss of civic public space?
- How might new unused or underused spaces in the target districts be designed in such a way as to accommodate local festivals and events, recognising the diverse needs of the local communities involved?
- How do the DRFs address the issues related to ownership of local public spaces and help develop ownership/management models that enable local groups or organisations to be able to programme activities in these spaces effectively?
- How can the development and animation of existing or new public spaces in the city centre balance the needs of business/economy alongside people’s quality of life?
FESTSPACE is a large research project funded by Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) (http://festspace.net). Led by University of the West of Scotland, with academic partners in London, Dublin, Barcelona and Gothenburg, the project focuses on the different types of festive public space that exist across Europe and what lessons can be learned about inclusivity from these models, how festivals and events affect who uses urban public spaces and how they interact within them, and what are the enduring effects on inclusivity of festivals and events staged in public spaces. One of the FESTSPACE Associate Partners, Austin-Smith: Lord, is the lead consultant on the (Y)our City Centre District Regeneration Frameworks for Glasgow City Council.
Work continues with the development of District Regeneration Frameworks (DRFs) for Cowcaddens, Townhead, Learning Quarter and Merchant City.
The process seeks to engage with as many stakeholders as possible. Austin-Smith:Lord is leading the process. In doing this, the project team will get the clearest picture of the opportunities and priorities for the areas. They will also see how these relate to the short, medium and long-term context.
If you want to be part of this exciting process, go to https://yourcitycentre2020.commonplace.is/ and let us know what you think.
We are working with Glasgow Chamber of Commerce to help with these conversations and to hear what people think. They recently hosted a meeting to discuss Sustaining Glasgow City Centres Green Recovery. The session was recorded and is available here.
The conversation was interesting. It featured lots of themes such as usable green spaces, active travel and the commitment by Glasgow City Council to be carbon neutral by 2030. Another topic was how the city centre could stay as a thriving place that is attractive to an increasing number of residents, businesses and visitors.
Take the time to get in touch – it is (Y)our City Centre.
Cowcaddens, Townhead, Learning Quarter and Merchant City
It is time to let us know what you think the key issues and opportunities are for some or all the districts we are creating District Regeneration Frameworks for. You can contact yourcitycentre2020.commonplace.is/ and leave as many comments as you wish or you can call us 0800 1583973. This number is live on the following dates/times: Thursday 2 July, noon – 2pm, 5 – 7pm, Saturday 4 July, 10am – noon. We will add other dates as the project develops. This will give those without online access the chance to share their ideas.
We are really keen to hear your views on how it can be made easier to get around the city centre; how streets and open spaces can be improved; and hear thoughts on housing and places to work and learn, and on the mix of activities required to create a thriving, active city centre in the future. The city centre plays a key role for the whole of Glasgow as well as the surrounding region beyond it, so thoughts on connectivity are also welcome.
The consultation and engagement process for the four districts will have two main phases. This one is to find out what people think the key priorities, issues and opportunities are for each or all the districts. The second will happen later this year when the team will work with stakeholders to develop ideas that will feed into the action plans.
A DRF is a 10-year regeneration planning framework and action plan, and each DRF will guide the city centre’s physical, social and economic regeneration. The DRFs support both Glasgow’s City Development Plan and the City Centre Strategy.
The council recently appointed a team to help prepare ambitious regeneration action plans for these four districts you can find about more about them and the strategy as a whole at [email protected] and [email protected]
Please make the time to make on comments on-line or phone us on the dates and times listed above.
The High Street Area Strategy aims to enhance the liveability, competitiveness, and sustainability of the High Street. Work has not stopped during the Covid-19 Emergency. However, some projects had to be delayed as the construction industry paused during the Emergency. Where possible, projects have continued to be developed in the background. Once lockdown has been eased, the High Street Area Strategy will continue as planned.
The latest edition of the newsletter for the High Street Area provides an update regarding the Covid-19 Emergency, and how this has impacted the High Street Area Strategy. In addition, there is a section titled “Tales of the High Street”. This section tells the story of Blind Alick, a resident of High Street in the 1700s. The last section of this edition of the High Street Area Strategy newsletter covers the next and final phase of the District Regeneration Frameworks. Two of these DRFs (Learning Quarter and Merchant City) will overlap with the High Street and Saltmarket area, enhancing the work currently being undertaken as part of the High Street Area Strategy.
(Y)our Sustainable City Centre
Here is the second blog from the team working to prepare Districts Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. Judith Sykes and Carrie Behar are from Useful Projects which is a sustainable innovation consultancy for the built environment. They specialise in climate and biodiversity emergency planning, circular economy, social value and wellbeing, and design thinking and creativity.
A global and local imperative
The climate emergency and catastrophic biodiversity loss are two of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. In the context of a rapidly urbanising global population, every city has a part to play in addressing these challenges, by supporting the transition to a more equitable society and supporting citizens in leading sustainable lifestyles.
Glasgow has a strong impetus for implementing sustainable development. It can capitalise on the co-benefits of climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation as it manages relevant budgets around health, transport and housing, and has a deep understanding of how the different policy priorities impact on each other. Sustainability has been at the core of Glasgow’s planning and development policy for many years. It underpins the latest City Development Plan (2016), and is at the heart of the draft City Centre Living Strategy Vision 2035 and the Draft City Centre Strategic Development Framework (forthcoming). Furthermore, initiatives such as Sustainable Glasgow and the Connectivity Commission are examples of how Glasgow has successfully sought to take a fresh and holistic approach to environmental, social and economic development by advocating a partnership approach to travel and public transport provision.
In 2019, the Council joined other local authorities in declaring a climate emergency and set an ambitious target to become climate neutral by 2030. The city was due to host this year’s Conference of Parties annual climate change summit (COP26), currently postponed to 2021.
An unprecedented opportunity
The unprecedented response to COVID-19 shows just how quickly we can change. During the national lockdown, we have seen a glimpse of what a future city could look like: fewer cars, cleaner, quieter and more pleasant streets, better air quality and an increase in walking and cycling. In Scotland, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already stated that the post-lockdown transition should reset agendas around sustainability.
Other international cities and organisations are joining the #buildbackbetter movement. For example, Amsterdam is applying doughnut economics as part of their planning for post-COVID recovery. Amsterdam’s vision is to be “a thriving, regenerative and inclusive city for all citizens while respecting the planetary boundaries”. Cities such as Bogota have provided emergency bikeways, and Milan is hoping to permanently reallocate street space from cars to cycling and walking, as part of a radical transformation prompted by the coronavirus crisis.
Building on success in four unique neighbourhoods
The District Regeneration Frameworks (DRFs) for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the ‘Learning Quarter’ and the Merchant City neighbourhoods will need to respond to the specific challenges and opportunities inherent in the fabric and social composition of each district. Working closely with local communities, to shape the transformation of their neighbourhoods into flourishing and sustainable pieces of city will bring this about.
While the distinct characteristics of each neighbourhood will be retained and celebrated, the city centre will achieve greater social and physical coherence through the application of shared sustainability themes and objectives. These include carbon neutrality, zero waste in construction and operation, biodiversity net gain, high physical and digital connectivity, empowered communities, and active, healthy lifestyles. The DRFs provide an opportunity to improve the neighbourhoods to provide a setting for greater inclusivity and justice- through the shaping of the physical environment in a way that enables and encourages people to live healthy lifestyles and attain the best possible quality of life.
To ensure the success of the DRFs, we intend to work with communities and stakeholders to develop distinctive, local solutions that are relevant to Glasgow and can be delivered in partnership to address these global challenges. Through extensive consultation and community engagement, we are gathering diverse perspectives and moving towards developing a consensus around a shared vision of success. The outcome of this approach will be a city that puts people at its heart.
COVID-19 has shown us that we can adapt. Now is the time to pause and reflect on some of the great work that Glasgow is already doing in meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. Avenues, Future City Glasgow, Circular Glasgow), before setting out a plan of action and an enabling framework that allows Glasgow to go even further in becoming a truly world-class sustainable city.
Judith Sykes and Carrie Behar
Our role on this project is to develop a sustainability framework for the DRFs, and to act as an experienced and creative ‘critical friend’ to the project team, to ensure the application of international best practice to deliver a thriving city – based on a sustainable, healthy and inclusive environment, a strong community and a resilient economy.
(Y)our District Regeneration Frameworks
This is the first blog from the team working to prepare Districts Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. Christopher Martin is Co-Founder and Director of Urban Strategy at Urban Movement; is a member of the United Nations Planning and Climate Action Group; a Trustee of Living Streets; and on the Executive Committee of the UK Urban Design Group.
In light of the current situation in which we find ourselves and spending a lot of time thinking creatively about Glasgow’s future with the District Regeneration Framework team, I have been reflecting a lot. Never before has local and national Government, the press, or we as the public been as interested in the design of our towns and cities as we are today.
We have heard so much recently about what COVID-19 means for cities; the way we will live, the way we will move, and the way we will work. Now more than ever, we have been made acutely aware of the adverse effects that certain urban conditions can have on our lives – in particular our health, happiness, and prosperity.
This crisis has bought into sharp focus the cities that we need to benefit our health and quality of life and help our city to thrive. As apart of the District Regeneration Framework we want to work with everyone to help shape the future Glasgow that we need.
The immediate solution to this crisis is ‘space’, and space is – and will be – the commodity that we must consider more carefully. How do we use the space we have to tackle this, the future crises we will face, as well as delivering all the advantages of cities for people?
We need space for movement, space to get around, so we need to prioritise space-efficient transport modes. Public transport is under massive pressure at the moment with people having to physically distance, and there isn’t enough space for everyone to drive – so space efficiency is the answer and we need to promote these modes. Indeed, everyone who walks or jumps on a bike to get where they need to go is helping key workers and people who sorely need to use public transport to get about more easily – and less stressfully.
We need more space for leisure, play and community as well. This crisis has brought communities together and made them stronger. We have seen neighbours chatting in the streets and children playing. In the immediate term for safety, but also in the future for improved quality of life and inclusive growth, we need to keep residential and community streets as places where children can learn to ride a bike or play together, and where community life can thrive.
Sometimes it is left out of discussions about the public realm, but we all need space for business as well, and more than ever. The economic fallout of this crisis will be challenging, so we will have to use the space we have in a way that actually – not anecdotally – strengthens the economy for all, and gives us vibrant, prosperous, and fun streets and spaces. Let’s face it, one thing we know for sure – we’re all going to need a good laugh when this is over, so we need to act now on our streets and public spaces to make sure we keep business and social life alive. The only conceivable way for pubs, cafes, and restaurants to meet physical distancing rules is if we can put tables and chairs on the streets.
To my mind, however you picture this, the way forward from today has to be an economic recovery strategy. To succeed, we need to prioritise space for economic recovery, space for health, space for community, and space for life to unfold. And when it comes to transport, we have to use ways of getting about that safeguard and deliver the space that we need – space for the recovery.