Re-imagining The City – A Journey Into The Future

Paul Osborne, local transport planner, used the Festival of Ideas event on Re-imagining The City to paint a picture of a future journey.

Let me take you on a journey into the future. How far into the future is up to you…
I leave my 4th floor apartment in Moortown, Leeds. It’s eight o clock and overcast. I’m a bit late but hey, it’s not often England make the world cup final, two tournaments in a row.
My phone alerts me – my train is leaving on time and there’s a city bike waiting for me at the end of the street. As I approach, the bike unlocks itself and my phone pings to tell me that it has been serviced and the tyre pressures are fine.
I set off, humming a tune from the morning’s breakfast show. I pass the kids making their way to school, some of them wearing their replica England shirts. The bins are out for collection. The pothole which had opened up the day before, has been fixed.
The car ahead, automatically limited to 20mph on all residential streets in the city, moves to the right to let me through, the driver alerted to adjust his position by his in-car sensors. I thank him as I go by and his daughter smiles at me through the car window.
At the next junction I have a left turn towards the city centre, I wait for a gap in the steady flow of inbound cyclists, safely separated from traffic. I join them and soon we are travelling at a steady 12 mph, nudged along by the coloured LED lighting in the roadway, sequenced to progress us through the next three sets of traffic signals.
We ride the green wave until we reach the first busy intersection. Countdown signals tell me how long we’ll be waiting, time enough to break into conversation with the cyclist next to me. She smiles and recommends a restaurant down a local side road – it does great vegetarian pizza.
The lights change, she’s quicker away than me. We pass the cycle counter which detects us as we pass, flashing up the daily and annual cycle flow. It feels good to be part of a crowd.
One hundred metres later (oops I mean yards – I’m still getting used to our return to imperial measures) and a variable message sign thanks me for not using the car. It flashes up the predicted journey time to the city centre, currently 30% faster than the vehicle flow beside me.
We reach the Sheepscar interchange. Plans are afoot to bury this huge junction below ground level and leave buses, bikes and pedestrians to take the surface route. In the meantime, images of live CCTV footage are projected onto huge LED screens to enforce the new bus and cyclist priority measures, funded by the city’s health investment strategy.
There’s one short hill into the city centre but the electric assist on the bike kicks in, keeping my speed and effort consistent. I join another green wave, having covered my five mile mile journey to the station in just under 25 minutes.
My bike locks itself as I leave it in the bike park. My phone logs the distance I’ve covered and updates my reward points. I get the choice to top up my integrated public transport pass or spend it at my neighbourhood shops. The bike downloads information about the journey, alerting the bike share company to its location, and passes data about air quality, traffic conditions and road surface condition along my route to the city’s transport team.
I head for the train, flashing my Owl Card (the Leeds equivalent of Oyster), I find a seat and decide on a good night to try out that pizza.

As Paul noted afterwards, many of the “futuristic” ideas in that story are already reality somewhere in the cycling-friendly world. If you spot a link to one of them on the net, tweet us at @my_futureyork and tell us where it’s already happening!

My York Central

Like our previous work at Castle Gateway, My York Central goes beyond conventional community consultation by enabling all those interested to become part of a sustained long-term conversation where influence comes through sharing responsibility for the area and its future. Throughout we are working to make getting involved will be active, challenging and fun. In our approach to York Central we are building the approach developed for My Castle Gateway.

The way we’re approaching this for York Central is through a Festival of York Central in March and April 2018. You can see the various events here.

Our approach includes:

  • Build a brief: Start with the personal… and make different people’s needs and ideas visible (and our thoughts on the value of a good brief can be read here)
  • Explore Challenges: Cultivate a grown up and sophisticated public debate about complex issues (an example from My Castle Gateway here)
  • Make change together: Facilitate community networks and local action as well as long term community influence in decision-making, design and delivery.

#CitizenMedia #York: How can we create a positive democratic culture online?

How can we use online spaces to have good conversation about the future of York?

#CitizenMedia #York: How can we create a positive democratic culture online?
Thursday, 15th March, 7.30-9.30

Throughout the Castle Gateway process, we’ve used social media to seek open conversations. Sometimes this has worked well and great ideas and thought-provoking stories have emerged. At other times we’ve not quite known how to respond, or how turn to cynicism, frustration and anger into to constructive discussion. We’ve also met some people who have said they simply don’t engage in debates about York online for fear of personal attacks and sniping. The danger is we all retreat into our own silos of people who think like we do and the sense of a shared public sphere where ideas are shared, debated and exposed to challenge is lost.

We invite you to join us to explore whether there is another way of having debates about York through Facebook, twitter and in the comments on the York Press. How might social media become a space for us as citizens to engaged in debate about our city? How can we shift the emphasis in local debate from what is wrong and what is hated towards people being able to positively contribute what they want to see? How can social media discussion support democratic culture in York and feed into local decision-making?

The objectives of our first workshop are to:

” Explore techniques for engaging well on social media
” Create a community of people prepared to go out there and try some new techniques and then feedback on how it goes, so we can all learn from the experience

Places are limited to 12. To book a place email Helen on h.graham@leeds.ac.uk
Organised by My Future York and Coaching York

My Future York to collaborate with City of York Council on the Castle Gateway project

My Future York will be collaborating with the City of York Council on a new public engagement approach for the Castle Gateway area.

My Future York will be working with City of York Council on the new Castle Gateway project, an area which includes Fossgate, Walmgate, Piccadilly, Foss Basin and Castle area and Eye of York.

Drawing on the work done by My Future York over the past year and the analysis we developed of where consultation approaches often fail, the My Castle Gateway project is designed to go beyond conventional community consultation by enabling all those interested to become part of a sustained long-term conversation where they have influence through sharing responsibility for the area and its future.

My Castle Gateway project will: Step 1 use creative community-led events to explore and establish ‘what is important’ about the area (which will underpin the heritage ‘statement of significance’) and encourage possibility-thinking to feed into masterplanning processes (to collaborative build a brief for the area); Step 2 identify lines for community-led action inquiries (where there is uncertainty or disagreement) and Step 3 sustain community action throughout the formal decision-making process, delivery and hand over (so that community use and custodianship of the area is grown throughout the processes).

To find out more visit the My Castle Gateway website.

My Castle Gateway in three steps:

Step 1: Castle Gateway unleashing ideas…using community-led public events to explore what makes the area important and what people would like to be able to do in the area. Leading to: a vision for the area and a collaborative ‘statement of significance’ and ‘brief’.
Step 2: Castle Gateway deepening understanding … collaborative inquires to research key issues and public events to explore, question and discuss. Leading to: masterplan and planning options.
Step 3: Castle Gateway making change together… formal decision-making process and delivery will be directly linked to ongoing community action in the area. Leading to: formal decision making and a strategy for ongoing involvement throughout the delivery process.

The Guildhall: histories and futures

‘The Guildhall should be the centre of ‘York’s Story’ […] a chance to see democracy and engage with it’.

‘I also think that improved public access could act as a catalyst that might improve public engagement with the council and local politics. There’s something to be said for seeing the place where the council meets and decisions are made’.
(Quotes from the Guildhall Tours survey)

One of the My Future York project partners is York Past and Present, whose adminstrators Lianne Brigham and Richard Brigham have, over the past three years, shepherded the facebook group to an ever growing membership (14,800 at the last count) and to becoming a dynamic face-to-face community with coffee morning meet ups, Christmas parties and projects in collaboration with local heritage organisations (York Chocolate Story; Mansion House; York Explore Archives).

Lianne Brigham shares the history of the Council Chamber as part of the Guildhall Tour, Residents’ Weekend 2017.

Since 4th October 2014 York Past and Present (YP&P) have been running volunteer-led tours behind the scenes of the Guildhall, including during two Residents’ Weekends (2016 and 2017). In this time they have introduced 2000 people to the Guildhall and its history. As part of their partnership with the Guildhall, they have also been active in the Mansion House Heritage Lottery Fund project, with YP&P members volunteering to pack up and photograph the house before the renovations began. The Guildhall tours have now come to an end in advance of the proposed changes to the Guildhall. Through our research collaboration, YP&P, we decided to take the opportunity of the final Residents’ Weekend to interview and survey those that took part. We wanted to evaluate the tours as well as to understand better the meaning of the Guildhall to people who live in York and what they would like to see in terms of its future development. Overall 61 surveys were returned – in person and online – which represents close to 25% of those attending that weekend.

Read the full report. Look at the raw data from the surveys.

Key findings:

Question 1: What did you enjoy about the Guildhall tour?
The tours were well received, particularly the feeling of getting to look ‘behind the scenes’. The way the tours were done – by an enthusiastic volunteer – was also noted as important. The idea that tours might continue in the future either by YP&P or by others was suggested.

Question 2: Why is the Guildhall important to you? / Why is the Guildhall important to York?
The sense of the Guildhall as being a key in the development of York was foreground by all respondents. A phrase used over 25 times was ‘Part of York’s History/ Heritage’. This was directly linked to the development of civic engagement and local democracy. Yet there was also a strong connection made between history of York, the history the development of Guilds and the development of local democracy. This was seen as a crucial ‘York story’ that could be told through the Guildhall.

‘The Guildhall is a real treasure of York, and should be seen by as many people as possible. It would also help if the local community could learn how local authorities operate on behalf of the community’.


Question 3: What would you like to see for the future of the Guildhall?

There was a consensus that the building needed to be maintained, pay for itself in some way but also still be publically accessible.

Some – responding to the current plans – explicitly mentioned their support for the historic fabric to remain intact (a reference to the proposed new doorway in the main hall). A number of people noted the importance of economic viability. There seemed very little concern about the proposed extensions and restaurants in the wider complex. However, support for the proposed extensions and commercial additions was related to continuing public access to the Guildhall and Council Chamber, with a clear interest expressed in the shared civic story with the Mansion House. The argument for future public access was very often made on the basis of its civic and democratic significance.

‘I also think that improved public access could act as a catalyst that might improve public engagement with the council and local politics. There’s something to be said for seeing the place where the council meets and decisions are made’.

There was a strong sense of the importance of this story for people who live in York. There was also a desire to share this with visitors.

‘It is a magnificent building and one that should be showcased to the 1000’s of visitors York gets every year’.


Recommendations:

Create one ticketed entrance to Mansion House which includes the Guildhall and Council Chamber for visitors to the city. This should include free access to people who live in York, as is already planned by the Mansion House.

Ideas:
• Build on the living traditions of the Guildhall – as the Chamber still used for Council meetings – to create a hub for wider public democratic engagement in current issues facing York. The aim of this might be to use a variety of creative methods to enable more people to feel confident in participating in local democratic processes (from voting to ward committees to planning process) and well as enabling wider civic engagement.
• Use the idea of local democracy as a living tradition to develop a visitor experience for Mansion House / Guildhall which engages this city’s visitors with the links between York’s past, presents and future. For example, temporary displays could look at a specific issue (flooding; housing; Castle Gateway) and explore the histories of the issue and open up questions about how the city should handle the issue in the future. This could be in the vein of ‘Urban Lab’ experiments developed elsewhere. Strategically this would ensure a tourist experience to York which is far from ‘in aspic’ but actively deploys connections between the city’s past and future. Such an approach could act as a bridge between the city’s strengths in both heritage and media arts and between the city’s cultural entrepreneurs, its students and long standing local communities.

This report will be shared with relevant City of York Councillors and Council officers – but we see it as a working document so if you have any further comments on the tours or on the Guildhall, add a comment to drop us a line.

LGBT histories, LGBT futures

LGBT History Month
York’s LGBT history: make your own rainbow plaques

Saturday, February 18 at 1 PM – 4:30 PM
Garden Room, York Explore Library and Archives, Library Square, Museum Street, YO1 7DS

For the York LGBT Rainbow Plaques 2016 event

This month is LGBT History Month and York’s LGBT History team have put together an amazing array of events. This is the third year I’ve been involved in running with Kit Heyam our York’s Alternative History Rainbow Plaques event. The past two years have seen a raft of contributions. Some have wanted to commemorate Ann Walker and Ann Lister, who took a joint communion taken in Holy Trinity Church on Goodramgate at Easter 1834 and saw this as equivalent to marriage in the eyes of god. Others have shared more personal memories, from coming out, first kisses and exploratory visits to gay pubs. We have also used the plaques to remember violence and bullying as well as activism, protest and campaigns. We hope to see many more histories, memories and stories contributed this year. Join our facebook event – or come along on the day.

The future is always lurking in this event. It is about change that has happened and change we want to come. So this year we want to connect the pasts that we will commemorate to the future. As part of My Future York we’ve been having lots of conversations about the lives people want to live in 10 years time. Where will they be living? Who with? Where will they work? What do you want York to enable you to do? How can York change to enable the life you want to live?

As LGBT History Month kicks off let’s think back but also think forward. We’ve been asking people to write a Day in their Life Story, one for this year and one for ten’s years time. For inspiration here is Kit Rafe Heyam’s.

What’s your 2027 like?

Sensory York: Sights, sounds, smells and feelings

Smells of Hungate in early 20th century… what will York smell like in ten years’ time? Designs and Photos by Reet So.

In our research on Hungate – and drawing heavily on Van Wilson’s oral histories of the area – we found that people’s memories were bound up with its distinctive sights, sounds and smells. In designing our exhibition for the Yorktopia event we wanted use the sensory landscape of early 20th century York to prompt us all to consider what we’d like York in ten years’ time to look like, sounds like, smell like and feel like.

You can contribute your own sensory York online.

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We got a handful of responses to this during the event. This contrasted with the much more popular Census activity. This is a good reminder that participative exhibits need to be quite structured and immediately easy to undertake in crowded and noises spaces. On reflection this York Senses activity needed, perhaps, a more meditative mood. However those that did find the mental space during the event to imagine their Yorktopia sensoryscape produced really evocative and poetic responses.

Here are some samples below for inspiration or as point of resistance and disagreement:

Looks like...

‘Traditional buildings upkept. Lots more trees. No more car parks.’

‘Lots of trees, paved roads and pavements, shared sapce all through the centre, good modern buildings next to old.’

‘Sunsets + sunrises, red brick and wooden breams, smiling faces and starry nights, bright lights and clean lines, home.’

Sounds like…



‘Sounds of birds. Local musicians/buskers, supported to bring the streets alive’.

‘Quiet, only the tinkle of bicycle bells. The whirr of electric engines’.

‘Gentle folk music and sometimes heavy rock and punk protests, fireworks, laughter, and the ring pull on an can on beer, someone telling you that they love you…’.

Smells like..

‘Smell of logs burning, street vans, mulled wine, donuts, not rubbish’.

‘Clean. Grassy’.

‘Fresh coffee, cinnamon, the first raindrops on aspelt, incense, pine trees, sometimes fresh paint and petrol, freshly baked bread, apple pie’.

Feels like…



‘A small homely feel but a part of an active community in a city. This is why I choose to live in York.’

‘A place to sit an breathe, an exciting city with a buzz, safe but edgy.’

‘Clean, safe, soft, like crunchy leaves under your feet and fresh drew in the air…warm, comfortable like sinking into an arm chair by the fire’.

In the comfort of your own digital space, create your own meditative space and imagine what does you York in ten years’ time look like, sound like, smell like and feel like?

Thanks so much to all who shared their sensory hopes for York at the Yorktopia event. Card and icon designs by Ben Holden. Exhibit designs by Reet So.

Census: from 1911 to 2026

Yorktopia event, 23rd November 2016: 2026 Census activity. Designs and photos by Reet So.

At our Yorktopia event on 23rd November – promoted by 1911 Census for Hungate – we asked those walking through our exhibition to contribute to our own My Future York 2026 Census. Given the event only lasted a few hours, we were staggered when we undid the box to find 37 replies.

We have now launched an online version – what is your Census return for 2027?

The Yorktopia Census activity. A snapshop to Hungate in 1911. Designs and Photos by Reet So.

As we share the link for our new online version, here are a few reflections on the census returns contributed during the Yorktopia event.

Age
We had an excellent age range. From those that will be in their early 30s in ten years’ time, to those that will be in the early 70s. It was especially great to get so many submissions from those in their 20s, I assume from the student group exhibiting their art work in the next room and their friends.

Work / Travel
For those that planned to be in work in ten years’ time there was a strong consensus of either working from home or living very close to work, less than 5 miles or ‘not far’ were by far the most popular answers with only one stating a long commute of 30 miles.

Over 90% of those responding imaged they would either walk or cycling to work. Of the other options bus, train, tram were popular. Two mentioned cars, as many as mentioned teleporting/brain implants…

Home
However, it was the ‘where will you live’ census box pulled out the most differences. There was clearly a cohort of people – all of who will be in their 60s or 70s in ten years time – who were owner occupiers of their homes and didn’t really see much changing.

‘Expect to be where I live. 2 bed mid-terrace. Probably with ever more technology in the house’, will be retire by busy and aged 68.

‘Still in our three bedroom townhouse (me and husband) but probably thinking of downsizing’, will be ‘still working’ aged 65.

‘With my husband in our present house. Semi-detached. 5 beds. Paid for. Or my mother’s house opposite. 2 beds also paid for’, will be aged 71.

Of the other strand of older respondents innovative future lifestyle and living arrangements were imagined, suggesting that future housing also needs to taking into account of future approaches to sex and domestic relationships:

‘Large purpose built intentional community for polyamourous. York. Ecobuild’, will be seeking to retire and aged 60

‘I will be in a commune with my long term lover and his wife’, will be a volunteer and aged 82

‘Off grid, Commune of family, friends and strangers’, will be a carer and aged 65

For those who will be in their late 30s and early 40s in ten years there was a trend towards a certain sense of accumulative confidence, the four bedroom house seemed to be a marker:

‘4 bed house with family. Owned by us’, will be a University Lecturer and aged 48.

‘4 bed. With my love and her boys. I own it!’, will be self employed and aged 49.

‘3-4 bedrooms. Semi-detached house. Garden. Private off street parking. Owned by myself and mortaged’, will be a project manager aged 37.

‘3 bed town house, Mortgage paid. Living with wife’ will be a Programme Manager and aged 52

‘4 bed. York or Leeds. Victorian. Owned. No garden but near a park’, will be a civil servant and aged 50.

For younger people – those who will be in their 30s in ten years’ time – a note of modesty and a tone of realism featured:

‘Probably renting. It is a beautiful city but people my age can’t afford to stay’, will be a travel writer aged 36

‘I will live in a moderately priced house / flat with my boyfriend Jay and our tortoise Murray’, will be Film maker / painter / artists / sales assistant and aged 31.

‘Apartment 2 rooms. With partner or friend. Small balcony. Owned by me (probably not realistic)’, will be a writer and aged 30

‘A little cottage with a bunny. 2 bedroom.’, will be a nursed and aged 38.

‘Own an ‘eco-home’ / flat of some sort / with garden space / not too many bedrooms’, will be a parent and/or involved in chemical regulation and be 40.

Our snapshot census for 2026 reflects the typical type of audience attracted to contemporary art event – a mixture of arts students and affluent 30+. Yet it also points very clearly to an issue of life phases and periods of certainty and uncertainty which need to be taken into account in city planning.

In this snapshot there appears to be a group of economically secure people and a time in people’s lives (35-60) where there is a sense of certainty in your trajectory – you expect that you will be doing the same job or a better version of it, you will own the same house or a bigger one.

Yet in the Yorktopia respondents at both ends of our age spectrum there was more uncertainty. At the 70+ end of our age range, for some there was a sense that things would be changing, you might downsize, you might seek out a small place to live, you might join an intentional community or a commune. For those earlier in their lives, it was expected that these next ten years would also see a lot of change. Yet it was notable that the sense of confidence and possibility that pervaded the contributions from those who will be in their 70s was much less in evidence for those who will be in their 30s.

It will be interested to see how the online versions of the Census activity nuances and deepened these snapshot findings as the sample increases and diversifies. However, there are already concrete things to draw out here in terms of the familiar but crucial story of generational inequality as well as of the need to consider type, tenure of housing and the kinds of social relations our future housing might need to enable.

With many thanks to all who contributed.

Yorktopia: looking back to look forwards

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On 23rd November My Future York collaborated with Vespertine and York St John University to look back to the histories of the Hungate area to provoke debate and discussion about York in ten years’ time.

In our exhibition we invited people to look at floor plans of a Hungate house, demolished in 1936, the houses of the new Tang Hall estate and those being built the new Hungate development.

A plan of a two bedroom house in Hungate. Designs by Reet So.

We then invited ideas for a utopian dwelling. We also invite people to listen to record excerpts from Day In My Life stories we’ve already collected.

An ideal dwelling for York in ten years’ time.

One aim – not surprisingly given the focus of the My Future York project – was to invite people to contribute their own ideas. Two of our participatory exhibits seemed to work well and to entice people to think about their and York’s future. Thinking of the event as a prototyping process we’ve now developed these ideas into online versions.

The first was a quick Census activity. Based on 1911 Census in Hungate but asking people to image their own Census for ten years’ time. We got 37 responses in the short period of the event. The new online version will only take 5 minutes to complete.

The second was a York Senses activity. From oral histories and archive photography we gathered images of the sights, smells and sounds of Hunagte in early 20th century. From Chicory to the slaughter house. The online version of York Senses will take between 5-10 minutes to complete.

Smells of Hungate in early 20th century… what will York smell like in ten years’ time? Designs and Photos by Reet So.

The event finished with an array of signers and poets sharing their visions, hopes and fears for York’s future such as Henry Raby’s contribution of a battle-scarred York.

A big thanks to Veserptine and York St John’s for working with us on the event and to Reet So for being brilliant designers and collaborators.