‘What we want to be able to do?’

In the Days In My Life Stories words of home, belonging and connection dominate. In this blog we explore the first of our analysis questions. In 2026: 'What do we want to be able to do?'
In the Days In My Life Stories words of home, belonging and connection dominate. In this blog we explore the first of our analysis questions. In 2026: ‘What do we want to be able to do?’

One of the things we hope to do through the My Future York project to enable a slow and deep form of political engagement. We’re seeking to start something quite different from either the most common forms of public consultation or many forms of community activism which are often, for obvious and understandable reasons, against something. My Future York is about what we might be for. Or to put it another way, it’s utopian. It asks us to bring into being another time where others things might be possible. It is a leap of personal and political imagination. More Days In My Life are rolling in all the time but we also appreciate that writing isn’t everyone favourite activity so we’ve in the process of developing a quick fire version to use on public stalls and in workshops. More details on these soon.

In a series of blogs this week, we will offer a close reading of the fifteen Days In My Life stories submitted so far under the four 2026 questions we identified at our first Open Analysis workshop in the early summer.

Q1: What do we want to be able to do? (practical things)
Q2: How are different aspects of our lives connected? (home, work, fun)
Q3: How do we hope to be living together? (social relations)
Q4: Ideas for designing alternatives? (specific ideas that we can follow up with events)

A word cloud analysis of the stories – image above – indicates a strong sense of ‘belonging’ and ‘movement’. Home and house are mentioned often as are words of travel and connection.

In this first blog we will start with 2026: Question 1 ‘what we want to be able to do’.
A close reading suggests we want to be able to breathe, feel free, feel safe, eat locally and well, bump into people we know, love our friends and family, welcome those we don’t know and see signs we belong everywhere.

Breathe – no air pollution
Mentioned explicitly by one writer yet implicitly there for everyone is the right to be able to breathe easily:

2016: ‘Wake up coughing and simultaneously apologising to my partner for waking him up again.
2026: ‘No medication needed now the air quality is better and the traffic pollution problem has been addressed.’

Move around safety (walk, cycle safely and park your bike, buses, electric buses, trams, trains)
Travelling was by far the most mentioned issue. The idea of cheap, affordable, reliable clean public transport and well maintained and safe cycling infrastructure was mentioned by all but two of the stories.

2016: ‘I cycle over to Museum Street (back down Bridge Street, right onto North Street which is pretty dangerous with a narrow road and traffic thundering both sides of you) and perform a complicated bit of slightly dangerous traffic negotiation from North Street onto Lendal Bridge because there are no cycle paths nor any way of turning right without going round the whole cenotaph loop. So I part-walk across the pavement, part-cycle across the pelican, and judge to a ‘t’ my moment to nudge into a gap in the traffic coming from the station.’
2026: ‘an anonymous donation made possible the plan for a “Shared Space” along Bishopthorpe Road shops which now means that traffic goes at walking pace, winding it’s way around colourful plant beds.’

Live in affordable and sustainable housing
A pervasive York issue… the idea of a stable, affordable and long term place to live – a home – was present in every one of the stories more or less explicitly.

2026: ‘as I walk into our house, a two-bedroom terrace we’ve owned for a few years now thanks to strict regulation of the housing market and a ban on landlords amassing houses for profit.’
2026: ‘We were able to move back within the City of York boundary a couple of years ago, joining a new housing scheme that means we can have a secure and reasonably priced home in a cooperative community.’
2026: ‘I never thought I’d move out of the town centre but when the chance came up to build on a custom build plot out at Whinthorpe, among like-minded oddballs.’

Buy local food affordably (shop in independent shops / local food assembly / allotments / independent York restaurants delivery by bike)

Local food appeared in many different ways.

2026: ‘At lunch time I nip out to grab my shopping from the local food assembly. I’ve ordered what I need online from local suppliers and producers and it has been brought to one place to pick up. The mini supermarkets are mostly gone now – who needs them when there so much available locally? I chose to pay an additional 10% on top of my shopping bill which goes back into a communal pot that all members of my assembly can draw on if they have a time of need.’
2026: ‘since many of York’s restaurants now offer a delivery service using our fabulously comprehensive, stringently maintained network of cycle lanes that the Council made national headlines for guaranteeing to be pothole-free at all times of year, we decide not to cook, but instead we use a City of York Council-sponsored app to order some delivery food from one of a network of small independent restaurants that enjoy subsidised business rates – and we cycle home to arrive just before our food.’

Be welcome and feel safe in local cafes pubs
Local cafes and pubs were woven in to many people’s stories.

2016: ‘Even the designated gay pub in the city centre isn’t a safe space for trans people’
2026: ‘We spend the evening in a pub chosen simply because it’s local to us’
2026: ‘There is a micro-pub down the street in a neighbour’s garage, and many residents have joined the ‘pop-up restaurant’ rotation, taking it in turns to cook for those who want to go out for the evening.’
2026: ‘We never used to risk the local pubs (the handwritten sign in the ladies’ toilets about drug dealers being reported suggested it wasn’t a good place) but we’ve now got a couple of really good ones which provide a welcoming place to spend an evening – and serve a good cold pint.’

Indoor public spaces / places to work / places to eat lunch / place to meet friends and family
2026: ‘Lunch is a short walk into town – every year the weather’s weirder so short walks are good – but today it stays fine and shuffling meetings to tables outside cafes works well – WiFi everywhere so work happens everywhere.’

Access to parking for those that need it (Blue Badge holders and others) to freed by safer bike infrastructure and better public transport

2026: ‘The car park is much smaller now, with space only for 15 cars plus a few disabled parking bays. What used to be for cars is now a bike park, most of it covered with green roofs to provide shelter from the rain.’

Gender neutrality
2016: ‘The wrongly gendered address slams into the pit of my stomach. It’s so unnecessary: why do people feel the need to say anything that implies gender? I grimace, wondering whether to correct her and tell her I’m actually a trans man, but decide it’s not worth the anxiety of how she might respond.’
2026: ‘When I tell the cashier the milk jug is empty, she calls to her colleague, “Can you bring some milk out for this customer, please? They need it for their tea.” I smile at the fact she hasn’t assumed anything about my gender from the way I look: the comprehensive awareness training offered free to every business by the Yorkshire Assembly’s elected trans representative has really taken off.’

Welcoming new comers and visitors
2026: ‘Welcome European Economic Migrants initiative’
2026: ‘York Welcoming Collective. 1000s of us volunteer, as part of the work the city needs, to welcome visitors, tourists they were once called, to the city. Our aim is to develop interpersonal interactions with our visitors from all around the world so they enrich our lives and understanding and we can introduce them in a meaningful and enriched way of the city of York.’

Signs of belonging
Yet perhaps the most moving aspect of the stories is a sense that all who have written suggested they were seeking signs that they belonged. One writer smiles when they see a LGBTQ rainbow flag and relaxes when gender-neutral pronouns are used; many writers bump into people they know; they chat; they see other people chatting; people walk round the city with friends; they move knowledgably around the city via short cuts or so they can glimpse favourite views.

Our second analysis blog – to be published later this week – will explore further this sense of belonging through the second and third questions:
How are different aspects of our lives connected? (home, work, fun)
How do we hope to be living together? (social relations)

A final blog this week will draw out the hard nosed policy ideas people’s stories have implied – from how housing might regulated to become affordable to local means of redistributing wealth (and via potholes and local history community networks!).