Day in My Life 2016 + 2026: Breathing Freely

Contributed to the My Future York project, 25th July 2016. The writer prefers not to be named.

2026: 'Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began.'
2026: ‘Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began.’

2016:
Wake up coughing and simultaneously apologising to my partner for waking him up again. Not too much before the alarm clock, so get up anyway. I can hear next door coughing too. I’ve never asked her if she also struggles with poor air quality, but her cough is exactly the same as mine. Take the extra-strong antihistamine and the nasal spray from the GP, and make a mental note to ask her when I can next have a spell on the stronger steroid spray, the one that nearly works.

Shower, breakfast, quick stroll round the garden and then get ready to go into the city centre. There’s a bus from the end of the cul-de-sac, but it only runs every half an hour and takes as long as the bike ride, so I prefer to cycle. A bit later than usual setting off, so get caught up in the school traffic, with impatient cars overtaking my bike and then grinding to a sudden stop just in front of me. Make it out of Hamilton Drive on to Acomb road, but get squeezed too close for comfort to the curb by a lorry as I cross the iron bridge. I cut down Lowther Terrace and across the station car park for a rest from the traffic. It’s not really a cycle route, but even with the idling taxis, it’s a better option than risking Blossom Street. But either way I have to go over Lendal Bridge. Here, the traffic is so tight to the curb that I get off and walk along the pavement. It’s a sunny day so the fair weather cyclists are out and it’s hard to find a spare bike rack, but eventually I get my bike locked up and head to my GP appointment. As predicted, the news from the latest hospital tests is that I’m healthy – apart from the affects of traffic pollution on my sinuses – and nothing much more can be done to reduce the sinus pain, headaches and cough unless the air quality improves.

Whilst I’m in town I do a bit of food shopping, trying to buy as much as I can in local independent shops, although it’s not always easy. Then head off to the University campus, nerves steeled at the junction at the bottom of Heslington Road for the inevitable red-light jumping car. Head home via Walmgate Stray, the Millennium Bridge and Hob Moor after a reasonably productive day, although less so than I’d like given my doctor’s appointment and the general fog of sinus pain. Good to see the cattle grazing on the stray and moor, and people enjoying the sunshine on Millennium Bridge.

After dinner, some friends come round. They’ve just bought their first house, on a fairly anonymous estate on the edge of York. They’re not settling in well, missing the sense of community from where they used to live. There are no shops or communal spaces on or near the estate, and they only see their neighbours when they drive passed. They used to be keen cyclists, but I understand why they’ve driven over to our house. The bike lanes the developer put in just cover the estate, and it’s a very busy main road to get anywhere else. We stay in and have a pleasant evening sat in the garden, enjoying the fine weather.

2026
Wake up with the alarm; shower, breakfast, a quick stroll in the garden and then get ready to go into the city centre. No medication needed now the air quality is better and the traffic pollution problem has been addressed. The bus from the end of the cul-de-sac is electric and since the congestion charge was introduced it runs every fifteen minutes and is much quicker than it used to be. I enjoy the exercise and have a few stops to make, so decide to cycle. There’s never much traffic on Hamilton Drive now, so it doesn’t matter that there isn’t a separate cycle lane. There’s fewer parked cars now too, since most households have reduced the number of cars they have, or got rid of them completely. Once I get to the end of Hamilton Drive, there’s a great new bike route. One of the first things to be built with the York Central site was a series of bridges and bike paths to link the west of the city up with the city centre. The biggest one is as elegant as the Millennium Bridge, although rather than looking down on the river it looks over the trees planted before the development work began. Even at this time in the morning, there’s some dog walkers sat on a bench, chatting. I take the route to the station to collect the tickets I need to pick up. 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. It will take thousands of bikes, and is usually busy. Today I lock my bike on one of the ‘short-stay’ racks and go to collect my tickets. Then I head into the city centre. It was harder to make dedicated bike paths here, properly separated from other road users, but it doesn’t matter so much now that Lendal Bridge is closed to cars and lorries. There’s plenty more bike racks in town too, circling the new larger pedestrian zone. It’s helped that the roads closed to traffic during the day are now all shut for the same time, and that everything inside the walls on the Minster side of the river is part of the pedestrian zone. No one gets caught out by odd streets still being open to cars. With the rest of the city centre and the inner ring road being subject to a congestion charge, it’s all worked out very well.

I drop the book off at a friend’s house as promised, and take the new dedicated separate bike path to the university. A more productive day than 10 years ago, which is the norm now I no longer have sinus problems. Cycle home via Walmgate Stray, the Millennium Bridge and Hob Moor. Good to see the cattle grazing on the stray and moor, and people enjoying the sunshine on Millennium Bridge. Carry on up Green Lane to the Front Street. Proper planning and investment has encouraged new business and shops, and it’s a pleasure to do my food shopping near to home in independent shops with really high quality food. The hardware shop is busy as usual, but the late-opening bakery thankfully has some lovely bread left. I bump into a neighbour and we chat a while about the fine weather.

After dinner, some friends come round. They’ve just moved to a new build on an estate on the edge of York. It’s really lovely. Their house was built to a really high sustainability standard and costs very little to run. The estate itself has communal green space, including a shared orchard and allotments for those who want one. Cars are mostly keep off the site so children play outside more. There’s also a community building, which seems to always have something on. However, tonight they’ve cycled over to us, using one of the many routes the developers built to connect the estate to other parts of the city. We think about sitting out in the garden, but decide to head out to the nearest pub, where there’s a guitarist playing tonight. 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.

How to analyse ‘Days in My Life’

Our first attempt at analyzing the Day in My Life stories using key questions.
Our first attempt at analyzing the Day in My Life stories using key questions

At our first Open Analysis workshop, the My Future York team worked with the initial clutch of Days in My Life stories as a way of identifying and refining the analysis questions. We came up with:

2016
Q1: What is good about now?
Q2: What are the issues now?
Q3: (What different types of future are being produced now?)

2026
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)

These ideas emerged partly from reading our Days In My Life stories but are also underpinned by some ways of utopian thinking might act as a method for understanding – and changing – society today. One point of inspiration is Ruth Levitas. In her Utopia as Method she outlines three dimensions:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 08.35.06

For reading the 2016 stories, we translated ideas in Levitas’ work into both looking for positive things, 2016: Question 1, and not only issues and criticisms, which will be captured through 2016: Question 2. The third 2016 question – refers directly to Levitas’ archaeological perspective – and looks for the futures which are implicit in how we live our lives now. So, to take an example from my own Day In My Life, when I want to work on the train to Leeds with my headphones in you could say I am unselfconsciously making a future where work permeates all aspects of life and where the individual prioritizing their own needs over social interaction (…though I would resist this reading and in my 2026 story I was very interested in thinking about how collective spaces and endeavors can mix with personal space too). But it is quite useful to think about what futures are implied in our lives today and how different the 2026 futures we hope for are from the futures that would emerge organically from our 2016 stories.

In thinking about the 2026 stories, we began with quite a practical head on so 2026: Question 1 is ‘what is it we imagine ourselves doing?’ with 2026: Question 2 asking ‘how are theses activities and spaces connected?’ The thinking here is about the different kinds of ways home, work, life, fun might interrelate – they might not all flow in the 9-5, office and then home kind of way. 2026: Question 3 is a version of Levitas’ ontological question – new forms social relations – and the stories suggest there are plenty of those, lots of collective and collaborative imaginings. For example, all the stories have quite lot of social life in them: family, friends, queer spaces and networks, volunteering, bumping into people you know at the tram stop. Finally, 2026: Question 4, is architectural (the final strand of Levitas’ method) and will be used to pull out the new ideas for designing/structuring/facilitating the lives and activities imagined. For example Victoria Hoyle imagines a local food assembly where she pays ‘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’. We might especially use ideas that emerge under this question to plan events and explore interesting and successful ideas and practices from elsewhere.

As I write we have had 12 stories submitted. My next blog on questions of analysis will be a reading of all submitted using our questions – we can then see what these questions reveal and if they need to be adjusted or rewritten.

Day in My Life 2016 + 2026: Shared space on Bishopthorpe Road

Days in My Life, contributed by Caroline Lewis

2026: 'I'll be going to one of my volunteering jobs which is the upkeep of the planting which happened in Bishopthorpe Road when I was still running the shop with funding from winning the Great British High Street. Some time after I sold the shop, 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. It all needs watering and weeding so any spare time is spent there.'
2026: ‘I’ll be going to one of my volunteering jobs which is the upkeep of the planting which happened in Bishopthorpe Road when I was still running the shop with funding from winning the Great British High Street. Some time after I sold the shop, 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. It all needs watering and weeding so any spare time is spent there.’

2016
The older I get, the earlier I seem to wake so I frequently see the dawn these days, often the most beautiful part of the day when all is quiet, the air is fresh and the birds are tweeting.

Somehow though, however early I get up, I always seem to run out of setting up time at the shop I run, a busy deli in Bishopthorpe Road. Today was an exception and I was cracking on with making the fresh salads we do every day well before my assistant arrived. The sun always brings out the salad buyers and the pitta sandwiches to take away so I need to make lots.

Then it’s on with ordering, checking what’s selling and what’s not and chatting stock over with staff. Always having to think of new things to stock that isn’t just a variation of what we already have. Mondays are usually fairly quiet but there is a steady dribble of customers and always nice when new folks come in. Then it’s on with lunch service and lots of sandwiches! I only work mornings at the shop now since an accident in November 2014 but my day doesn’t finish here! I’ve been away for the weekend so have to catch up with books and banking, cuddle the cat, think about my newsletter and write this!

My back is still giving me problems since my accident so I’m planning on lying on the floor for a bit now doing pelvic floor exercises. My life is so exciting!

2026
Though I loved our home where we lived 10 years ago, being so close to the town centre and having the things around us that we liked and needed, we decided to move after I retired. We wanted an eco house, a Passivhaus if possible which is slowly becoming more common. Though jealous of the eco villages which have been built near Amsterdam, nothing like that has happened here. We thought of building our own house for a while but the cost of land has spiralled even higher and put it out of our reach. Anyway, we really liked the idea of living in a community so bought one in a development just on the edge of York. I have an electric pushbike now which makes getting around much easier now that the car has finally died and we have decided not to replace it.

Today I am going to visit some friends on my bike and will then go and make a delivery of cakes to my old shop. I still really like baking and fortunately the new owners were happy to keep taking them. It gives me a bit of income as well. Then I’ll be going to one of my volunteering jobs which is the upkeep of the planting which happened in Bishopthorpe Road when I was still running the shop with funding from winning the Great British High Street. Some time after I sold the shop, 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. It all needs watering and weeding so any spare time is spent there.

Then it’s on to meet my partner at the corner cafe on Bishopthorpe Road where Cycle Heaven used to be, which is now a really good wood fired pizza place. A few glasses of wine and a great pizza. Perfect end to the day.

Day in My Life 2016 + 2026: Gender neutrality and queerspaces

By Kit Rafe Heyam, Chair, LGBT History Month

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'
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’

2016
As I cycle up Albemarle Road, my heart sinks. That sign saying “City Centre This Way” can only mean one thing: it’s a race day. They always take me by surprise. Hopefully I’ll get into the station before they put the barriers up, but I’ll return to chaos: police tape across the back alley which I need to access to put my bike away, drunk people in fascinators stumbling down my road, standing in a vast queue in the local shop while racegoers drop their money and abuse the shopkeeper, Blossom Street littered with takeaway packets and pools of vomit. And I’ll need earplugs when I go to sleep, because they don’t leave quickly or quietly.

I dash into town to go to the bank and return my library book: it’s a bit of a rush doing it before work, but the crowds thronging Coney Street make the city centre basically unusable on weekends. Today it’s quiet, and I pause to look up at the Minster against an overcast sky. Someone once told me that you’re never “from” York until you can pass the Minster without looking up; I’m not from here, I’m from Lancashire, but it’s my home and I reserve the right to respond to it with childlike wonder.

I pay in my cheque and the bank teller says, “Is there anything else I can help you with, madam?” 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. I head to the station instead and buy my ticket to Leeds, grimacing afresh at the extortionate price for a 25-minute journey on which I’m far from guaranteed a seat. I dance a little on the platform; I need the loo, but I’d rather wait and use the ungendered toilet on the train than face the frisson of anxiety that comes with using the gents in the station. I’ve not yet had a bad toilet experience, and I count myself lucky compared to the vitriol directed at trans women, but I haven’t lost the fear: it only takes one person to ask me a question, and my voice would give me away. I distract myself and my bladder by watching the gentle bouncing of Northern Rail trains. The first time my husband Alex saw a Pacer, he looked aghast and said, “I’m pretty sure the south threw those out ten years ago…”

The mood at work is one of grim laughter at political chaos. Younger people look askance at older ones, particularly the colleague who ordered champagne on the day of the EU referendum result. I return to York, wrangle my way through the temporary ticket barriers with their exasperated staff, and cycle home along Skeldergate and Terry Avenue to avoid the racegoers. My mood mellows as I pass under the dappled shadows of the trees, swerving around fluffy pyramids of goslings, and I break into a smile as I spot the rainbow flag flying from the ice cream boat by Millennium Bridge: I really must cycle this way more often.

After tea, a couple of queer friends come over for a drink. It makes far more sense than going out. None of us could afford a pint in town; we like the Golden Ball in principle but it doesn’t have a toilet for my non-binary friend or my wheelchair-using friend; and we’re reluctant to go into any of the other local pubs in case they’re the kind of place where everybody stops talking when you walk in. (When Alex and I lived in Leeman Road, we tried out the Leeman and the Jubilee and got that response; we never went back.) Even the designated gay pub in the city centre isn’t a safe space for trans people: it’s frequented by laddish gay men who think it’s okay to grope you in order to work out what’s in your pants, and who drunkenly misgender you on the dancefloor. So we stay in, drink fruit beer and fruit tea, and talk freely. It’s such a relief to be able to free-associate in conversation, to not have to censor my anecdotes in case they make the people around me feel awkward. My chest fills with an almost unbearable rush of love for my queer community. These people have kept me going through anxiety and oppression and seemingly endless gender identity clinic waiting lists. When the state fails to support us, we keep each other going.

2026: 'After catching up with my friend, I return to York, using the station’s gender-neutral toilet and tapping out with my transport pass as I exit the station. I head across Scarborough Bridge to the building formerly owned by Yorkshire Mesmac, now extended into the nearby church and known simply as Queerspace.'
2026: ‘After catching up with my friend, I return to York, using the station’s gender-neutral toilet and tapping out with my transport pass as I exit the station. I head across Scarborough Bridge to the building formerly owned by Yorkshire Mesmac, now extended into the nearby church and known simply as Queerspace.’

2026
I awake to an automated text message reminding me that this Saturday is a race day. I’m grateful for the warning; perhaps I’ll go for a bike ride that afternoon to get away from the noise. It should all be over by 5pm in any case; the racegoers will have walked into town, sobered by the tap water provided by the racecourse to every departing guest, and helped en route by the friendly team of racecourse employees who give directions and clean up mess as it’s left.

I’ve got no commitments until 11, when I’m meeting a group of ten in the Minster library to discuss some sixteenth-century texts, so I cycle into town to read by the river. The riverside area behind the Coney Street shops has been restored and opened to the public, giving every shop a back door as well as a front. Shoppers have two thoroughfares to choose from now, and both are less busy as a result. Islands of decking, set with benches and flowering plants, extend out into the Ouse. I buy a cup of tea – discounted because I brought my own mug – from a cashier wearing a badge that specifies “She/her pronouns please”. 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.

My seminar in the library is lively: the students aren’t afraid to speak their minds, having been taught in small discussion groups all the way through secondary school. On my way out of the Minster library I pass a couple of pensioners who have popped in to marvel at a twelfth-century book of hours. I’ve got a few hours before my next work commitment, so I’ve arranged to pop over to Leeds to see a friend. Now that the line has been electrified, it only takes fifteen minutes; from there it would be another half hour to Manchester. One of the first acts of the Yorkshire Assembly (one of several regional governments created soon after the 2016 EU referendum in response to the realisation that northern communities desperately needed more control over their economic situation) had been to take the railways into public ownership. Transport remains a hot political issue, so the representatives know they need to keep the railways in good shape, or their party will risk losing its place as senior partner in the coalition at the next election. I find a seat easily: all the trains are at least six carriages long these days. Along with the low ticket prices and the speed of electrification, this has finally pushed most people into commuting by rail rather than road. The trains that call at smaller stations are of the same quality, meaning towns like Barnsley are desirable places to live for people of all incomes. Neighbourhoods are now mixtures of people from different backgrounds, and people take advantage of the quick, cheap trains to visit other nearby communities in Yorkshire and experience their cultures and ways of life.

After catching up with my friend, I return to York, using the station’s gender-neutral toilet and tapping out with my transport pass as I exit the station. I head across Scarborough Bridge to the building formerly owned by Yorkshire Mesmac, now extended into the nearby church and known simply as Queerspace. I’m employed for two hours a week to offer support in an area where I have medical expertise – an approach that has dramatically cut down the wait to see a GP. The Yorkshire Assembly quickly realised that two overcrowded gender identity clinics in Leeds and Sheffield, and nothing at all in York, weren’t adequate to serve the region’s trans community, and that the best way to approach this issue – and many others – would be to pay existing experts rather than training new ones. This afternoon I have an appointment to meet a young non-binary person who wants to talk through the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy before requesting a prescription from their GP. We look at the Queerspace resources together – crowdsourced from people with direct experience of the issues – and I help them work out what they want, making sure that their consent to any treatment will be fully informed. They leave happy, heading on to another appointment where they will discuss pain management for their disability with another person who deals with chronic pain.

Alex and our cat greet me 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. We spend the evening in a pub chosen simply because it’s local to us, and fall asleep quickly, hearing only the occasional sound of a bike whizzing by.

Day in My Life 2016 + 2026: The changing same

2026: 'We want people to engage locally with us just as we are open to their localities across the world. We build our own translocal community in the wake of the EU referendum. We ask everyone who comes to bring something to share, their language, a dish – and we share with them the complex histories and cultures of York. No visitor can just see York as pretty old buildings any more.'
2026: ‘We want people to engage locally with us just as we are open to their localities across the world. We build our own translocal community in the wake of the EU referendum. We ask everyone who comes to bring something to share, their language, a dish – and we share with them the complex histories and cultures of York. No visitor can just see York as pretty old buildings any more.’

2016
Early and bright. Routines unfold. The towel. The stairs. The shower. Then as the hand slides round, gaining speed towards the precise moment of necessary exit. Then the rush. Teeth cleaning. The keys. Phone. Bag. Out the house. Notice three more houses on the street are for sale. And one more now for let. 17 minutes walk to the station down Cinder Lane.

The changing same. The flowers in a beautiful garden. The broken pattern in the pavement. The hollow sound of my feet on the foot bridge. The back passage between Holgate and Leeman Road once walled, once falling over, now more pragmatically fenced creating a visual connection between the railway maintenance sheds and the trickle of commuters heading for trains to offices in West Yorkshire. Then down the metal steps, across the car park. Nod to the attendant who ensures parking payment is given but also tidies, picks up litter, says hello to the regulars that park and walk across his patch. 4 minutes until the train leaves.

Practiced ticket buying. Muscle memory of the spatial choices needed to get a day return to Leeds. On the platform in time. Early enough (and late enough will do too) to get a seat. The odd public-private space of a commuting train carriage. Mutually respective of need to sleep, eat breakfast, apply make up, of laptop. The many working lives that compel travel and ‘being flexible’, all of us have the ability to focus anywhere and the need to use those 22 minutes to Leeds in some way. I work too and also watch the ripples of the seasons, catch a view of a favourite village, spire, field, sometimes a deer, usually rabbits. Each acting as a kind of visual echo of my childhood, of fields, and sunrise, and mists. My rural past in my present within and between two urban spaces. Then Leeds starts to emerges slowly between the fields and then faster as we enter the station. Happy to not yet entirely have to speak or to listen to others, before an equally happy day at the University of much of both.

Arriving back into York station. Busy train, though it is past commuters most popular home time. Seat on the aisle. Managed to work until after the final signal into the station, another email done and some sense of satisfaction. My day measured out in cups of tea and things struck off scrappy to do lists as well as good conversations and the constant flows of ideas and glimpses of possibilities. The working day over as the train stops. Rush. Laptop in cover. Then in bag. Grab scarf.

My bag is heavy with stuff bought at Marks and Spencer – at a price – at Leeds Station. The penalty of disorganization. The bustle of many people getting off a train and not knowing how to exit the station. But I become free as I head back out the back of the station with those heading to their cars and then the many fewer heading to Holgate or Acomb. The same path. Sometimes here, just before the footbridge over the tracks, I suddenly smell the earth on a damp yet warm day or fragrance of pollen. Over the bridge, past the train spotters. Then back way past the allotments [and fleetingly feel bad about the weeds that are probably growing in mine and my sisters allottment], the bowling club playing in whites, smiling at the dog walkers, down between the terraces and notice the beautiful purple flowery weeds growing in the crevices Victorian wall, never repointed.

Back through the door. Bread and salad plus expensive not-that-great cheese. Discuss the day – or we choose not to. The news. And then the sofa, bit knackered, but watch a television programme and a fictional world to which we have long committed and much discuss: beautifully made, complex, compelling, enriching. Then messing around, familiar jokes, always and every day slightly adjusted with a different texture, tone or context, and door shutting and light turning off, the improvisations of life lived together. Sleep.

2026
The alarm comes and goes. Some days I must get up straight away, and embrace the old routines, adjusted a bit for the greater regularity and speed of trains to Leeds. Yet it still takes 17 minutes to walk, though now Cinder Lane is populated by trees and planting and always alive with singing and movement. One of the most positive things to emerge from York Central has been the National Railway Museum working to keep with the rail industry in York as part of its living heritage approach. The NRM has become a place which connects collections and archive and with a lab for technological and engineering innovation with lots of apprenticeships and tourist actively invited to full engage with and understand all the crucial labour, from clearing to maintenance, which keeps the railways running.

Today, there’s no need to get up. I still love very much teaching but we brokered new contracts which meant we all work fewer hours so that there could be more members of teaching staff, this was part of the free education revolution in higher education which laid the way for student-led and more horizontal and collectivist ways of organizing learning. I am glad we no long grade students (something I have always found painful) but instead we offer students ongoing dialogue and interaction around their thinking and interests, something they also offer to us as staff in abundance. This way of working has radically reduced student anxiety, stress and mental health referrals but has also massive increased the space for students to show initiative, generate their own agendas and ultimately contribute so fully to their communities and places. We hope we will soon be moving to an even more open form, finally and fully realizing the idea of life long learning with Universities working in very strategic and embedded ways with the networks of community libraries that are volunteer run and create nodes and passage point between ideas and bodies of knowledge. Arts, humanities, cultures, philosophy, political theories are be part of everyone’s everyday life as we all also share the other forms of labour that keep the city working.

My big task today is to take part in the 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. I’ve learnt so much this way and now many of us have friends in China, Indian, Pakistan, Mexico and Russia as well as across Europe. We want people to engage locally with us just as we are open to their localities across the world. We build our own translocal community in the wake of the EU referendum. We ask everyone who comes to bring something to share, their language, a dish – and we share with them the complex histories and cultures of York. No visitor can just see York as pretty old buildings any more.

This new reciprocal relationship with visitors has been partly to underpin what was once called a tourist tax, but we now call the Visitor Gift. Money from our visitors is important. We now have a living wage service economy, so pubs, hotels, historic sites all pay their staff enough for them to live and thrive living in York. The Visitor Gift is used to invest in free life long education for all who live in York (for however long, Visitors take part too and often run short workshops sharing their cultures), youth groups, active community history and cultural groups and the network of free, open, indoor and outdoor public spaces across the city. It has also been crucial in creating a Housing and Land Trust that builds environmentally sustainable and low energy community housing and has developed older terraced housing which are now completely affordably on the city’s living wage. Funded the same way is a Community Land Trust which has enabled green spaces to be supported both in urban York and on the outskirts. This has updated the Green Belt idea for 21st Century. It has allow new villages with their own community and facilitates to be build and it has enabled a much enhanced and bio-diverse green spaces in between, the green wedge idea extended outwards.

Having welcomed a group of Chinese tourists, I learned a few more Mandarin words and got to practice my basic Mandarin language skills. I introduced them to the both the histories of feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement in York and a taste of Centurion’s Ghost and Rudgate Ruby Mild. On my back, I stop by the train station which is now a really thriving hub, where we welcome visitors and can buy local food and local bread through outposts of York’s favorite shops. I cycle home, feeling very safe on the generous bike paths down Holgate Road and the Blossom Street.

Pass by Mum and Dad’s house and we walk out to the new woods on the edge of the city. Dad’s been part of the volunteer team researching the new and rich ecosystem and biodiversity created. The A64 seems to get quieter and quieter every time I come out here, as few and few people use cars now. Back to Holgate to see my sister Katie on the allotment (which is full of asparagus, broad beans as well as wildflowers and butterflies).

Head back home via meeting friends in a cooperatively run pub, The Golden Ball has inspired many more across the city. As I walk into the house I appreciate for the 1000th time the cracks and time marks in this house built in 1898 and cared for by only four previously inhabitants. The fitted cupboards made by the first owner, a joiner at the Carriageworks. The familiar pattern of sun coming through the triple glazed back doors open down to the summer, and casting different colours on the tiled floor. Now that housing is no longer a commodity – our terrace street is now one of the co-operatively owned Community Housing Trusts – all there is now is appreciating and working with the grain of the fabric within which your life is caught.

Then TV, thanks to subscription services there are still the richest, long form, dramas. The slow emergent revolution of the last 10 years was not televised as such but there is television in my utopia. Then the happy changing same as we go to bed.

News from the Utopia Fair, 24th-26th June

Over the weekend of the 24-26 June some of the My Future York team headed down to London in a minibus to take up our stall at the Utopia Fair (Somerset House). I went, along with Helen (University of Leeds), Richard, Lianne and Gavin (York Past and Present), Victoria (York Libraries and Archives) and Alice (Reet So).

The fair was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme as part of the Connected Communities Festival 2016. Taking inspiration from the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia (published in Latin in 1516), the Festival theme, Community Futures and Utopia, was run in partnership with The Somerset House Trust’s ‘Utopia 2016: a year of Imagination and Possibility’.

The theme of our stall was living well together, which was identified as an important issue at the first York planning meeting. We engaged with this theme through the idea of the Utopian Council of 2066, and invited people to write letters to the Council sharing their hopes for the future. This future Council would be founded on utopian principles, taking account of people’s collective desires or fears and thinking beyond only what is ‘possible’ in the language of development and planning.

The stall, designed by Reet So, looked great with its eye-catching purple and neon orange signage, and people were soon drawn in to find out what it was all about. There was a lot of interest in the My Future York project, and several people commented that the discussions around York’s Local Plan reflected similar situations in the areas where they were living. Some issues people wrote about in their letters to the Council included food waste, housing, car pollution, local-regional decision-making and young people and families. One letter even recommended a current project that encourages the use of food waste to feed pigs – see http://thepigidea.org/

Providing they gave an address, every person that wrote a letter to the Utopian Council over the weekend will receive a reply by post. The letters will be discussed at a storytelling session, to be held in York (in the Council Chamber) at the end of July. This collective conversation will inform the response letters people receive. Details of the Utopian Council storytelling session will be announced soon on the Events page.

Day in My Life 2016 + 2026: Shared Spaces and Lives

'When I arrive at work the library is already open, offering a space for commuters to come together in the morning for a coffee and a chat. There are spaces like this all over the city now, where it's possible to drop in and spend time together working on projects, having discussions and getting involved with the way the city is run'
2026: ‘When I arrive at work the library is already open, offering a space for commuters to come together in the morning for a coffee and a chat. There are spaces like this all over the city now, where it’s possible to drop in and spend time together working on projects, having discussions and getting involved with the way the city is run’

Day in My Life 2016:
I get up early, just before 6am, and rush around getting ready so I can be on the 6.53am train to York. I live outside of the city now, about 20 miles north. It’s a 10 minute drive and then a 25 minute train journey to work each day. We moved away 2 years ago after living in central York for 8 years. We had been slowly priced out of the private rental market, and also disliked the insecure short term tenancies, the difficulties with letting agents and the way long-term renting is perceived as a kind of personal failure. Now we let our house from a landed estate on a long term assured lease, in a village where this is true of the majority of our neighbours. I learnt to drive at the age of 31 especially so we could move.

I arrive in York around 7.30am and hurry from the station, up over Lendal Bridge towards the Minster. The traffic isn’t too bad yet, though it’s already starting to build up. I grab a coffee from Costa, getting to my desk around 7.40am so I can work in peace and quiet for an hour before the office starts to fill up.

At lunch time I head out into the city for some shopping. It’s busy with visitors and I dodge in and around people taking photographs or consulting maps. It feels very much like a tourist attraction, except for the two homeless people I pass. The man begging in the doorway of the old Robson and Cooper shop is a regular library customer and we greet each other.

Shopping done and it’s back to the office where I eat my lunch at my desk over emails. It’s still too chilly to eat outside in the Museum Gardens and there isn’t any indoor public space I can go for lunch. The benches on the first floor landing of the library are already full of people picnicking on sandwiches.

I catch the 5.40pm train home and the dash to the station is the least favourite part of my day. Lendal Bridge is crammed with traffic, the pavements are heaving and it’s raining. There is a lot of impatient hustling between umbrellas.

I finally arrive home around 6.30pm and am grateful to be out of the city. I let the dog out, following her into the garden, checking the fruit trees for any sign of apples, pears or plums. The air feels so much cleaner and fresher here, and I’m grateful all over again to be so lucky. I don’t mind having to rent or the commute so long as I can have this in return.

Day in My Life 2026:
The alarm goes off at 7am and the dog groans from her bed. She’s getting on a bit now and feels a bit creaky first thing in the morning. We don’t have to be up as early as we used to though. 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. Each person chooses the home that best suits their way of life, whether that’s a flat or a house, with or without a garden. We have a small contained house with a well sized secure garden for the dog, which backs out onto communal green spaces. The community is built around shared space, including growing spaces, play areas and learning spaces, including a centre with a library and health drop-in. 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. There is an excellent balance between public service provision and community action, which is co-produced between the council and the community.

At 8am the tram stop is busy, but since they are every 10 minutes nobody is too concerned. The new eco tramways into and around the city have made it possible for most people to leave their cars at home. Annual passes can be paid for through salary sacrifice schemes making public transport very affordable. Putting the trams in was hugely disruptive but nobody would want to go back to the pollution and traffic jams of ten years ago.

Alternatively there are off-road cycle routes from most areas, as well as well-kept footpaths. Since most of the centre of the town is now pedestrianised and off limits to traffic there are few incentives to take a car anywhere. The outer ring road is almost deserted and sections of it have been closed.

When I arrive at work the library is already open, offering a space for commuters to come together in the morning for a coffee and a chat. There are spaces like this all over the city now, where it’s possible to drop in and spend time together working on projects, having discussions and getting involved with the way the city is run.

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.

Before I go home I head out with friends for an early evening walk around the city. This used to be the worst time in York, when everything shut down early and the streets were full of tomorrow morning’s rubbish and recycling. Now it’s a time for people to relax at the end of the day.

Back at home I pick the dog up from the neighbour who has been looking after her for me. We go down to the library and spend an hour volunteering. The library is open until 10pm and busy with classes, homework clubs and events. Then it’s home again for dinner, after which I chat to family or a friend on the phone for a while. Finally I retreat up to bed with a book I borrowed earlier.

Day in My Life: Building a city-wide brief

'TEXT'
‘Any process of design is actually a more complex process of developing a brief (which sets out what’s wanted) and then a design response to this (which is largely technical). A brief is then the start of a design challenge, for design professionals; one which can still be a conversation – a creative partnership with the community – but one where each party is clear about their opportunities and responsibilities, and the long-term nature of this relationship’

Planning for the future of cities is a complex, dynamic process. Planning professionals in local authorities juggle the difficulties of technical and political demands – and often produce proposals which are contentious, or downright rejected by the public they are designed for. Why is this? Incompetence? Very rarely. Any process of design is actually a more complex process of developing a brief (which sets out what’s wanted) and then a design response to this (which is largely technical). There are two reasons why urban planners, highways engineers and other skilled professionals turn out poor proposals. One is that the briefing stage is handled terribly, with the community poorly engaged and with short-term politics over-riding long-term vision, and the second is that briefing, like design, should be a creative process, but is usually strangled by risk-aversion and lack of faith in the broader public. The minimum number of people are involved, rather than the maximum.

So how do we turn this into something more successful? The first important step is to note the distinction between brief and design; the two are linked (and good design often involves repeatedly revisiting the brief to check it is still completely valid) but distinct. Professionals often fear that inviting the involvement of the community is “getting the public to do our job” when it is nothing of the sort – it’s simply about providing the professionals with a better brief. Being able to plan the shape and structure of a city requires the professionals to know what the community wants to do in that city – how they will use the future buildings and spaces – and planning professionals are rarely actually given this information with any degree of completeness. The second important step is unhitching the briefing process from elected representatives. The cycle of politics – the politician’s “forward horizon” is far too short for strategic planning, and consideration of what will be popular with voters in four years’ time is unlikely to reliably describe what is wise for shaping a city for twenty, thirty, forty years of strategic change.

A third, and important, issue is that producing a good brief isn’t easy; we assume it’s simple, like doing a shopping list for the supermarket. But it’s completely different; it comprises moving beyond consideration of the present into consideration of the future, it involves imagining things being different, and it involves altruism – consideration of what we hand on to others as our lives move elsewhere, or come to an end, or are simply shared with increasing numbers of fellow residents, travellers, workers. This process involves individuals developing a picture of their future lives, based upon their values and wishes, and then bringing together these individual strands into a collective vision of what buildings, places and spaces, what infrastructure (and indeed what governance) needs to provide in our future city.

And this resulting brief is then the start of a design challenge, for design professionals; one which can still be a conversation – a creative partnership with the community – but one where each party is clear about their opportunities and responsibilities, and the long-term nature of this relationship.

Find out more about how share your Day in My Life and to help build a brief for York.

My Future York at Utopia Fair, Somerset House (24th-26th June)

The My Future York Utopian Council stationary as designed by Reet So.
The My Future York Utopian Council stationary as designed by Reet So.

Over the weekend some of the My Future York team will be at Somerset House for the Utopia Fair. We will be asking people to write letters to the Utopian Council of 2066.

Our invitation runs:

We are the Utopian Council. We are a collaboration of minds and hands. Together we are the ears to your queries, dreams and fears and the catalyst to your actions.

The idea of this ‘council’ derives from an ancient concept left behind from earlier days, where cities, towns and constituencies were ruled by tiered management structures and elected members. However the Utopian Council is open to your interpretation. There are no limits to our duties as a council, or yours as ‘the people’, we are here for you as you are for us.

Each letter will follow a certain form. It will ask the letter writer to imagine who they are contacting. We’ve proposed a structure. It begins with a positive opening: ‘I’m looking forward to…’ ‘there’s something I’d like to share’, ‘I’d like to praise’. Then there is the offer of a contribution: ‘I want to offer’, ‘would others like to hear’. Finally, a reciprocal offer: ‘let’s keep in touch’.

In July we will then convene the Utopian Council in the Council Chamber in York’s Guildhall for an afternoon of utopian storytelling, imagining what happened next in the case of each of the contributions and writing back to each participant.

The aim here is try and reformulate the relationship between people and those we elect and those the people we elect employ. We’re thinking of this partly in terms of a more distributed sense of agency and responsibility for positive change that belongs to all of us – this is why each form creates space for a volunteered contribution. But it is also about combining in different ways direct and representational forms of democracy. Seeing our representatives as catalyst, as facilitators, as connectors, as enablers, and as employing technical support to enable decisions and desired action. In this we may find ourselves playing around with notions of representation, perhaps an imaginary of a representative elected less to ‘speak on others behalf’ and more to be the re-teller and passer on, not only of stories but also sometimes of parables; as sharer of offers of help but also of ideas and ways of thinking.

The title of our Utopian Fair stall is directly inspired by our City of York Council Chamber.

From the City of York Council Chamber in the Guildhall.
From the City of York Council Chamber in the Guildhall.

The text of the signed reads: ‘No manifestation of feeling from the public will be allowed during the council meetings.’

Our stall will be called: ‘Manifestations of feelings from all people will be encourage at all times’.

Hope to see you there or at our Utopian Council storytelling session in York. Contact us to find out more.

Hungate: An analysis of the 1911 Census

A post exploring the what the 1911 Census can tell us about Hungate written by Hungate Histories team member Catherine Sotheran

Bradley's Buildings in Hungate as pictured in July 1911. Photograph taken by the City Engineer. Image: York Explore Libraries and Archives.
Bradley’s Buildings in Hungate as pictured in July 1911. Photograph taken by the City Engineer. Image: York Explore Libraries and Archives.

Of the 63 properties in Garden Place and Hungate (just the main street, not the back yards), that I have found information about through the 1911 Census, there was a slaughter house, warehouse, Boy’s Club, Mission School above stables, a few shops and the rest were houses, 6 of which were tenements (2 or 3 separate households).

The number of adult (age 14 or over) occupiers was about 178 and about 112 children. Of the 54 families that had children about 35 of them had 1 or more children that had died by the time of the census, an average of 2 per family, the worst being 10 out of 15 children died and 7 out of 14 died. In general the houses don’t appear to be too overcrowded by the number of people per room, though I don’t know how big the rooms were, and I did find a family of 4 adults and 7 children living in 4 rooms. The majority of the parents are fairly young, under 45, though there are a few households that still have adult offspring living there and also a few 3 generation households.

Most of the houses are occupied by families and the vast majority were born in York, though I did find a wife born in Barbados, I’d love to know her story. Curiously one man had given his marital status as “uncertain”, apparently he didn’t know if his wife was alive or dead.

The majority of adults are in work, the most common occupations being in the Chocolate industries, general labouring jobs, laundry and other domestic type jobs, trades like painters, joiners, wheelwrights etc. but also a few more skilled jobs like a hairdresser, midwife, auctioneer, book binder, dressmaker, druggist and antique dealer. There also seemed to be quite a few people involved with fish, either as dealers or fish fryers.

A couple of families are still in the same houses 25 years later when the Compulsory Purchase Orders are served in 1936.

It would be interesting to contrast all this with the residents of the new Hungate developments, what sort of jobs they do, do they own or rent, are they locals etc. just over 100 years later. The Hungate Histories team have decided – as part of the research linking pasts with present and the future – to run a workshop inviting new residents of Hungate to join them (York Explore Libraries and Archives, 19th July, 5.30-8pm). if you live in Hunagte now and would like to join us, contact My Future York.