A team of us has got together to initiate My Future York, with the hope that lots of other people will join us:

Phil Bixby is an architect and chair of York Environment Forum. Phil wants to see a more dynamic and imaginative approach to planning in York: ‘York desperately needs a framework for engaging its residents in the process of change. Much current consultation founders on the misplaced belief in an enduring if imperfect present, rather than a belief that the future could be different, let alone better. The Environment Forum is keen to help unlock the imagination of the public to work towards a more sustainable future for York’.

York Past and Present facebook group has over 12,000 members who regular share photos and memories and together represent enormous recourse of knowledge and creativity about York. Richard Brigham and Lianne Brigham, administrators for York Past and Present group is keen to link their work on sharing York pasts with York’s futures, ‘We are taught that with age comes experience and that experience is something we learn by so without looking at our past we can’t be expected to learn for the future’.

Helen Graham, Director, Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage at the University of Leeds worked with Lianne and Richard as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities project ‘How should heritage decisions be made?’. ‘One of our motivations for undertaking this project as part of the Connected Communities Festival is to address the problem of consultation – this was a key issue raised repeatedly as part of the ‘How should heritage decisions be made?’ project. Consultation is usually not designed in ways which enable people to engage with the complexity of the issues, to take into account other people’s needs or views or to take responsibility for the outcome. Consultation, therefore, has a range of negative effects and often just exacerbates cynicism, from both decision makers and members of the public. We want to engage richer understandings, local knowledge and collective hope – pasts and futures – to develop more dynamic engagements in local democracy’.

Victoria Hoyle, City Archivist and PhD researcher at the University of York wants to see a more dynamic connection between  the city archives and the city’s future decision making: ‘Archives are usually associated with studying history and the past.  You wouldn’t necessarily think they were useful for imagining and creating our futures.  But actually archives are powerful tools for understanding change, for getting into the minds of our predecessors, and so better understanding our own motivations and actions. Archives give context to what is happening now and help to reflect on what might be possible in the future.’

Liz Stainforth is an Early Career Researcher in the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage, University of Leeds. Her PhD research is concerned with the potential of utopia as a critical method in the field of heritage studies: ‘Utopia speaks to the study of heritage in that it opens up perspectives on the past, shedding light on the ways people hoped or imagined the future might be. Understanding how different visions of the past might inspire different types of interventions in the present and the future is an increasingly pressing issue for heritage decision making and the project is a brilliant opportunity to explore this further as part of a community engagement process’.