Wednesday, 4 September 2013

If you can't be in the place you love, love the place you're in!

This weekend is Cullingworth's scarecrow festival. Not that this is important to you. Or maybe it is, perhaps you 'get' (as Mr Cameron would say) that place matters and how invented tradition is one of the soft things about a place that makes it magic.

And our attachment to a place matters more than you think. It's not simply some sort of pride or defencive reaction to folk who criticise, we're talking about real attachment here - about love:

We not only found out that resident attachment was related to solid economic outcomes for places, but that the things that most drove people to love where they live were not the local economy or even their personal civic engagement in the place (as one might expect), but the “softer sides” of place.

So what is that "softer side of place"?

It appears that what people most want out of a neighborhood is a place that is attractive, engaging, friendly, and welcoming. In every place, every year of the study, these factors were found to be the three most important to tying people to place. Why does this matter? As mentioned above, communities where people love where they live do better economically. The best-loved places were doing better in a measureable way.

This isn't about grand civic marketing campaigns replete with logos, embassies in New York and well-resourced teams of regenerators extolling the virtues of a place. Nor is it that grumpy "you can't criticise, you don't live here, that's our job" attitude we see from defensive residents of struggling cities. We're talking about a desire to love the place we're in - and when we love something it's an active emotion, it drives us to do things. To do the placemaking equivalent of buying our place chocolate and flowers or taking it to the movies.

That's what scarecrow festivals, duck races and reinvented traditions are about. It's us - the people who love a place - showing our love by doing things to make that place smile:

Love of place is great equalizer and mobilizer. In all my years of doing community practice, I’ve never seen a more powerful model for moving communities forward and enabling places to optimize who they are instead of trying to be someplace else. It is this message that frees people to love their place, and hearing that their love of place is a powerful resource is not something many residents (or their leaders) have properly recognized and leveraged. That’s why I think I often see tearful reactions in my audiences and hear heartfelt stories of personal relationship with a place after my talks. The message of attachment—that the softer sides of place matter—resonates deeply.

So, if you want regeneration - even if you're parachuted in from afar to deliver it - you have to fall in love, to remember those words that Steven Stills wrote:

Well there's a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can't be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you're with
You gotta love the one you're with
You gotta love the one you're with
You gotta love the one you're with

....

1 comment:

theleedscitizen said...

I like that idea of the magic of the reinvented tradition. Do folk nights in smoky pubs belong on the list?