Monday, 25 October 2010

Art, animation, enterprise, people - the secret of regeneration

Julian Dobson from his eyrie as the guru of community regeneration has set out "ten things we didn't learn about regeneration". Now while I don't agree with it all (I get a little worried when people talk about value without seeing its source, for example), it is the best summation of why regeneration needs to be done at the scale of the ordinary. In doing this we can achieve the extraordinary - real change and even, after Julian's appointed 25 year wait, transformation.

And as Julian points out, we talked the talk but never got it right on the ground. We said we believed in participation but:

the money went, by and large, into building things: shopping centres and offices and hotels and roads.

We got shiny regeneration - the city of gold in the far distance - not what communities either wanted or needed. The focus was not on real change but on replacing the people we didn't want with the folk we did. We talked about culture in terms of institutions rather than art. We got animated - about the huge sums promised in investment not the events and activities in the places where people lived. And we talked endlessly of enterprise - by which we meant some new sheds at the motorway junction and a shiny new "business incubator".

The image above - Bradford Town Hall lit up by Patrice Warrener - does more for my City than all the inward investment strategies, trips to conferences in Cannes or talk of £250m in new investment. It is real, it is exciting, it animates and it gives a sense of pride. Just as with the international market, the new art and photography galleries and the work of Bradford Kickstart, this image speaks of a City that can do something. Not a wonderful, wealthy city. Nor a place that can forget the 7th July 2001 all that easily. But a place that thinks animation, activity, events and involvement are what matter.

Go and read Julian's piece - it tells the story of 40 plus years of failed regeneration. But in doing so it points to successes, to ideas of making change stick and to a way in we (not grand government agencies or multi-billion pound turnover international developers) can do something - not just for the place we live but more importantly, for ourselves.

And by the way this is what I did for Bradford.

No comments: