Public space: how it now works

Public Space

A couple of events this weekend will highlight what’s in store for the future of public space in the city…

College Green has been a natural hang-out for the city’s young people and especially its skateboarders for years now. It’s a great place for them to go because it’s easy to get to, free, safe, central and disturbs very few residents as they’re aren’t any.

Because it’s busy, located near shops and on major bus and traffic routes, very little serious trouble is to be found there. It’s a self-policing kind of place. There’s rarely any major violence there, class A drug dealers never congregate there and besides the odd bout of underage cider drinking and the smoking of the odd spliff there’s little in the way of what we now have to call “anti-social behaviour” and wet our pants in horror about. Neither is there anyone making money out of the space nor the young people who go there.

Many cities would be proud of such a space. Young, vibrant, safe, free, accessible, spontaneous and fun, it’d be almost impossible to design or plan such an excellent space. It even featured recently in the e4 drama series Skins as one of the places for young people in the city to hang out.

Not any longer I’m afraid. A dispersal order has suddenly been imposed on the area by an order made under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. This means police can take action against groups of more than two people for no reason other than the fact that they are there.

Posters put up on lamp posts by the police say the order is in place because “members of the public have been intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by the presence or behaviour of groups in this locality”.

This dispersal order is in place until a review at the end of the school holidays. Why this has happened nobody seems sure although the proximity of old Tory Church of England tossers at Bristol Cathedral and senior local government executive bores in the Council House might have a lot to do with it.

Regardless of the causes, the fact is one of the best public spaces in the city for young people has been taken from them with little explanation.

Meanwhile less than a mile away in Redcliffe, a new public space especially built and designed for us is opening today. The urban beach. Secured, policed, organised and branded at vast expense, it has organised activities and businesses to sell us things. It also has something College Green does not – a written philosophy:

The beach is a place to relax, meet people and play.

But so is College Green

[it is] animated by a set of ideas to create some deeper and wider value, experimenting with ideas around place-making, civic branding, and public space.

But so is College Green

[it has] plenty of open spaces and slots for people and groups to share their creativity and passion

But so does College Green

[it is] a chance to invite in different users and uses in to experiment with what kinds of community uses are possible, and help to encourage ownership and practical engagement.

But so does College Green

[it is] creating local value for the city.

But so does College Green

[it will] explore how cultural institutions can reach out and help people create their own cultural activities and value in the everyday spaces of where they live.

Aha. Not like College Green. There is no “cultural institution” – ie. an axis of cops, council officers, christians and corporations – owning, managing, organising and marketing the space on our behalf, deciding what we can do, what we can buy, what we can wear, what we can think, how we must behave and what we must consume.

The question is: why has one space been outlawed and the other handed funding and been encouraged?

Welcome to the future of the city’s public spaces… Where everything is done for you.

There is a protest today against the ban from congregating on College Green. It starts at noon on the Centre. Be there! They’re our spaces – not theirs.

This entry was posted in Bristol, Developments, Local government, Redcliffe, SWRDA. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Public space: how it now works

  1. Pingback: PressPosts / User / dezomite / Submitted

  2. BristleKRS says:

    Only just read this – yah boo sucks to the humbuggers!

    But then I guess it’s a continuation of the same attitudes that were applied on the Centre, at the bottom of Union Street, on Castle Park, ‘Millennium Square’ etc… Regulating space & destroying place 🙁

    PS The plastic crappers on the ‘beach’ stink already – I had to walk past it all today, it looked a bit, erm, shit. The water meadow quarry extension looked more like a beach, ffs!

  3. Pingback: Sous le pavé, le quangocrat « Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

  4. Ed says:

    sigh. i wonder if anyone rakes the beach to boot.

  5. Pingback: Is Bristol run by the cops? « The Bristol Blogger

  6. Pingback: Bristol police get touchy-feely with da kidz « Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

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