Another update from the place-keeping conference held in the department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield in June 2014. We invited Kate Stewart from Friends of the Flyover Liverpool, Julian Dobson from Urban Pollinators and Dave Morris from the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces were invited to talk on the subject of how to raise the profile of place-keeping - whether this is publicising events or collective action.
Kate started this session describing her experience of promoting and crowd funding the Flyover Liverpool – the transformation of a derelict concrete roadway. The idea emerged as one of several ‘provocations’ for the city, to galvanise action and interest for making Liverpool a better place for everybody. The Friends of the Flyover’s creative use of social media, images, messages and slogans to promote the project generated huge public and sponsor interest. A goal from the start was to involve people, not just to approach funding bodies and they used the crowd funding site Spacehive to raise over £40 000. Although responding to such large numbers of tweets has taken a lot of time, this has helped to build a strong body of supporters and to generate a feeling of ownership of the project.
Julian picked up the baton with his presentation ‘ you’ve got to know to care – making place-keeping real’. He stressed the importance of connecting people to place, telling the human story and showing how and what there is to care about in local green spaces. He used the example of Incredible Edible Todmorden to demonstrate the power of ‘showing not telling’ in challenging fixed mind-sets. We need to appeal to listeners ‘head’ – to understand the value of green space, ‘hand’ – in showing how green spaces build skills and physical health and ‘heart’ – articulate the emotional and spiritual connections. The idea is to re-connect people with what they have lost, with what matters and in doing so they can feel better, re-learn, and re-connect with green places.
Dave talked about the rise of the Friends group movement and its impact. There are over 5000 (known) Friends groups across the UK, undertaking important work in their local green spaces such as helping to raise the profile through activities, publicity, partnerships and developing visions for their parks. He stressed the importance of word of mouth to engage residents and the local authority. There is a need to spread ‘good news’ to inspire people to take moral ownership of green spaces. He described the role of Green Space Forums, there are 50 involving 2000 groups across the UK, where groups collectively work to raise the profile of green space strategically across a city; sharing experience and lobbying. He used the example of the ‘Friends of the Greater London National Park’ using London as the world’s first ‘National Park City’ to help raise the profile. At the national level the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces supports friends groups and raises the green space profile nationally (e.g. through the national ‘love parks’ week). NFGPS are leading a national initiative calling for a public enquiry to focus on funding for green spaces and a statutory duty to manage all parks to green flag standard. He concluded that although the Friends group movement mushroomed to address green spaces crisis (1980s) these issues are still with us and likely to increase again and this now needs to everyone to speak out collectively.
The discussion focussed on the difficulties of getting volunteers; something that all groups seem to struggle with. Advice included recognising: what volunteer capacity is so they are not ‘overloaded’, that there is competition for volunteers in a ‘market place’, the need to be creative using networks and events giving something back are needed to engender ownership and own the vision.
On the subject of raising the profile of green and open spaces we are holding a FREE workshop on Friday 7th November at the Showroom in Sheffield city centre all about raising the profile of place-keeping activities. You can find more details here