With sincere regret I’m really disappointed at the outcome so far of the whole 2020 and Dreaming City project. So much money and Demos prestige invested to tell us what we already know – that regeneration ‘led’ by professionals and senior politicians under the existing system does not work, because those individuals cannot or will not engage meaningfully with the residents or members of communities.
Well yes, so now we all have more pointless fun moaning about yuppies (do real people still use that term?) etc. But kicking the agencies and the politicians is the easy and popular bit. The hard bit is how we are going to get all the different players to work together for the good of Glasgow’s future.
Why this project is a great missed opportunity is because the project tells us nothing different, or present a significant, feasible and sustainable way forward; a few examples:
The authors criticized the official agencies and professionals for obscure language – but look at the language the authors themselves use... ‘future literacy’… ‘Disruptive spaces’… ‘ Traditional rational paradigm’…‘Imagination deficit’ …’what people do when they encounter a story is test its coherence and fidelity’. Aye, they talk of little else in the Calton pubs.
Nothing of substance on how community and city level politicians for over two decades have had more and more power taken away by national politicians (and given to unaccountable professionals). As a consequence of this system, the local politicians are unwilling to give up and share their diminishing powers with community individuals. No point in ‘blaming’ local politicians for this – it’s an inevitable outcome of central government policy, and voters turn off when faced with local politics that can’t change anything. But the point is, what is to be done about it?
Nothing that I recall on the innapropriate power balance between agencies that are truly city-based and the national ones that determine much of Glasgow's existence.
The authors give the official agencies (arguably justifiably) a kicking for their top-down and ‘big solutions’ approach. But after giving them a kicking, where are the prescriptions as to how they can be engaged with, or made to engage with real communities? On the night of the launch in the Mitchell I certainly experienced rumblings of, at best, real detachment and, at worse, quiet bitterness and alienation on the part of several individuals who work in what we might call the Glasgow economy and civic management sectors. Cynics might enjoy the professionals suffering a bit of what communities have long experienced… but, again, where are the prescriptions for going forward? How are we to enage with the agencies (and more importantly those individuals inside them who do want to work for the city's good)?
If I’m understanding the project correctly, the art and practice of story-telling and mass-imagination are offered as powerful tools in attending to all of these issues. I gotta say I’m not convinced. The ‘story telling thing’ has been welling up over the past few years as a solution around the world; a solution that is lucrative for some. To me it all sounds very similar to the fads and fashions that afflict the corporate management schools and professions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘story-telling’ becoming part of the ‘’Official Future’ that the authors so criticise.
Maybe it was significant that at the launch presentation, one rather exasperated individual asked “aye, you can talk, talk, all you want, but what are you going to do, I’m interested in getting things done?”