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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, October 14, 2005
    People Make Places
     
    Good news in a new book from Demos called People Make Places. The news - based on exhaustive surveys of the way people are living today in Cardiff, Preston and Swindon, is that contrary to many many reports, public space is not dead, but very much in use. It's actually a rich picture they paint - showing that many different types of people use many different types of spaces in their own distinctive ways, that "public space is better understood less as a predetermined physical space, and more as an experience created by an interaction between people and a place. In other words, public space is co-produced through the active involvement of the user."

    One of the valuable parts of the report is a section which identifies a wealth of characters shaping British public spaces and creating new shared places. According to Demos, these include:

    Home Birds - Living cocooned lives, they hardly ever come into contact with public venues, preferring the comfort of their living room or garden.

    Mall Walkers - Older women, young mums and unemployed people who frequent shopping centres, department stores and bus stops to fight boredom. Mall Walkers populate bus stops, supermarket coffee shops and markets.

    'Hoodsters - Often mums with young children, 'Hoodsters stay in their own postcode but unlike Home Birds enjoy venturing outside into public spaces around their home, like the local park, local shopping parade, mosque, church, coffee mornings.

    Patriots - Born and bred in the town, and strongly committed to it. Nostalgic patriots, often older white people, who tend to be occupied by the past and are found in places which affirm this: conservative clubs, ex-service men's clubs, bingo, tea dances, hospitals, football grounds; and Optimistic Patriots, younger and often from minority ethnic groups, whose daily lives play out in newsagents, takeaways, restaurants which are a central part of the streets' visual and social landscape.

    Displayers - From night-time revellers to street entertainers, everything about them is designed to be expressive - their dress, their body language and even their ring tones. Displayers are everywhere, especially streets with bars, entertainment districts, parks. Often young, often other people think they are a problem.

    Brand Addicts - Often full-time workers with busy lives, who like to go to the cool places to be seen and have the right kind of car to get them there: chain pubs, clubs, bars, leisure centres and entertainment districts. A loty of regeneration is targeted at this group and their leisure preferences.

    Bright Lights - Newcomers to the city, enamoured with the bright lights, and happy to be there, often in the newly-regenerated districts, by city landmarks and transport hubs, travelling across town.

    Hobbyhorses - From young executives doing a bit of acting on the side to committed skateboarders or gardeners, they live for their hobby. Hobbyhorses can be found in community and arts centres, and parks and youth clubs.

    Urban Safarians - People who deliberately go out and track down different places and types of places to consume, mixing the rough and ready with the glam and shiny. They could turn up anywhere, to eat, drink or talk, though they also have their favourite 'locals' which they may not actually live very near to.

    Public Spirits - Often found reading books on benches and collecting conkers in the park. Always ready to strike up conversation with a stranger, Public Spirits range from students and homeless people to the more affluent with time on their hands. Parks, squares, galleries, libraries, arts centres, Friends of the Park societies are where they'll be.


    [If you have a fancy colour printer you can download the entire report free here. Or you can buy the nicely-produced published version like I did - details here]