The People’s Takeover of Piccadilly Gardens – Interview with Get It Done

Ahead of the People’s Takeover of Piccadilly Gardens of Saturday 16 October, we chat to Get It Done about why communities need to have a say in plans for public space

Who are you, where are you from?

We are Placemaking Piccadilly, a community arts campaign striving for a new vision of Piccadilly Gardens and Manchester’s Public Spaces. This vision of the gardens meets the needs of its citizens and is inclusive to all, especially those facing inequalities. Placemaking Piccadilly is facilitated by Matt, Mimi and Freya, who are individuals  from Manchester Central Foodbank, arts organisation Get It Done and Studio Egg.

We are asking; How do you feel about Piccadilly Gardens? Does the square meet your needs? And what would you like to change? We have been conducting creative workshops with foodbank users, community groups, public events, and collaborating with partner organisations around Greater Manchester to gather insights to these big questions.  We are based at Manchester Central Foodbank on Oxford Road and all live or work around Greater Manchester. 

What is the People’s Takeover of Piccadilly Gardens? Why should people come along?

The People’s Takeover of Piccadilly Gardens is a day of action and activities on Saturday the 16th October, embracing the traditions and potential of the public square by bringing together the voices and artwork of people across Greater Manchester. We need your help to spark new conversations about what a post-pandemic city and world should look like, the way in which the inequalities in our city are encountered in our public spaces and addressing the barriers to accessing them that people face.

The day will involve fun, creative activities for all ages; with a line-up of events going on throughout the day. Get involved in a Sketch walk across Piccadilly Gardens! Take part in our Discussion Circle, where our speakers will discuss challenging inequalities! Or take a free city tour with Invisible Manchester and experience our public spaces through the eyes of someone who has previously experienced homelessness in the city.

In addition, there’ll be a space to ‘Design your own Piccadilly Gardens’ and contribute your voice on Piccadilly Gardens and inequalities to our podcast recording. It’s a friendly, open and free event so pop down and have a chat with us. 

There’s something for everyone to enjoy, so we encourage people to book onto these free activities now to avoid disappointment. Access the link here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/168438779925  

How can community visions for place make a difference in a city like Manchester which is dominated by projects from big developers and a model of inward investment (particularly in the city centre?)

The pandemic especially has highlighted the importance of free and high quality public space to the wellbeing of individuals and the community more widely, especially for those who don’t have private gardens or local greenspace. Imagination and local knowledge are essential to a successful future for Piccadilly Gardens.

For Manchester Central Foodbank there are two direct reasons for talking about public space. First, the people who we have supported are particularly impacted by a lack of access to public space and we want to make sure their voices are central to the conversation about what the future looks like. Also, the city’s public spaces are essential places for engagement, discussion, and art – we need to challenge everyone to think about the reasons that foodbanks need to exist and to share the experiences and creative work of people who’ve used the foodbank – to do that we need to be right in the centre of the city’s public square.

Piccadilly Gardens is arguably the most important free green space in central Manchester; and it serves as an emblem for all the boroughs of the county. Documentaries like Manctopia highlight how Manchester in particular has been subject to huge development and privatisation of space, meaning gentrification and monetisation of space remains a threat. Many diverse communities use the space and therefore the future of the space should be defined by the people that use it.

Complex social issues exist within the space such as crime, anti-social behaviour, and substance abuse. These complex issues are a result of deep, systemic poverty and inequalities – they cannot be solved by simple physical interventions by big developers, they require local and human responses and must also come alongside political and social change. 

 

You are running a session on a vision for a more inclusive Manchester. So, complete this sentence: Manchester would be a more inclusive city if…

challenging inequalities was at the centre of policy-making and people in power were directed by the people that use the spaces! They are the experts.

Decisions about all policy, including public spaces, need to come from the community in continual conversation with decision makers, not one multiple choice consultation every decade or two. We think that the voices of those experiencing poverty and inequality in our city need to be front and centre of decision making and public arts and discourse.

As one of many organisations across the city working with groups or neighbourhoods excluded for many intersecting reasons, we want to convey the community’s message to the decision-makers, get firm commitments for future partnership and real changes. Then we need to keep organising, keeping platforming, and hold those people in power to their promises.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Our Placemaking Piccadilly campaign will continue to grow after the People’s Takeover, as part of the wider Can You Hear Me Now creative and testimonial campaign of Manchester Central Foodbank. The next stages will be events where we present the voices and work of our participants and start asking how we make the changes we think are needed a reality. If you are interested and want to get involved or speak to us about our findings, come down on the 16th October, visit our website or contact us/ follow on Instagram;

Get It Done (@we.getitdone) • Instagram photos and videos

Placemaking Piccadilly | Get It Done (getitdoneart.com)

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