Reclaim public space

Message on Recipease Jamie Oliver shop in Clapham

Message on Recipease Jamie Oliver shop in Clapham

Factory chimneys belching out smoke, slate-roofed rows of terrace houses, the Victorians also gave us parks.

In Lincoln there are two parks, Boutham Park and the Arboretum, two commons, South Common and West Common, all are within the city boundary.

In Guildford only a few minutes walk away from the bustle of the High Street lies the tranqulity of the Castle Grounds and the River Wey.

In Hackney, Vicky Park as it is known locally, or to give it its more formal name, Victoria Park.

Often these parks had bandstands. On the seafront at Brighton a bandstand has recently been restored. In the park adjacent to the Royal Pavilion you will be lucky to see a blade of grass in the summer, especially on a hot day in the shade.

Although very popular, parks are at risk, as greedy developers eye them and corrupt councillors and planning officials agree to their sale.

Schools used have extensive playing fields. Many have now been sold off.

Green space is important for our health. It may be stating the blindingly obvious, but those whose outlook is green space are healthier than those who look out on a brick wall.

Ambient light level is important. That in many residential homes is too low, not surprising many of the residents turn into zombies.

It is not only physical space that is being lost, privatised, so too is our cultural space.

People no longer make a choice in what they wear, what they listen to, their culure has been stolen, turned into a mass-produced, mass-marketed commodity and sold back to them.

Watch a Nigerian rap group and they are churning out the same crap gangster rap, wearing the same gangster clothes as their counterparts in New York. They could be clones, maybe they are.

I travel on a bus and cannot see out of the window because the bus has been turned into a gigantic billboard.

Naomi Klein in No Logo and Paulo Coelho in The Winner Stands Alone have excellent discussions of this theft of our culture.

In the London riots and the riots that spread across the country, the must have was the latest mobile phones and trainers. Worth is determined by what we wear. At the end of the day merely footwear and a communication device but such has been the brainwashing and theft of culture.

The only good to have come out of the riots and looting were the people who in the aftermath came out and cleaned our streets, who recognised the importance of common space.

What we saw was less not knowing right from wrong, what we can get away with, but lack of an internal sense of morality, lack of respect for those around us.

But is this surprising when Members of Parliament fiddle their expenses, when companies like Vodafone fail to pay their taxes?

It should be a moral imperative that companies like Vodafone pay their taxes, that is their contribution to the common good. If not they should be seen for the social paraiahs that they are, shunned. And yet we see George Osbourne promoting them in India, David Cameron in South Africa.

Town centres, market squares grew organically. They were where roads met, rivers were crossed, or if on trade routes where there were springs and wells. Local people set up trade, outsiders brought their goods in on market days. These were public spaces, where people paraded, partied, protested. None of the latter is possible in a shopping mall!

The only people who have talked a modicum of sense post-looting have been the Archibishop of Canterbury in the House of Lords last week and the Bishop of Manchester on Sunday.

A broken sick society

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