Saturday, 9 January 2010

To the centre of the city...

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"Since 2000 the centre of Manchester has been run by a private company called Cityco, which is very similar to the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which have sprung up in towns and cities all around Britain in the last few years. This new way of governing has been brought to the UK from America and marks the beginning of private government and the decline of local democracy. I decided to come to Manchester to look at how this process works, because Manchester's approach is, as usual, right in the vanguard, pioneering Cityco before legislation for Business Improvement Districts had even been introduced in th UK. [...]

"The problem is that creating companies, funded by business, to run our cities is linked to a new culture of authoritarianism and control, which has been imported directly from America - again with a British twist. It's a culture which has helped Manchester gain the dubious accolade of ASBO capital of Britain, as a result of its enthusiasm of excluding certain people and certain activities from the city centre; a newly sanitized culture is leaving behind Manchester's northern, industrial heritage and music history."


"During the time that Manchester reinvented itself as a property and shopping mecca, it continued to witness growing poverty, with wealth manifestly failing to trickle down to the 30 per cent on housing benefit, rising to 50 per cent in some areas. Manchester males have the lowest life expectancy in the UK, and more than half the population lives in the 10 per cent most deprived wards in Britain. Even if they felt welcome there, these people do not have the money to enjoy the city centre."


"[Henri] Lefebre argued that each historical period produces the kind of public space, and therefore public life, which reflects the political realities of the time. Right from the start questions of access and and exclusion have always been associated with public space, with the ancient Athenean agora open only to free men, who were citizens, and denied to foreigners, women and slaves, who made up at least half the population. The public spaces of the city, its streets and open squares, is also associated with political protest and revolutionary struggle - from the streets of Paris in 1789, 1871 and 1968, to Tiananmen Square. But in today's new public spaces, which aren't really public at all, political protest is banned."

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