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4x4 2018 - Creation

Tuesday 8th May, 2018

Last week saw us kicking off another year of 4x4 talks. This year we are focussing on the overall theme “City of Change” and we began with the topic “Creation". URBED intern Lucy Wallwork has written up the event, drawing together some of the issues. You can watch the live stream here, and packaged videos for each speaker should be up on the 4x4 website in a few weeks.

A common thread throughout the evening was the question of who is included in the creation of the new Manchester taking shape around us, and how to make sure no one is left out. How can we balance the excitement of being in this ‘city in flux’ with concerns about who is writing the script? There was also some healthy debate over the charms of Piccadilly Gardens and the social role of McDonalds.

As a RIBA role model, teacher, artist and sole practitioner, Danni Kerr kicked us off by talking about the barriers to participating in the creation of the built environment around us – whether they come in the form of multi-million insurance packages, marathon applications or hostile competition procedures. Danni talked about how to corrupt the system by working from within, getting art work exhibited by entering into high-profile competitions - asking questions about who pulls the strings, and what we can appropriate? Look out for cameos by Eric Pickles and Boris Johnson.

Lauren Sagar followed on to talk about how this ‘city in flux’ looks from the perspective of the city’s resident artists. Lauren’s talk was a warning against the ‘greyness’ that could ensue if a city loses the artists from its centre – how any city that loses its artists ‘really should be quaking in its boots’. She spoke about her experience with Rogue Studios, the largest independent studio group in the North West, and their battle to remain on their city centre site. Lauren’s own response will be in the form of the upcoming March of the Artists, where she will join fellow artists to re-enact the 1817 March of the Blanketeers by walking over 30 days from Manchester to London. Just as in 1817, the march is all about visibility. Back then it was 5,000 Lancashire spinners and weavers drawing attention to their economic hardship. Today, Lauren and fellow artists are talking about the visibility of artists who make up the fabric of the ‘creative’ and ‘vibrant’ cities urban masterplans often promise.

Luca Csepely-Knorr, from the Manchester School of Architecture, took us beyond the horizons of Manchester to talk about her research on Gellert Hill in Budapest. She uses the hill to tell a story of change and to explore how the passing of different eras is inscribed into the monuments and public spaces we pass by every day. 

Finally we wrapped up with Sandhya Sharma, who talked about her experience struggling to keep the headquarters of her grassroots organisation Safety4Sisters in the “dodgy end” of the Northern Quarter - one of the epicentres of change in Manchester. Her work with vulnerable migrant women asks how poorer communities fit into the ‘creation myth’ in Manchester today?  She also talked about the importance of vulnerable groups “occupying space” - whether that is Formby beach, outside the High Court or the privatised public spaces of regeneration zones. 

Thank you so much to all of our fantastic speakers. See you next week for ‘Destruction’.

Lucy Wallwork


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