"The first step to a better future is imagining one"
What kind of city do you want to live in? The Big Dream was a day-long event to imagine the future of Glasgow; its streets, its people, its parks, the night-time and the day-time. 670 people came to share their ideas, wishes and stories for the future with writers, poets, thinkers and dreamers from across the city. It took place on Saturday 26th of August 2006. This is what the invitation looked like...
The day featured story writing workshops, wish-making sessions, games, politicians, writers, comics and singers. Speakers included the writer Suhayl Saadi, the poet Alexander Hutchison and the comedian Des Mclean . Music was provided by the Michael Deans Quintet. Special creative children's activities were created by Giant Productions. Further details to be announced here.
The space was organised around a central discussion about the future of glasgow. This was called The Big Blether - it looked like this.
These groups were discussing 7 different "storylines" for the future of Glasgow. These were composites of all the different stories for the future that people have created during the Glasgow 2020 project.
GLASGOW 2020 STORIES
1. The Two Speed City
By 2020 economic and social divisions have become so entrenched that Glasgow is virtually two cities living side by side in blissful ignorance of each other. One half believes that ‘everyone is middle class now’, that talent and skill automatically rises to the top and that anyone who does not believe this is choosing to leave themselves behind. The other half thinks that living in social housing estates and existing in temporary jobs or on state benefits are the way of life of the majority.
Both groups think they speak for most of the city’s population. The two cities have become self-reproducing through the generations, with people born in one half, growing up in it, and dying in it, with social mobility at an all-time low. There are little to no movements between the two cities, and the politics of Glasgow are entirely conducted around the values of the class who see themselves as ‘winners’. The excluded have by and large opted out of voting, politics and notions of citizenship.
The connected part of the city is constantly in a rush – with special toll roads, air conditioned walkways and luxury water-taxis carrying people about quickly and cocooned from the rest of the city. The other half have to rely on crowded, dilapidated public transport, and have plenty of time to do nothing or stay at home wasting away their lives.
2. The Soft City
For years Glasgow’s soft city – its sense of friendliness, nattering and blethering often led by women – had been constrained by the hard city of men. By 2020, the city’s problems of drug addiction, violence and anti-social behaviour had continued to grow unchecked. Glasgow looked to those excluded from the old-fashioned hard city of toxic masculinity: women campaigners and men prepared to align with them and change.
A city once renowned for masculine attitudes, behaviour and values, runs to a very different heartbeat: with public spaces filled with softness, conversations between people, and a sense of verve, style and fashion. Women in 2020 form the vanguard of the new cultural epoch: setting the scene working in different, more co-operative ways, but many men enthusiastically sign up too, liberated from the pressures of machismo and competition.
Football is no longer so important, but merely one sport amongst many. Glasgow has also attempted to reconcile old battles with itself and the wider world. It has eradicated its sense of having a chip on its shoulder, and has even made up with Edinburgh. It has even taken the step of apologising for its role in the British Empire, and brought an elderly, but still lively Bill Clinton to the city to chair a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address how Glasgow can atone for its past.
3. The Dear Green City
What was once a gritty industrial place has now gone completely green. As the price of energy spiralled out of control, Glasgow’s fierce cultural independence and sense of itself has translated into a collective effort to go ‘off-grid’ and generate its own power.
Glasgow’s green revolution sees exercise bikes hooked up to generators in schools, offices and homes, while windmills and solar panels top most buildings. ‘Glasgondalas’ now line up along the banks of the Clyde and special bikes have been developed to take the edge off riding up the hills.
The city is leads the promotion of clean energy and sustainable living: exporting eco-friendly energy to the rest of Scotland and the world. With climate change causing a permanent drought down south, Glasgow is even managing to make a nice profit piping water to England.
4. The Slow City
By the early years of the 21st century, more Glasgow voices were increasingly questioning the city’s preoccupation with shopping, and its pride as the biggest retail centre outside of London. Glaswegians began to come down with consumption fatigue, and slowly renounced the addiction and thrill of compulsive shopping.
By 2020 many have abandoned preoccupations with wealth, conspicuous consumption and rewarding talent with money. Instead there is a widespread sense that there are more profound issues at stake: finding some deeper meaning to life, investing time and love in bringing up children, caring for neighbours, the vulnerable and the old.
It becomes a city that values slowness and deliberation over the fast. There is now a sense of pride in taking time doing things, doing jobs well, building products that last, and there is no longer a social stigma attached to therapists – you are weird if you don’t have one. Yoga has replaced football as the city’s exercise of choice, and the council sponsors offices to introduce siestas. Well-slept, well-exercised and well-meaning - this is the new civic-spirituality.
5. The Lonely City
The modernist city lives on in an atomised, individualised, hi-tech future. People are free to create their own lives on their own terms. They work, play and socialise through their computers not needing to interact with anyone who isn’t just like themselves.
Interactions with neighbours, people on the street and in shops have become an optional extra. Everything that Glaswegians used to rely on each other for (security, humour, ideas, companionship, even violence), they can now secure from technology. The world is full of opportunities, possibilities, sleek gizmos, slinky luxury-pads and shiny towers, but for someone looking for a face-to-face friend, Glasgow feels like a lonely place.
This is a city where people seek meaning, satisfaction and freedom through technology and consumption, but where they don’t make any connections between their lifestyle choices and the fragmented, empty nature of large parts of the city and state of the planet.
6. The Hard City
The city authorities ran out of patience with their people a long time ago. Trust and any sense of community have long since disappeared from the city. Government intervention extends into citizen’s lives as never before, enforcing curfews on entire families, banning smoking in the home, outlawing the use of petrol driven cars. Children who break rules at schools are interned in boot-camps outside the city, known as Ned-Camps.
This is a city which is proud that it practices ‘hard love’, ‘tough on failure and tough on the causes of failure’, but in truth it has long forgotten about ‘love’ and gone overboard on the ‘hard’. Bigger and bigger sticks are needed to get people to respond and behave in the way government wants them to.
Teenagers are temporarily sterilised to prevent teenage pregnancy and ASBO kids are named and shamed during prime-time TV ad-breaks. Neighbourhoods can take part in street-by-street competitions text-voting out their favourite nuisance neighbour, who is then deprived of any rights to benefits or housing. As a consequence crime has dramatically reduced and the city is much neater, cleaner and quieter, apart from the constant growl from the police helicopters swirling overhead.
7. Kaleidoscope City
Once so white with a narrow range of voices, accents, cultures and clothes, Glasgow has exploded into a kaleidoscope of diversity and visible vibrancy. The city is known for its open doors policy to newcomers and its tolerant cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Waves of newcomers have arrived and been absorbed: the Poles, the Bulgarians, the Romanians, the Somalis, the Iraqis, the Lebanese… even the English are at home here now.
Immigrants have shaped the cuisine of and propelled Glasgow into the gastronomic premier league, while the pink pound has animated the city’s nightlife. These changes have led to an unheralded degree of change, where the old divisions and identities are barely remembered by the younger generations and new Glaswegians, and where Partick Thistle have become the most successful football team in Glasgow, buoyed by the support of newcomers.
On the fringe of this discussion (aside from the usual wish bool/storymaking Glasgow 2020 exercises) there were various activities that people could drop in and out of during the day.
1. CITY STORIES
There was a map that people could pin their past, present and future stories to:
Here is an analysis of what people inserted on the map:
"At the Big Dream, people were given the opportunity to mark on a map of Greater Glasgow stories from their past, present and future.
Dozens of contributions were made, but the participants were hesitant about telling stories, particularly about the future. Very few chose to write about their hopes for life in Glasgow compared to those who described what they already knew. Children were more forthcoming than adults, suggesting that story-telling is an activity that dies out with age. Most of the stickers on the map showed only basic information – where people were born, where they live now or had done in the past, or just names. Although people were keen to express their identification with places within Glasgow, most of their links were publicly defined in these narrow, quasi-official terms instead of more personal or imaginative ways.
Where people lived was clearly central to their sense of the city. Many marked their homes with their names, sometimes with exclamations. Places where people had lived in the past remained important to them. They tended to use the language of ‘living’ rather than ‘home’, perhaps suggesting a strong emotional tie to the people they shared their home with, rather than a broad connection to the neighbourhood. Few of the stickers told us much about where they lived, as if people found it difficult – or unnecessary – to express why their homes mattered so much to their vision of Glasgow. One story stood out in contrast to the others: ‘I am proud to belong to Glasgow, my home.’
For many people, the importance of Glasgow lies in their family members who live there. The geography of the city is perceived in terms of family locations, both in the past – ‘My pop and gran lived here when they were children’ – and in the present – ‘Rose the dog, Gran & Papa live here’.
Those who had left the city had a stronger sense of its inherent cultural importance for individuals. One family had ‘Come to visit Granma and take part in East End life’, and another wrote that ‘We used to live in Paisley and moved to Corby ten years ago – we came on holiday to see the museum and find out where our heritage comes from’.
After homes and places of birth, schools were the most frequently marked places. Two children wrote the names of their schools, but several others marked ‘my school’ or ‘I go to school here’, showing a feeling of belonging. Two mentioned teachers, including George, ‘the best teacher at Jordanhill’.
Certain public places also featured as people’s favourite parts of the city. The Botanic Gardens and the museums were very popular among adults and children. Shops and the public transport system were also marked. Glasgow’s cultural regeneration is evidently not divorced from its inhabitants’ idea of their city.
Some people chose to tell stories about love: ‘Best kiss ever’, ‘Love came into my life here’, ‘I met a lovely man’. But, unlike people marking where they were born or lived, none of these writers identified themselves, which implies a division between the public city and private emotions. Nobody wrote about love in the future. Glasgow’s emotional literacy remains closed off from the wider community.
Overwhelmingly, stories for the future expressed a desire for new or better public places and amenities: a swimming pool, a skate park, a public hall, a beach beside the River Clyde… Many of these would mainly benefit children and there was seen to be a strong need for more family-oriented activities in the city. People want improvements for their communities, not just for themselves. This trend was also apparent in hopes for a stop to global warming, for renewal within the City Council, and for the 2014 Commonwealth Games."
Here are ten-of-the best "stories" pinned to the map.
‘I was born in this part of the city, when this ‘estate’ was first built. Happy memories. Christine Fordyce’
‘My Aunt May lived near here. When we came to visit from Saudi Arabia we wouldn’t go to bed because it wasn’t dark!’
‘I cum fae the Drum’
‘I found my peace feeling safe and happiness when I fled domestic violence and moved here. I also met a lovely man, my boyfriend Mark. THANKS’
‘Moved here from England in 1985. Went to Shawlands then came back. Ghazala Hakeem. 26.08.06’
‘Springburn Gospel Hall – spiritual home for two years’
‘Only attempt at fire-eating. Burned beard. Got soaked’
‘I had great fun making pictures in the museum today’
‘New life as a storyteller!’
‘Where I live now and love. Nicholas’
2. THE DIARY ROOM
The event also featured a diary room - where people could video themselves talking about the future;
Photos from Flickr: