An open brief for a Hub or Exchange on York Central

Artist Julia Davis ran a workshop during the workshop exploring growth, change and exchange.

On 5th July My York Central held a drop-in afternoon / evening workshop to develop a brief for a Hub or Exchange on York central. The event was to develop further two of the My York Central Big Ideas:

6) A community made through exchange: York has enormous wealth, socially, culturally and financially. Use York Central to build a community that can build links between people to address inequalities through sharing and exchange.

7) A hub that catalyses York’s creativity and innovation: Amazing things are happening in York from media, science and technology and heritage. Develop a showcase and learning hub that challenges perceptions and fuels new ideas and networks.

There was some discussion over whether physical facilities should be one building (with opportunities for cross-fertilisation between activities) or a network of smaller buildings within a dense, walkable neighbourhood. Or indeed both with boundaries between the distributed and the centralised approaches being noted as topic for further discussion.

Below are some key ideas to form the beginnings of an open brief for an Exchange on York Central. Download a PDF.

Spaces – for activities and connection

Many people contributed ideas for specific spaces that would enable particular kinds of activity. How can a space be designed for multiple uses and different activities, and what is the right mix of dedicated and multi-use space?

Also, is there a way we can establish meanwhile use on York Central to start to explore these multiple activities? Can we learn from the experience of Spark and similar projects, and avoid having to necessarily get it exactly right first time (which would be a big ask with such a new idea)?

Governance: How to use the power of the city’s big players but in a way that is also community-engaged?

Questions were raised about how such a space should be run and who by, whether it is via community-led governance or by one or more of the city’s big players. More work needs to be done on this but – like the My York Central Big Ideas – there was a sense that money made should be reinvested in the community. This could mean the Exchange renting out co-working and meetings space or community-owned retail. There was a feeling among some that there was a big demand from specific sectors (creative/software industries for example) for clustered space which suited their needs and that this could be an income-generator.

Importance of places that make social connections

The point of living in a city is lots and lots of potential connections – but making these connections can be hard. How can we design a place where you want to spend time, you know something interesting is always going on and that facilitates the connections that otherwise are only serendipitous? How can we create opportunity for meeting and connecting? How can we use mix of use, ease of movement (on foot and bike) and communication of all sorts (via the net, via social and cultural interaction and by physical signposting) to create an urban climate where this process of exchange is actively enabled?

The power of the intergenerational

There was a clear wish to positively address the nature of an intergenerational society, one where people of all ages had something to contribute and where participation in the process of exchange – of skills, time, money etc – wasn’t restricted by simple boundaries of education, work and retirement. Mirroring suggestions for the broader development on York Central, there were suggestions that the Exchange should not just work for all, but should encourage intergenerational links and value them.



Digital… + engineering + heritage + the environment

The Exchange should be interdisciplinary and refuse old binaries of art or science; past or future; digital or analogue and make the post of York’s strengths in media, science, railway engineering and heritage. It should encourage the crossing of boundaries – both for economic benefit and for the simple joy of city life bringing surprises.

There is a challenge in moving beyond simplistic responses in heritage and the environment – brick-arched “railway-ish” buildings and simple peppering with solar panels – and there was a view that making connections between issues was the key to unlocking a richer and more successful form of development, of which this building could be at the heart.

Connect in with – and build on – what is already going on

The Council, CVS and York Timebank already are facilitating a lot of people to connect up with other people and activities – how can all this activity be better signposted to each other and ensure that any new Exchange builds on and compliments this activity rather than reinvents the wheel. It also raised the question of whether ‘volunteering’ and ‘service’ are the same as reciprocal exchange?

We need a further discussion about these different ideas and what they might mean for the York Central Exchange. In pragmatic terms this means more events where professionals working on these schemes and individuals interested in such networks can work together to co-design what it is.

York Central and provision for York’s Gypsy and Traveller communities

My Future York have been working with York Travellers Trust over the past year to explore a variety of issues related to sites, flooding and future developments. In this blog we explore the links between York Central and York’s Gypsy and Traveller communities.

York Gypsy and Traveller Provision in the draft Local Plan

In the draft Local Plan – now submitted to government for approval – specific provision is made for the development of future Gypsy and Traveller pitches. [Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), pp. 106-107]

It is stated:

Key evidence including the Equality and Human Rights Commission report Inequalities Experienced by Gypsy and Traveller Communities (2009) suggests that today Gypsies and Travellers are the most marginalised and disadvantaged of all minority groups nationally, suffering the greatest inequalities across a range of indicators.

(Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), p. 108)

Yet national legislation has had the potential to negatively affect the future of York’s gypsy communities. In August 2015 planning guidance changed the definition of Gypsy and Traveller to remove the idea of a cultural identify, ‘persons with a cultural tradition of nomadism or living in a caravan’. Since the new policy came into effect, this has meant that to be recognised as a Gypsy or a Traveller for planning purposes you had to be only temporarily settled. This has had serious implications for planning for the community’s future through the Local Plan. With this change in planning guidance, the number of pitches projected in the Local Plan went from 66 to 3.

  1. a) Within Existing Local Authority Sites

In order to meet the need of Gypsies and Travellers that meet the planning definition, 3 additional pitches will be identified within the existing three Local Authority sites.

(Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), pp. 106)

However, the council has  supplemented these figures through an active use of equalities legislation to identify an addition 44 pitches. The delivery of these 44 pitches is linked to developer duty based on the scale of housing development, as is noted in the final version of the Local Plan.

  1. b) Within Strategic Allocations

In order to meet the need of those 44 Gypsies and Traveller households that do not meet the planning definition:

Applications for larger development sites of 5 ha or more will be required to:

  • provide a number of pitches within the site; or
  • provide alterative land that meets the criteria set out in part (c) of this policy to

accommodate the required number of pitches; or

  • provide commuted sum payments to contribute towards to development of

pitches elsewhere.

The calculations for this policy will be based on the hierarchy below:

  • 100 – 499 dwellings – 2 pitches should be provided
  • 500 – 999 dwellings – 3 pitches should be provided
  • 1000 – 1499 dwellings – 4 pitches should be provided
  • 1500 – 1999 dwellings – 5 pitches should be provided
  • 2000 or more dwellings – 6 pitches should be provided

(Policy H5, Local Plan Publication Draft (February 2018), pp. 106)

What does this mean in terms of York Central?

This means that for York Central, with the current plans for 2500 dwellings, 6 pitches will need to either be provided on the site or alternative land or payments will need to be planned.

My York Central will be working with York Travellers Trust and to explore how this provision can be delivered. The draft Local Plan clearly offers York Central the potential to explore how one of York’s long-standing communities can become part of what will become the city’s newest community.

Here is one vision from Violet Cannon, Director, York Travellers Trust of how gypsy and travellers could become part of the new community on York Central.



A Day in Life on York Central: Sharing York’s Gypsy Traveller Heritage

When we started My Future York one of the first things we did was to ask people to imagine two Days in their Lives, one that year and the second in ten year’s time. Every one contributed was rich, memorable and gave very specific ‘briefing’ pointers for lots of different parts of the city, not least York Central. When we went visit York Travellers Trust (YTT) to discuss York Central, we mentioned this technique and Violet Cannon, Director of YTT said she’d give it a go. in 2028 there is a vision – as is included in the York Central Big Ideas – of sharing and exchange.

Violet Cannon, Director, York Travellers Trust


I love York, I want to live here. Its one of the places my family call home. I say one! As a Romany Gypsy who lived roadside for most of my childhood, home was a lot of places within Yorkshire. Mainly it was split between Bradford, Harrogate and York. I settle for living in Selby and making the commute into my office in Falsgrave Crescent. I love my office. It’s not as majestic as some of York’s other buildings. But the old Girl stands proud in the middle of the other building around her.

I’m the Director of York Travellers Trust, the Trust is the longest running Gypsy Traveller Charity within the UK. (as far as my research as shown) and apparently the first Gypsy Traveller organisation to appoint a Gypsy or Traveller to the most senior paid role. I digress, but feel you need to know where I am. I am a Yorkshire lass, who happens to have been born Gypsy. Its my ethnicity not my lifestyle. York doesn’t have many options for me to live within its boundaries right now. I currently live just across the way, On a family development. York itself doesn’t seem to welcome private developments. Having only 3 sites and they are all Local Authority, and to be honest I don’t fancy paying nearly £100 a week for a slab of concrete and no rights as a tenant. The site residents are given licences not tenancies. I want a forever home. I’m thinking about getting married starting a family, somewhere kids can have safety and security. Yet still be connected to our rich heritage. I want a home I own or at least have some legal right to.

So, as I sit here in my little office space reviewing the York Local Plan and our objections, I dream of the day I can cycle back home, past York’s stunning architecture on a warm summers evening. Where 10 minutes is enough time for any journey. Suddenly I realise I have an appointment with the Housing Department and then at the York CVS I jump in my car to make the 1.5-mile journey to tanner row carpark. The meetings not for another 30 minutes, just hope I’ve allowed enough travel time!


I wake up to the alarm, alerting me its time to ensure the children have their breakfast! They are already up. The kids from the house opposite my chalet are helping mine feed the horse, as the little girl brushes down the side of old Peggy, the little boy helps my Tom struggle with a bucket of water.

I pull on a robe and wander to the door way to tell them breakfast will be 20 minutes, I catch the old man from in the assisted living struggling by with some bags. My little Tom drops his side of the bucket and goes to help him. Tom is thanking him and coming back with the bags.

“Apples from the communal garden mam, he said you wanted some for an apple pie and we could have the rest for the horses!”

I wave to the old man and ask if he’s coming into The Shared Heritage centre later for the skills sharing café. He nods and waves.

I walk back in and get dressed, no rush for me. The kids school is just down the road, I don’t need battle with rush hour traffic. They go with the other neighbour’s kids on the walking bus, thankfully we are only go on the supervision rota once every 2 weeks. I do love to hear my kids having fun and talking to the Gorja Children. None of them see difference. Gypsy isn’t a negative in York Central. They think my kids are cool, they have a horse, their mam runs the heritage centre and their dad tells stories and plays music around the community camp fire! The neighbours loved when we had the Vardo and horse and took them all around the York Central green. I start making the breakfast as I think of my day ahead. I need to follow up on some emails and make sure we have lunch for the skills sharing, today one of the older Gypsy men is teaching how to make wooden pegs and one of the ladies is explaining how the new virtual pcs work! All very confusing to me, but she’s a retired I.T expert and apparently, they are like second nature once you get used to them! Give me the good old days of touch screen and siri!

A bit more on the Hub for Creativity and Innovation event

A Hub for Creativity and Innovation?

Drop in to Friargate Meeting House, 5th July between 3pm and 8pm to explore what ‘a community made through exchange’ might mean for York Central and York more generally. And bring an idea, skill or game to share… and plan to learn something new in the process!

Based on the conversation during the Festival of York Central we drew out 8 big ideas. Two of the ideas were:

6) A community made through exchange: York has enormous wealth, socially, culturally and financially. Use York Central to build a community that can build links between people to address inequalities through sharing and exchange.

7) A hub that catalyses York’s creativity and innovation: Amazing things are happening in York from media, science and technology and heritage. Develop a showcase and learning hub that challenges perceptions and fuels new ideas and networks.

We’re going to be explore more what these might mean for York Central and for York in general on 5th July. We running a drop in event 3-8pm, Friargate Meeting House. You can read more about the event here and tell us you are interested here.

We plan to use the event to enact and try out what a Hub might be and feel like, so we hope those that come will bring something they might like to share (an idea; a skill; a card game; a joke!) and come open to learn something new from someone else too!

Throughout the day and via social media we’ll ask:

  • What do you want to be able to share and exchange?
  • What is needed to make a ‘community made through exchange’ possible?

And, like all our events, we’ll be seeking to draw out a working brief and work out what we need to do next to develop the idea further and start to bring it to life!

York Central Community Heritage Group: first meeting and some plans

York Central Community Heritage Group
2nd June 2018

Follow a series of fascinating heritage events during the Festival of York Central we’ve set up the York Central Community Heritage Group to develop discussions and events linked to the archaeology, history and heritage of the site. We had our first meeting on 2nd June 2018 at Friargate Meeting House and asked ourselves ‘What can we learn by looking at old maps and old photographs?’

Here is a brief summary of the discussions, the questions generated and the next things we’re planning to do. Let us know if you’d like to join the group:

The Romans!
We had a map of Roman York to look at which shows the roman cemetery that John Oxley referred to in the Festival of York Central event. This raised a few questions for everyone.

Questions about the Romans on York Central.

It also prompted some discussion about the sense of ownership over the Roman history, that it always seems not to be ‘local history’ as such but as history very much stewarded by institutions.

‘Everyday Romans’


Most of the maps and images related to the changes in the area that came with the railways. There was a sense that the signifiance of the loss of the carriageworks had not been acknowledged properly.

‘The closure of the Carriageworks – we’ve not taked about the loss’
Because York Central is available to be developed because of the loss of railway work over the lst 30 years it was said ‘there needs to be jobs, it’s a legacy thing’.

There were some ideas to take here for thinking about future employment and the danger of reliance on big employers.


And ideas about how to reclaim cycling as part of York’s living heritage with a re-enactment.

Bikes use to pour out of the factories and Carriageworks – can we do a re-enactment?

What to do next?

What other York Central-related archives to York Explore and NRM have?
Can we orgainise a re-enactment of shifts ending and cycles pouring out of Holgate works?

How can York Central be designed to work for people who have Multiple Sclerosis?

Joanne Chapman lives in York, and blogs about her experiences of being a parent and having Multiple Sclerosis. In this blog, Joanne explores what possibilities York Central might offer disabled people. This is part of a strand of My York Central work looking at how York Central can be an inclusive and accessible place where disabled people can live, work and play.

What would your home be like? How would the designs enable you to live?

My condition makes the way I live more planned. I just want my home to be easy. My main symptoms of reduced mobility, fatigue and bladder weakness have to be accommodated in the house adaptations.

For my mobility, I need to ensure that access to the front and back of the property e.g. getting in and out, access the garden as well as moving around my home is easy. In terms of what I’d be doing, I would like every room to work for me, so the adaptations and design has to assist my condition by making my home more accessible. My aids need to be discreet, so my home doesn’t look like a special home that is “aid central”. I recently went to NAIDEX, a disability conference with one of the aims to help understand how home design can assist me.

Homes on York Central could be designed to be easy to use for disabled people.

I don’t wish to think how to make my home accessible for a wheelchair but it’s a necessity. With an ageing population and individuals wanting to remain in their homes for longer and not strain services by moving out, new homes need to address accessibility, so doorways have to be wide enough for a wheelchair to easily pass, items placed at appropriate levels from a wheelchair like light switches and plugs, using technology for smart accessibility like blinds and smart door locks so accessing via a chair isn’t an issue, accessibility into and outside the home, to include your garden. Mood is also important especially as MSers have a high likelihood of depression in their lifetime. Different light levels can aid mood. This can be used effectively in different areas of the home.

I recently had a company in to provide understanding of the decisions involved before purchasing a stair lift. I spoke about the marketing material the company used which featured elderly people. I told him that I appreciate that the elderly are the target market but everything was marketed towards the elderly (photographs, language used). The biggest learning is not to assume. Not all disability is visible. If I was a designer, I would be getting a range of opinions from individuals who have a wide range of disability.

What would public spaces and social spaces be like? What would they enable you to do there?

Public spaces need to be redesigned to enable people using wheelchairs easy access, including accessible Changing Places toilets and rest places.

Public spaces like my home need to be easy. So a lot of what I’ve written for my home can be applied to public spaces. I’m disabled not because of my condition but because public spaces make me feel disabled as there are usually unfriendly. For example, I visit a local park. The entrance is blocked by a gate. I park my scooter near the gate and use my walking stick to walk in and access the park. I understand the gate prevents bikes entering the park they also restrict wheelchair, scooter and pushchair access therefore preventing many individuals from using. When my mobility gets more challenged I will be unable to visit. I choose not to use this park for its lack of accessibility and ironically it is the closest to my home. For every public place I visit, I think about my condition and how my symptoms of reduced mobility, fatigue and bladder weakness affects visiting them. Before MS, I just went out. How this affects me in York, is proper planning for best parking, places that are accessible (my husband gets me into shops, by supporting me as some York shops have steps. As an old city obviously York wasn’t designed for accessibility). I also think of somewhere to rest and use the toilet. To be honest, I now need to think like this. I also look at how accessible a place is for children too as I’m a mum. Public places often don’t have a resting spot. For example, I visited the York Balloon Festival last year. A blue badge gives you closer parking but not closer toilets and no resting place. If public places addressed this, it would be a god send (like a resting place specifically for disabled guests and families, accessed via a blue badge).

Public spaces also includes transport links. At the moment, you usually ring ahead to plan a ramp etc. You’d prefer to just turn up. The partnership with Network Rail presents many opportunities to ensure all aspects of the rail journey is accessible: from using the toilet beforehand (I highly recommend Changing Places toliets) to boarding the train.

Being a true Northern powerhouse, we have to ensure all our spaces are accessible, for all children and adults. For those who are disabled or those supporting disabled individuals like a child or if you are a carer. We need to change the current attitude.

Social places need to reflect this too. I phone ahead to reserve tables at bars and restaurants. I inform taxi drivers of my condition. Again, like an able person you wish to act spontaneously but can’t.

In York Central, I’d like all places would to be easy and spontaneous.

Where would you blog from? Are there co-working, live-work arrangements / facilities /networking opportunities that would enable you to write?

Unfortunately as public places aren’t accessible, I would write from home. They are currently no facilities/networking opportunities established for accessibility. If this was different I would have a different answer.

How would you get around? What transport options would there be? What would enable your mobility?

Getting a scooter then a wheelchair on public transport is simply a nightmare. I would struggle independently. I need charge for the scooter. There is no designated area for disabled people to rest or visit the toilet. The main toilets in the city centre have been removed. I avoid visiting the city unless it’s vital. York is bike friendly. I would love to see the city as a beacon place for accessibility. Sadly no place is easily accessible, but maybe York will lead the way?

To read more or follow Joanne on social media see:

Facebook: poorly parents

Twitter: mummywithmsjmhc


What tagline should we choose for a Re-imagined York?: My Future York at the Festival of Ideas

‘Reimagining the City’, 17th June. Part of the Festival of Ideas.

On Sunday 17th June My York Central is taking part in an event ‘Re-imagining the City’ as part of the University of York’s Festival of Ideas.

We’ll be inviting participants to reflect on what the panel talks and discussion might mean for York. We’ll be doing this during the day with our trusty post it notes but also online.

You can take part in the discussions via this link.

We have an overall question:

The tagline for Las Vegas is ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. What tagline should we choose for a Re-imagined York?

And then two questions for each session. One quick fire ‘in three words’ and one more open question.

For the ‘Technology and Transport’ session which explores ‘how architecture, technology and transport underpin urban living and how they impact on the environment, our lives, health and happiness’ we’re asking:

What does ‘city living’ mean in a city like York?

In three words: How would you like to be travelling in York in ten years’ time?

For the ‘Building Sustainable, Successful Communities’ session we’re asking:

Who needs to be involved to build communities in York?

In three words: What does ‘success’ mean for you in your communities?

And for the final ‘Re-imagining York’ session we’ll be asking:

What aspect of York needs the most re-imagination?

In three words: You are in York in 10 years’ time, what do you see and hear?

Book your tickets to come to the event.

How can York Central enable careers and businesses in the railway industry?

Contributions to the Festival of York Central which raised questions about the future of rail in York.

How can York Central enable careers and businesses in the railway industry?
24th May, 6.00-8.00pm
National Railway Museum

Last week we ran an event at the National Railway Museum to explore the question: How can York Central enable careers and businesses in the railway industry?

The event was chaired and introduced by John Nelson who has a long-standing involvement in the railways. In terms of considering the intersection of York Central and rail industry,  John described his interest as motivated by a ‘passion for the rail industry’, that he was still involved with three rail companies, a former trustee of the NRM and is a local resident, based in Holgate.

When John arrived in York in 1987 there were about 8,000 rail employees and about a quarter of the population some way dependent on the rail industry. The Carriageworks was closed due to political decision to “show the benefits of privatisation” and was at the time the most advanced facility in the UK. The loss of the Carriageworks meant the loss of many motivated people. The loss of higher-skilled jobs (and hence higher paid jobs) has lingered. John believes promotion of higher-end employment in York is needed – and that York Central is an opportunity.

Currently around a 1000 people in York work in the rail industry – a massive change in twenty years. Nationally, (via the Rail Industry Association website) it is noted that the rail sector is worth £36bn to the UK annually, with a tax benefit of £11bn annually, bigger than food and drink or pharmaceuticals. Across the UK jobs directly/indirectly associated with rail number just under 600,000, with 115,000 working directly within the system, 42,000 in the retail side, 250,000 in the supply side.

Can we re-find a role in the industry which might allow York to live up to reputation as a rail city?

The next speaker was Lynne Minett, who is Head of Learning and Events at NRM. Lynne’s role is to make collections engaging to all. Lynne said that she knows that people want to engage with the site and collection and acknowledged that in the past they haven’t always told York’s story well. York Central is a catalyst to:-

  • Reinvigorate South Yard and other outdoor spaces
  • Reinvigorate indoor displays
  • Create new central gallery linking two main buildings
  • Create a Wonderlab and a maker/tinkering space

The NRM are conscious of need to fill the STEM skills gap and that both the NRM and whole Science Museum Group have a role in this.

The NRM now working more closely with rail industry via the York Central Partnership and elsewhere. Through the Future Engineers initiative there will be a programme of events to focus on engineering and in particular encouraging young women into STEM.

The NRM very positive about rail industry on York Central giving an opportunity to being the story of railway up to present day.

The final of the three speakers was Alastair Morrison who works for Tracsis in Pride Park, Derby.

Pride Park is bounded by rail lines, river and the station. It is soon to be extended by the extra Triangle site. The initiative was supported politically when it started in 1990’s. It took 20 years (almost) to fill the site. Derby College has a large number of engineering courses and apprenticeships.

Pride Park has very good rail connectivity and road access. Bus services improved after temporary diversion of services demonstrated the need. Tracsis moved there for connectivity. There are the nearby Network Rail offices, a good network of collaborative companies and bigger pool of employees. There are lots of companies working in different aspects of the industry and the East Midlands Rail Forum is very active in promoting the industry. There are other supporting businesses too such as banking, food, property consultants, hotels etc.

Two of the post it notes on the rail industry contributed during the Festival of York Central


The event was then opened up for discussion.

1990s legacy of lack of investment

‘It was difficult during 1990’s. York was relatively prosperous and so it missed out on government funding. There was also in this period an escalation of land values which limited the type of businesses which can be attracted. Inward investment dried up too, which left the city dependent on the region’.

Museum – about the past but also for the future?

‘I am thinking about the ‘museum’ part of the title of the NRM. Does “the past” get in the way of thinking about the present and future?’ Lynne responded that there is a strong commitment that current industry needs to be focus of the museum now. NRM is partnering with companies in the industry to fund events. Alastair added that on Pride Park Roundhouse (College) offers ‘good facilities for events and as a shopfront to the site’.

What kind of railway businesses?

‘Can we generate rail activity?’

‘Any new activity  would probably on supply side – what strategy would deliver on the potential? How can the council as planning authority help drive change and overcome hurdles such as high land value?’

‘I work in the rail industry for Siemens, could HS2 could be brought into York either as station or for maintenance depot?’

‘There is still significant rail employment which will collapse if the issue of future of the industry is not addressed. Neither of the Universities do engineering; could this change? Or could York College grow to fill this gap?’

‘If York wants rail to grow, then all participants need to “sing from the same hymn sheet”. Regional development agencies in midlands very focussed on engineering – not the case in Yorkshire. There was no drive across the board to retain / maintain rail industry in York’.

Lynne noted: ‘York is a “City of Media Arts” which leaves engineering out and often makes NRM a lone voice for engineering’.

So, there is an image problem and a problem of advocacy with the universities. Isn’t there a digital strand to the rail industry? John Nelson replied that ‘yes there is, but we’d need a broader group than this to explore that’.

‘Does the training college at Doncaster create problem by draining skills from region, leaving gap for creation of training facility in York? We need to involve a wide range of partners and explore synergies – universities etc. Need a process to involve immediate partners (Network Rail etc) as a starting point’.

‘How did the HS2 training centre end up in Doncaster? Mainly due to mechanical engineering in Doncaster’.

‘The demise of Virgin Trains East Coast franchise might give a chance for new opportunities – new alliancing arrangement. Can we set up a conference to explore ideas? Local links are useful such as the Institute of Transport Studies in Leeds, and the closeness of Doncaster’.

It was noted that no-one from CoYC Economic Development at the meeting and that Make It York is very focused on tourism.

How to increase the number of people involved in the conversation

‘There is a possibility with York Central, but this needs buy-in from wider range of partners. We need engagement of local people in the process of development. Also the broader industry such as HS2 and construction / civil engineering’.

‘North Yorkshire LEP should be contacted. There is frustration with York in terms of tackling future employment’.

‘We don’t have an equivalent of Midlands Rail Forum. Should we form an equivalent? ‘Railway Industry Association cover supply side across the country, could they be involved in providing member information? ‘The lack of attendance tonight is a symptom of lack of stimulus – so how do we target and engage wider group’.

‘York Central has dominated discussion, but around access etc there has been no real discussion of wider issues of business nor what actually goes on within the site’.

‘Perhaps we need to frame a discussion about the rail industry in York, not just York Central. Perhaps the better question (that the title of this event) would be “Is there a future for the Rail Industry in York?”’

Next steps

  • Develop an advocacy process for the rail industry in York
  • Explore an event on alliancing opportunities and an event asking ‘Is there a future for the Rail Industry in York?’

Build university contacts in this area

The Role of Arts and Culture in York Central

Post it notes jotted during the discussions at The role of Art and Culture in York Central event.

31st April 2018

Robert Powell (former Beam Director and RIBA Honorary Fellow 2018) and Hazel Colquhoun (York Curiouser and independent consultant) introduce the real possibilities for arts, culture and making a brilliant place in York Central.

Robert introduce the cultural wellbeing policy with the local plan.

Hazel gave a series of inspiring and thought-provoking examples of how arts can be used in developments and make new places.

View the slides.

We then opened up for discussion, the aim of the quotes below are to give a real favour of the discuss they’ve been roughly grouped to identify key themes:

York, Heritage, Tourism and Contemporary Culture
‘What kind of culture are we talking about, heritage or contemporary? I am from York and I left. York is dead and that’s why I left. Heritage has it place. But we’ve been kicked over the head by it. The heritage offering is for visitors has been done to death and that is the monolithic overarching problem. There is nothing for me’.

‘Here we house 850 years of the archives of the city and this holds the stories of people of York. The people make the story and make our heritage real. It’s not just about monuments and buildings, we have the stories of the people of York. We have invited artists and creatives to research the rich stories in the archives and to re-tell the story in different and exciting ways. Bringing artists, creatives, digital makers and heritage together to create something new. For example, through our Explore Labs we have worked with young people, hacking stories and creating something else. Both inspirational and aspirational – who knows where it will lead. Explore Labs challenges the imagination – it’s where, artists, tech, heritage and stories collide’.
(Barbara Swinn, from York Explore)

‘We were recently voted in the Sunday Times, the best place to live in England. As far as I am concerned noblesse oblige. If you are given a title, that we have something special, fantastic and wonderful, we need to be optimistic, forward looking and positive. York Central and Castle Gateway and other developments are a fantastic opportunity. This is fantastic future’.

‘This site should be a canvass. Sometimes York is still historic and stodgy’.

‘York that is the sell, the hard tourist sell. I am sick to death of that kind of shtik. You feel like there isn’t anything for you’.

‘There is a lot going on and a lot of independent people getting up and doing things’.

‘I’ve come to York and I can’t quite get in there. York is shared space but where is my bit? I want to do various class and I want to enjoy things but there is such little space for residents. But we don’t make enough money as tax payers to take up that space’.

York Central and Railways
‘The unique thing about York Central is railways. So much of York is about looking backwards, you can combine, shame not to focus in on railways because that is unique. You can combine that heritage with something very modern and incorporating art into it. You can use rail as a motif to direct people through the site. We are looking at many people stories. Phoenix Boulevard, where I live, used to be a foundry but apart from name of the street there is to other reference to it. Before they dismantle the site, can we retain some of those icons. Railways are about travel and movement and you can look forward to what movement might be in the future’.

‘The most exciting thing in the plans is the stream train going backwards and forward’.

‘How do people feel about the railway heritage? We already have a cultural institution on it and playing a role? How do people feel about the railway heritage and can you meld this with the future looking?’

‘Challenges in York Central is to persuade people to come to York Central. Everyone goes to York. Difficulties will be making it less of a island, as there are only limited ways to get into it. One of the things that NRM could thinking about is ‘breaking out of its space’, they should they be thinking of spreading through the space in ways that that would take people further into the space. There could so some quite creative things in other parts of the site’.

‘In terms of the railway theme, there is the Highline in New York. They used a disused rail track, which is elevated. Now become a hugely important outdoors space, hosts music events, arts events, planting. Green space, involved with volunteers, friends of the highline. This would be one way of attracting people to that site. I know its talked about as Great Park but if it’s purely static I don’t think it will survive’.

‘Railway Institute gymnasium. If you go in the is a wonderful magnificent building and that is a building that needs to be retained. It is popular and much loved’.

‘One thing that’s strikes me the culture of the city was not planned and here you’re trying to plan it. I also feel calling is York Central is a misnomer because it is the connection between the city and whole has to be thought of seriously. The culture of the city which grew organically, the concern of the railway, the railway is part of the culture of the site. NRM will expand, absolutely vital but it has to be done in an imaginative way’.

How can culture be democratic?
‘These artists intervention have been about making sense of a space, in this city’s ancient monuments. One thing add, how is that going to affect our children now? With a monument, there is a danger that it is grown over. Or is it going to be something that a community can relate to?’

Hazel: ‘In Cambridge, the Art project included lots education projects. As well as making art that is about the new development, they worked as part of a new school building to link to what the children talked about. There is lots of scope for people of all age as involved. Making a place that can change and making place and spaces that can be used for something’.

‘We make buildings and then the buildings make us. Then it changes us and changes the people that come after that. It’s about having values in minds when they set out. In post-war towns, the approach was ‘build an art gallery’ and ‘build a theatre’ and we’re done. Instead think about embedding capacity for change in the longer term. It is good to have artists in resident but maybe instead of having an art gallery we need an art school!’

‘There has been some talk about digital facilities. Don’t let’s separate artists from the community. We need to encourage them to come from the community, for everyone to be able to explore their talent. If you see that happen then you are getting somewhere close to the ideas for cultural wellbeing’.

‘Picking up on the future and arts of the future, one of the ideas for York Central is the Great Park. I was struck with the Cambridge ideas and trees, the development is growing and evolving as the trees grow. So could we use this Great Park to animate the story, something that is growing and everyone could be involved in it. Because people how move there, future residents and children will grow up with the trees. I like the idea of growth and it being literal’.

‘Language is exclusionary. Particular vocabulary and discourse and if you do not have the way to understand that framework – and therefore it’s not accessible to a lot of people. Topics, complicated not quite able to understand them on an immediate level of what will affect me. We often forget the immediate – the cup of tea – the immediate point of entry, plain English directly, this is how it will hit you. Then I’d be very concerned about the cultural wellbeing plan for York central. I’d worry that you are disenfranchising people right away’.

‘Planning system you do not understand without specialist knowledge but this is how we are going to hit home for you’.

A cultural hub/lab?
‘What if we had an Explore Lab on York Central that could enable artists, creatives, digital/tech and our heritage to collide – re-imagining the stories our history.
An example from our Explore Labs – an 11 year old boy, developed a holder on a 3D printer that could be attached to the base of a takeaway coffee cup – this would be made of biodegradable material and filled with wild flower seeds that would grow and attract pollinators. Who knows where this will lead? We could connect with those young people using the digital labs and ask them what they would like to see and re-visit 20 years later – they could be the very ones using the space in York central – It could be a dynamic and living space. As they grow it grows’.
(Barbara Swinn, York Explore)

How to start to build culture on York Central now?
‘Something mobile or pop up maybe? Could one of the buildings can be used ‘meantime’ to explore making and digital making?’

‘It would be easy to do something tame and has been done before. We are allowed to be risky even if we are York. We’re allowed to think about the future even if we are historic. We have strong roots and therefore we can grow’.

‘But It will be water down if we don’t pull our fingers out’.

‘There are somethings (in Hazel’s presentation) about process and becoming. There were also some things that were something physical in the space. Some of those interventions were about ownership, my brick, my windmill, that’s for them. But there needs to be a longer-term plan too. The cultural plan can have a process, what do we do while it is become, what do we want to become’.

‘We need the process of becoming. But as a community we need that feeling it is ongoing. We also need buildings that can stand the test of time. Good opportunity to have all of them – but we might just get a Windmill!’

‘It is about retaining people and bringing people back. It is about providing space for artists. In Bristol, they have turned themselves around and provide space for artists as a permeant feature. E.g Watershed. We need a place for start ups. If that was in conjunction with the regeneration and the museum itself so much the better. It could be a way of melding old and new, earning a living and stay. That will do well for our native population as well as retain graduates’.

‘Often there is a sense that it’s Leeds you go to for an exiting place to see art. But what about forward thinking art that involves the community. Including communities that are not always wanting to get involved in art’.

‘Retain the element of what it was and what was there and forward looking, NRM is trying to do’.

‘You are talking about people taking ownership over a part of that site, time to box clever to get ongoing funding, that helps to pay for that activity on to the future’.

‘In the Highline in New York, they have kept the essence of what it was I the past, It has sculptural pieces and some of old buildings have been retained and the city has taken ownership over it definitely’.

‘In Birmingham Wharf people can make things. Entrepreneurs can try things out, there are great big tunnels thinking about transport in things at high speed, a place where people can understand things not like a museum, some kind of makers environment where you are doing things because without artists being about to prototype something and try something out. There is a space to prototype then that’s very difficult’.

‘I keep reading your cultural wellbeing plan. You should have a cultural infrastructure plan wellbeing in the result, cultural infrastructure is what underpins it. Physical as well as social. Infrastructure is not just bricks and mortar it’s social. Whatever that infrastructure is it will set the foundation for what follows on. Whatever form it takes it will influences what happens next. Principle area part of an infrastructure and can change – but can give you an infrastructure’.

‘Lots of old building, factories, on the site, I hope there is no suggestions that they should be cleared away as they could be excellent for start of space for artists. Convert them in workshop spaces’.

‘I complete understand its lovely when an arty people get together. But what do you need on a day to day basis is to eat and be outside. I liked the fruit trees idea from Cambridge. As people use the path, they might think about Newton. Railways signify innovation but not everyone will be a maker. They might just wat an apple to immediately take away’.

‘Looking at other tools to describe the space, it uses one kind of language, architectures to tell stories, how people describe, storytelling other way of giving people a chance of places for them’.

‘We can be active with the cultural plan, we want that building for arts and we want to take that. We should be pushing now, to start to use somewhere like the Bullnose Building’.

Next steps:
• Keep in touch: sign up for further discussions about culture and York Central – within the view of starting to make some of these ideas happen?
• Develop ideas about a hub?
• Meantime use of buildings on York Central?
• Arts Council bid to being arts to York Central placemaking?

My York Central | Big Ideas, Principles and Vision


Summary of the ideas, principles and vision emerging from the My York Central Festival of York Central

In March and April 2018 we ran the Festival of York Central. We kicked off by calling for any questions anyone had about York Central. We then used the questions to develop four weeks’ worth of events exploring York Central from lots of different angles. You can read about the events and what happened on our blog.

From these events we ran weekly open anyalsis workshops to pull together Open Briefs – working documents around key areas: Public Space, Home, Work and Movement.

Following the end of the York Central Exhibition we used the thousands of post it notes to draw out a Vision, a Big Ideas summary and key Principles to guide the development of York Central. You can download the whole document.

You can also read it online via these links:

York Central Partnership Prelude: How will the York Central Partnership use the My York Central summary?
My York Central: How were the Big Ideas, Principles and Visions produced and how will they be used?
Big Ideas: My York Central
Principles: My York Central
Vision: My York Central
York Central Partnership Annex: Planning Application Engagement context