Brexit: why was it such a surprise?

June 25, 2016

Over the past few week I have been sending out notes to friends abroad on the way the Referendum campaign has been shaping up. They weren’t very long, detailed  or analytical because I’ve spent a lot of time on street stalls, handing out leaflets, delivering posters and leaflets, canvassing households, and ‘knocking up’ known ‘Remain’ […]

Britain’s western powerhouse?

April 26, 2016

The ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has caught the political imagination even if there is some debate about whether the financial resources to turn it into reality are really going to appear from the Treasury. The English devolution agendas post the Scottish referendum, and the desire to create poles of economic, cultural and political influence in England outside […]

John Henry Brookes: the man who inspired a university

February 25, 2016

I recently came across a book that had been presented as an end of year prize to a student at the Oxford School of Technology, Art and Commerce. It was signed by the principal, one JH Brookes. Although I recognised the name, it made me realise just how little I knew about the person or […]

Telling stories for the Earth

December 24, 2015

The climate march in London on 29 November, coinciding with the opening of the Paris climate talks, attracted over 50,000 people, a record for such an event and it was by turns colourful, joyful, passionate and serious. The weather played the ‘bad cop’ though, showery rain, strong winds and thick cloud making the day extremely […]

Climate change as a moral issue

October 16, 2015

Until recently the connection between the Catholic Church and sustainable development hasn’t seemed very obvious. Indeed Catholic doctrine on birth control has perhaps been its most important intervention and that has not been seen by many, including Catholic’s, as very helpful. So the papal Encyclical on global climate change Laudato Si’,  published in June has […]

Peter Kennard; unofficial war artist

August 10, 2015

For anyone involved in the peace movement, especially CND since the early 1980’s as I have been, Peter Kennard is a familiar name. And his photomontage posters on all aspects of peace, war and conflict are even more familiar. Think Constable’s Haywain, loaded with a delivery of Cruise Missiles heading for Greenham Common, (‘Haywain with […]

Cultural capital: creative Britain in the age of New Labour

June 24, 2015

Robert Hewison is a cultural critic and in his book – Cultural capital,  he turns his sights on what he characterises as the ‘rise and fall of creative Britain’, charting this process from the period when Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party in 1994 and the term ‘Cool Britannia’ was coined, more or […]

Derek Diamond: a tribute

June 19, 2015

Professor Derek Diamond  died in May aged 81. He was my tutor at LSE in the 1970’s  when I was  there doing a postgraduate course in Urban and Regional Planning. Derek was a leading British planner, or as he preferred to call himself, ‘an applied urban geographer’, for decades. Son of the Labour politician Lord […]

Devolution comes to the cities?

March 27, 2015

It has been interesting times for localists since the Scottish Referendum. The result and the fallout has had a bigger impact on the governance of Britain debate than some in Westminster and Whitehall seemed to imagine. This is mainly because of the ‘solemn vow’ made by the three party in the days just before the […]

Anarchy and beauty

December 21, 2014

William Morris is somebody that many people in the planning, architecture and design worlds have found inspirational. However rather than looking at the man himself, Fiona MacCarthy’s exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) to 15 January 2015, takes a look at Morris’s legacy. NPG Director Sandy Nairne, introduces the exhibition by saying that it […]