Placemaking Forum Event Report

Our first Forum event focused specifically on Placemaking and was convened by our working group members Geoff Willcocks and Ele Belefiore with Nic Millington of Rural Media in June 2018.

It took place at The Shop Front Theatre in Coventry, an old fish and chip shop restaurant, once called Fishy Moore’s, located on the corner of Queen Victoria Road and the bottom of City Arcade, in the city centre precinct. After negotiating terms with Coventry city council, Shop Front opened for business. It is the only professional theatre space of its kind in the UK. The space is operated by Theatre Absolute, who have been working in Coventry since 1992.

The placemaking event stemmed in theme from the conference in Nottingham last November, and was the first part of a series of informal forum gatherings designed to consider the ways in which Universities and cultural organisations in the Midlands can work together.

A broad range of attendees came to the event from both East and West Midlands. Participants spanned researchers, pro vice chancellors, curators, academics, cultural event planners, artists, producers, directors, officials and administrators considered how cultural organisations view the presentation of place and placemaking.

Our guest speakers spoke on the topic of placemaking from two key view points – that of the academic institution and from the perspective of an independent creative practitioner with links to HE.

Barbera Matthews, Pro Vice Chancellor of School of Art and Design at Nottingham Trent University focused her short presentation on why Universities placemake intentionally. She focussed on four ways in which universities contribute incidentally and intentionally; namely: economic, environmental, societal and reputational.

Ben Kyneswood, Lecturer in Sociology at Coventry University and one third of the archival project, Photo Miners. Ben spoke eloquently about digital placemaking, in particular how historic visualisations can embed the questions we need to ask today within local conversations. By using online tools, we can generate line of sight to policy makers, planners and councillors.

The event highlighted the differences of approach from the perspectives of Higher Education and the Cultural Sector alike – asking participants to consider the importance of placemaking; what can be achieved and the priorities of placemaking.

Photography: Julian Hughes