The aim of this session was to explore questions of place and identity within a post-pandemic context and look to the potential of local social and cultural infrastructure to strengthen inward investment, encourage entrepreneurialism and address economic inequalities.
On 20 July 2022 the LGA hosted the fourth and final roundtable of the ‘Levelling up Locally Inquiry’ exploring the theme of place and identity. The aim of the session was to explore questions of place and identity within a post-pandemic context and look to the potential of local social and cultural infrastructure to strengthen inward investment, encourage entrepreneurialism and address economic inequalities.
The roundtable was attended by representatives from a range of organisations including Mind, Wates Group, Arts Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Eden Project, The King’s Fund, London Councils, Crafts Council, University of Manchester, One Public Estate, Cabinet Office, Onward, Torfaen County Borough Council, University of Cambridge, DLUHC, Fields in Trust, Maslaha, Citizens UK, MAIA group, Centre for Better Ageing, British Youth Council, Centre for Cultural Value and NCVO.
The session opened with a presentation from Harry Hobson, founder and director of Neighbourly Lab who discussed what makes people feel contented to where they live, what makes people deep-rooted and proud, and the wider role of place identity in building a strong community. Harry described four states people experience when it comes to place: shallow-rooted contentedness, deep-rooted contentedness, pride of place and discontent, and then went on to discuss the conditions required for each of the states. Connectedness occurs when core material needs are met such as good local amenities and sufficient social connections, whereas pride in place occurs when there is something authentically distinctive and particular about a place. Harry concluded sharing recommendations for local government. When it comes to the role of local councils, it is crucial for them is to ensure the conditions of contentedness in place are met, whereas pride in place is a secondary policy objective for government as it is not necessary for people’s flourishing.
The session concluded with a wider discussion among attendees. Attendees explored how pride in place can be measured and the importance of data. There was discussion around the factors that strengthen pride in place such as the proximity of housing to social connections and community, the need for a strong economic narrative, the availability and use of the public realm, and the importance of culture and arts to the agenda. Central government has a key role to play in addressing material need, whereas local government policy should create the baseline conditions for contentedness and to do this would be a challenge as pride in place can make people resistant to external interventions. Finally, there were questions around how pride is defined and who it is for, whether contentedness and pride are strong enough words given identity is linked with place, and the question of whether people constantly moving transforms the way we think about place.