Wastes and Strays

This is an interdisciplinary 3-year project involving academics from Newcastle University, Exeter University, Sheffield University and Portsmouth University. It will study urban commons across England, and will promote them as publicly accountable, open, green, spaces vital for culture, health, wellbeing and biodiversity in the metropolitan context. With different legislative backgrounds and use-value, the definition of ‘common’ use is often misunderstood. With many urban commons lost, neglected or underused, the project will use four diverse case studies as exemplars of the distinctively ‘urban’ common. It will generate a multifaceted definition of the ‘urban’ common to provide a robust base for education initiatives and future public policy guidance informing its development and use as a diverse cultural and ecological space.

 Whatever their legal status, urban commons have always reflected shifts in social and cultural attitudes and traditions, and have long been sites of debate and negotiation, yet their future in the contemporary urban context is unclear. The project will explore the complex social and political history of the urban common, as well as its legal and cultural status today, and in doing so devise tools and methods of negotiation, inclusivity and creativity to inform its future. We believe that only through a deep understanding of the past and rigorous engagement with present users, can we devi‌se new multiple, and overlapping, futures or imaginaries of culture, wellbeing and diversity for the urban commons.