Community activists hold global participative festival Rethink Re:Place aimed at catalysing conversations around the opportunities of tactical urbanism for cities post-COVID-19. With input from participants across 5 continents, a free toolkit has now been launched to support local authorities in running their own tactical urbanism training, aimed at low-cost, participative placemaking.
Tactical urbanism is an innovative approach to transforming public space. Projects are exciting and diverse and can include anything from “parklets” – placing a bench and plants on an on-street parking space to make a miniature park, to “chair bombing” – increasing sense of place through putting homemade seating in urban spaces. Through low-cost, temporary changes to a built environment, tactical urbanism creates greater sense of place in local neighbourhoods and city gathering places. It can be done at little or no cost, by almost anyone.
During February 2021, UK based volunteer activists ran the Rethink Re:Place festival aimed at inspiring people to think differently about how change can be made in urban space. More than 100 people over five continents were involved in the festival, including urban planners and designers, city councillors, policy officers, activists, and university students.
The week-long not for profit festival involved an exciting virtual programme including workshops with local government authorities in the UK and Canada, a sold-out public policy hackathon, and the release of a virtual children’s tactical urbanism lesson. The events offered practical training on how tactical urbanism can be carried out, and highlighted the exciting opportunities this method offers within the harsh public funding climates local councils will be facing post-COVID-19. Through the events a series of tools were developed including a roadmap for tactical urbanism success, and a declaration to engage letter which activists can use to gather commitment from local decision makers.
Verity Parkin, one of the lead volunteer festival coordinators, said “Tactical urbanism will be vital to shaping more equitable cities post-COVID-19. During this difficult time it was heartening to see people from around the world engage with Rethink Re:Place – united by the common goal of pushing for participative approaches which celebrate inclusivity”.
Alongside the week’s events, volunteers Alex Robinson and Verity Parkin interviewed inspiring urban changemakers from around the world, releasing a series of vlogs which discuss the urgent need for tactical urbanism and offer practical advice about overcoming challenges in implementing projects. Offering hope for post-pandemic city life was Mike Lydon, named by Planetizen as one of the top 100 urbanists of all time, and author of the influential book ‘Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change’. Claire Davis, Specialist Urban Designer at Auckland Council in New Zealand, shared advice from the world leading, government funded ‘Tactical Auckland’ project. The exciting work of the City Repair Project was shared by Co-Executive Director Ridhi D’Cruz. Fabian De La Espriella, Vice-Chair at the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, also gave behind the scenes insight into the highly influential “Biscayne Green” project.
Following the success of the festival, and building on feedback from industry leaders and participants, a free toolkit has been developed offering all the materials needed to run a tactical urbanism training workshop.
The toolkit is free and open-source, and includes a workshop presentation, facilitator script, and even materials to promote the workshop including Eventbrite text, social media graphics, and an editable poster. The toolkit makes tactical urbanism accessible to all, encouraging participation through hands-on activities. The in-depth guide to the workshop means anyone from any area of expertise can facilitate the workshop – all they need to do is book a room (or even just a virtual room!).
Organised by not-for-profit civic innovation organisation New Union, Director Nathan Coyle explained: “We had no intention of trying to find funding for the festival as we wanted it to be 100% organically created and facilitated by activists who are passionate about the community having a hands-on influence over where they live. It was really important to us that there was a lasting legacy, that’s why we wanted to put together the toolkit so towns and cities all over the world can download and benefit from it, for no cost at all”.
To download the toolkit, which includes all the materials you need to run your own tactical urbanism training workshop, visit: www.new-union.org/rethinkreplace.html or Contact: [email protected] / new-union.org