Wur Place

I just watched this film about my wonderful friend Jean McEwan made by Jenny Eells from ‘My Bradford’, and wanted to write something about it.

Jean has had a residency in Bradford’s Kirkgate Market for the past three months, with a project called ‘Wur Bradford’

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 12.13.40

Wur Bradford is based in the main market at the top of town, where meat, vegetables, teas, clothes, make up, phone cases and haberdashery to name but a little of what’s on offer, all come together to provide the folk of Bradford with their daily needs. Unlike Brixton market which now has all this alongside gourmet toast bars, Kirkgate Market remains a place for Bradfordian folk (I don’t like the word ordinary as it has such negative connotations…more on the ordinary a little later…) to drink tea at the right price, get a full breakfast or noodles or samosas with no pretension and buy metres of cloth to make curtains, or shalwar kameezes or fancy dress costumes for their kids’ parties.

Wur Bradford is brilliant. People go, they talk, they sit, they collage, they tell stories, they map out their city as they know it, and talk about the things that matter to them about the place they live in.

‘wur’

– we are

our

Cities are full of countless different experiences, journeys, memories, and yet most of these don’t every get a chance to be brought to public eyes / ears / hands. What Wur Bradford does, is it asks the people who live in Bradford, ‘where is your Bradford?’ We are ceaselessly told cities are great restaurants, exciting tourist attractions, famous landmarks and famous people, but what about corner shops? Or bedrooms? Or parks? Or small cafes? What about these places?

I’m noticing this in Glasgow too; the idea that city marketing, tourist branding, all of this stuff that is designed to tell ‘the story of a city’, is largely irrelevant to a lot of people who live there. To be asked ‘where is your Bradford’ is to be given the opportunity to tell someone what matters to you, what you value, where you feel most at home, and what feeling ‘at home’ means to you. This is a wonderful, exciting, brilliant and important thing to be able to do.

It’s not about compiling things on behalf of others, its about providing space, time, materials for people to compile things for themselves. If we can’t trust ‘the public’ to speak about what is important to them, how can cities ever expect to be able to provide better lives for the very people that make those lives within them?

A note about the ordinary

“You must always look with both of your eyes and listen with both of your ears. He says this is a very big world and there are many many things you could miss if you are not careful. There are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us, but our eyes have like the clouds over the sun and our lives are paler and poorer if we do not see them for what they are. If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?”
Jon McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

In calling something or someone ‘ordinary’ as in: ‘this tells the story of the ordinary people of (insert name of place)’, are we not suggesting that there cannot be anything extraordinary about them? This quote from one of my favourite books of all time really gets me right in the gut. So often things go unnoticed; people, buildings, shapes, colours, stories, because they are not deemed ‘extraordinary’, or ‘remarkable’. They are not of remark. So many places only speak of eminent people from a place, generally wealthy, perhaps politically important people who lived somewhere, and did important things that all helped to ‘shape’ that place into what it is today.

But, what of the other, much larger section of the population? What about people’s daily lives which criss-cross, stay still, circulate and avoid places, carving out stories, lines, experiences of a place; shaping it? Do things not take / change shape through everyday practices? I think they do. If we do not speak of the people’s lives that bring so much to a place, and express so much of what makes that place, how can we ever hope to understand it, or bring things to it which will make it better for those people? Inequality largely comes from not understanding (or caring but that’s for another time…). David Cameron knows nothing of the lives that most people he makes decisions for live. He pretends he does, but he really, really doesn’t.

Wur Bradford says that

PEOPLE’S 

STORIES

MATTER

and that we should listen to them, closely, if we are ever to understand anything.

Not as isolated narratives, but as located within the wider context of what is going on in that place. We can’t understand Ann Marie’s stories about life in Bradford as a wheelchair user without understanding how this fits into how disability is constructed / represented / thought about and included in policies which affect people living in Bradford. Well, we can, but I’m thinking here about bringing about change; in representation, education, policy. People’s stories matter, but they must be heard alongside the wider structural forces that affect how these stories come to exist at all.

Anyway. With these thoughts, I’ll leave you in the capable hands of the folk of Bradford who visited the brilliant space in Kirkgate Market, that Jean (and others) helped to create.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/136422324″>Wur Bradford</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/jeanmcewan”>Jean McEwan</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

An maybe, after you’ve watched this and read this, you could take a few minutes out of your day and make your own map,

Where is your (insert name of city you live in)? And why is it important to you?

Happy monday, everyone x

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One thought on “Wur Place

  1. Thank you so much Ruth for highlighting and writing about Wur Bradford. Your thoughtful and positive responses have given me food for thought, especially now when the project is in a transitional period- the seedfunding has come to an end for this year, and I’m evaluating responses and impact in order to figure out what happens next. And the Jon McGregor quote is wonderful.
    Just to clarify though, Wur Bradford is in Kirkgate Market, not Oastler Market. Probably where the confusion arose is that I did a short two week stint in Oastler last summer!
    Looking forward to meeting up in person hopefully next month in Glasgow and talking more about participation!

    Like

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