On Saturday 13th February the London Space Academy will be staging an intervention, 'Space Probe Alpha', in Potters Field Park to encourage public discussion around the loss of public space in the UK.
The group's choice of Potters Field Park is not accidental—the 13 acres of open land around City Hall was sold to a Kuwaiti property company in 2013 having previously been sold into private hands in 2002. The site was sold for £1.7bn in one of the largest commercial property deals in British history. As a result of the sale, what was once public space is now governed by corporate bylaws, meaning that acitivies such as public speaking and protest are banned. The trend to sell off public space to create privately owned public spaces (POPS) has escalated markedly in recent years.
Amongst the organisers of the event is experimental geographer Bradley Garrett, lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. Garrett is the author of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the Cityin which he recounts his experiences of testing the boundaries of urban security in order to experience the modern city anew. Novelist Iain Sinclair has described Garrett's book as “A no-nonsense, high-adrenaline, fast-twitch report that requires us to think about the city in new ways.” He presented his work on democratising the city and defending urban space at a compelling TED talk, asking us to join a revolution that will claim and protect open spaces in cities.
Other event participants will include Siân Berry (2016 Green Party Candidate for Mayor of London), author and public intellectual Will Self, Anna Minton (author of Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First-Century City), Daniel Raven-Ellison (National Geographic Guerrilla Geographer) and Will Jennings (Artist and host of Folly for London). Topics discussed will include the creation of POPS, the implementation of public space protection orders (PSPOs) which criminalise behaviour that is not typically proscribed and the proposed construction of the Garden Bridge over the River Thames. The latter project, initially the brainchild of Joanna Lumley, will involve the spending of tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers money on the development of an ostensibly public space in which activities as innocuous as flying a kite or playing a musical instrument will be forbidden.
The event starts at 12pm and you can rsvp on the event's facebook page. Participants are also welcome to show up on the day.