This is the last week of the Asking Andover exhibition, and of my residency at Andover Museum. We held our celebration event on Saturday 17th August and it was lovely to see and hear from people who had been involved in the project as Museum staff, volunteers and visitors.
As the project comes to an end we start to think about the legacy of the project, for the individuals that took part, for the Museum as an organisation, and the wider Andover community. And of course for me too.
The last workshop that I ran as part of my residency was called Mapping the Future. I invited participants to create a map together of what they wanted from/for their town in the future. I had papered the floor of the upstairs meeting room, and a range of mark-making and construction/collage materials were available to use. A rolling slideshow of maps of Andover from the past and present, together with artists impressions and architects models from the 1960s and 70s were projected on a screen in the background.
We had a group of various ages and backgrounds, from local schoolchildren to artists, representatives from the environmental group Andover Trees United and the Borough Council, and those involved in Andover Vision.
Several key themes emerged during the session:
- How the centre of town could focus on pedestrians and cyclists rather than giving priority to cars. How roads cut across the town and disconnect places from each other. How can green spaces and existing pathways be linked up? By tree lined walking and cycling routes?
- Whether different transport options could encourage people to leave cars out of the town, from Park and Ride (bus or train) to trams.
- How the river has been built over and doesn’t feel valued as the heart of the town. How could the river be opened back up and celebrated?
- How the Chantry Centre, now owned by the council, could become anything. Some people would like it pulled down, and yet for others it is somewhere that they’ve grown up with, and which holds childhood memories and associations with friends and family.
- The relationship between the town and the surrounding landscape – how to bring the wooded nature of the surroundings into the centre, and the role this could play in supporting well-being, creating wildlife corridors and in providing shade in the face of global warming.
- The empty shops and the changing face of the High St, not just in Andover but nationally – what else could there be rather than just shops? Live/work spaces, studios for artists/craftspeople, community meeting places, community gardens including places to grow and share/sell food. Carbon neutral/negative social housing. Many of the ideas focused on multi-use venues, including a multi-faith site of worship. Empty shops are seen as a negative thing, and we tend to try and replace them with another shop as quickly as possible. But the Encounters Shop and the CAS Bureau of Exchange cropped up throughout this project as examples of what could be done with an empty space. As one participant in the Mapping the Future workshop said, let’s stop thinking about them as empty shops and start thinking about them as empty spaces, spaces of potential for local people.
- How the town could be more welcoming to and inclusive of different communities – for instance through an LGBT friendly care home.
(If you were there and I’ve missed a key theme or idea, please do add it in a comment below)
The coming redevelopment of the town centre, with the involvement of HemingwayDesign and NEW Masterplanning, offers a rare opportunity to consider all of these things, and we discussed how that comes with a responsibility to remember that one action can have many effects.
For instance tree-lined cycleways would not only take cars out of the town, they would also benefit health and wellbeing by encouraging people to exercise, and provide habitats for wildlife.
It was an exciting session that encouraged people to share what works for them and what doesn’t, and how Andover needs to change to cope with what is coming.
In a time of climate and ecological breakdown, the financial risks that Brexit poses, and the rise of far right/Nationalist politics, how can Andover reconnect with the landscapes, rivers and ecosystems on which it depends, whilst providing homes, work and community spaces for its diverse community? ‘We need a town that with places for meeting, connecting and sharing’ was for me the main message that came out of the session.
And what next for the Museum? I hope that through this experience Andover Museum continues to invite the local community to take ownership of the Museum, and that local people in turn feel able to offer up their opinions and their time to help make that happen.
I hope to keep working in the Andover area in the future, and to use this experience to develop projects in other communities too, where people can come together to share what they value, discuss what needs to change, and focus on the interweaving of individual, community and ecological wellbeing.
We all depend on each other and we all have an investment in the future of the places where we live. It’s clear to me that a lot of change is coming, in terms of the climate, biodiversity and politics, and I hope that together we can find positive and inclusive ways forward.
“When we limit ourselves to fragmented approaches of dealing with systemic problems, it is not surprising that our solutions prove inadequate. If our species is to survive the predicament we have created for ourselves, we must develop a capacity for whole-systems thought and action.”
— David Korten, 1995 (from Designing Regerative Cultures by D C Wahl)
Thank you to everyone who has made me feel welcome during my time at Andover Museum, I hope that you feel the project has helped you to explore what makes your town special.