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Working with the City

Grand Union is committed to a considerate and collaborative approach to urban regeneration. We recognise that to create an urban environment that is welcome, inclusive and supportive for everyone, we need to create many opportunities for community-led planning. 

Often planning processes are driven by economic development. Socially-led place making is part of the regeneration ideology, however, decisions are usually made based upon growth economics rather than community need. We have found in our work that place-making strategies often impose idealist views upon a location, using the vision of a developer, or a local authority planning team, rather than growing and building from an existing community, from the ground up.

As a result we are questioning the ways that city infrastructure is developed, asking ourselves; What would it be like to create a plan for living, based upon the needs of a community? What if this was the driver for change, rather than extracting the highest monetary value from land? What if we recognise that the current status quo is not working and we ask artists to be part of a collaborative approach that can find alternative solutions? What would it be like to design and build from a place that acknowledged suffering, and was trauma informed? What if we asked the people who have been made most vulnerable to be an integral part of the design process? What would it be to create a system that was truly regenerative and not exhaustive? What if we could create spaces that benefited everyone, not just the few?

A square image of a group of people walking along the canal side, towards a low bridge covered in bright, colourful graffiti. AT the centre of the image, a tall person with long black locs and their back to the camera carries a white metal table support, two shorter figures walk slightly in front. On top of the bridge, another group of people are crossing the canal.

We want to see consultation, discourse and development methods that engage with communities in a less tokenistic way, ensuring that more people are not only listened to, but have agency in the planning that directly impacts them. We want to see community-led organising and activism brought to the fore, not hidden and forgotten.

Grand Union’s programmes aim to ask these questions in different ways, from the theoretical to on the ground live projects. The whole programme considers how people have developed their own proposals for land-use; owning, occupying and developing sites, and most importantly creating communities, together.

A landscape image of bunches of leaves and plants hanging from a wooden frame to dry.