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Getting local people involved in what their streets will look like

Urban planner Richard Eastham from the design practice Feria Urbanism will be creating an innovative way for local people to get fully involved in plans for Ryde’s High Street update.

“We will be bringing a set of foam blocks that look rather like the ones children play with except these are super-sized for adults.

“They are light and can be easily moved but they are strong enough that they can be sat on and even stood on.

“The idea is that we invite people to move them into different patterns to create a streetscape for different groups of people. So we might ask them to be moved to create a place where people can sit and enjoy the sunshine.

“We know that local people know their streets better than us and they know where the sun will be for most of the day for people to enjoy a resting place. 

“We will ask for the blocks to be arranged in different ways for teenagers or children and even for a socially distanced space.

“A group of invited representative stakeholders will be asked to come along and work with us but we know that other people who just happen to be passing will also get involved and the information we get from them is just as valuable.

“It is a performative piece where people can collaborate and share ideas as they tackle the scenarios and challenges we set.

“The day will be captured on stop-motion video and we will be photographing as we go along to capture what happens.

“We enjoy the unexpected conversations and where we have done this in places like Dorchester and Cirencester we have had great engagement. (In fact in one place we had a couple come and sit on the blocks to have their lunch).

“Working like this with local people allows us to establish a series of concepts and from that we can translate those concepts into workable, practical solutions.

“Following the workshops we will come back with design sketches that incorporate what we have learned by using the building blocks.

“We are a team of four and my colleagues Jennie Savage, Henrike Johannsen and Laura Mulhern will be joining me in Ryde for the workshops on December 9 and 10. Given the time of year, we will have a wet-weather plan in place and can set up in a church hall nearby if needed”