“I have a dream” … for Exeter Bus Station!

I have a dream for the bus station site, or at least for the area bounded by Paris Street, Sidwell Street and Cheeke Street, if not the bus depot off Summerland Street.

I have a dream of a vibrant local ‘Market Quarter’, less Princesshay, more Gandy Street;
Of a mix of local retail, local business, charities and social entrepreneurs, artists’ studios and housing;
Of deliberately quirky architecture and winding streets that lead onward in a voyage of discovery;
Opening out into truly public space for public meeting, public meetings, and farmers’ markets.

I have a dream of zero-carbon buildings using shared services, based on the latest and best practice;
Of edible landscaping, nut and fruit trees, and herbs for all to pick;
Of a (non-edible) green screen to clean the air of bus exhausts;
And of artists’ interpretation to educate and delight and welcome.

I have a nightmare that it will be another alocal amoral* superstore and car parking.

* a- : Prefix used to indicate a lack of some feature that might be expected.


No response from Hugo Swire MP

As I tweeted, I’ve received no direct response from Hugo Swire MP to my letter about the family from Clyst St George needing to walk 11 miles to Exeter Foodbank and back. Instead, I found a post toeing the party line. Plus, it’s undated, so it could have been written before I even put fingers to keyboard.

I expect he will also ignore my tweets and the RTs and replies I have received, as his Twitter profile says it’s for FCO puffs only. Well, it doesn’t say ‘puffs’ – you know what I mean. But that’s not really how Twitter works. It’s really tempting to ask #devonhour to bombard him with encouragement to use Twitter for engagement with constituents, or even set up a pastiche @HugoSwireMP account – although it’s probably illegal to impersonate an MP (I can’t be bothered to Google that). Mind you, if I get sent to gaol, I might be in the cell next to Caroline Lucas MP. Ah, the workings of a modern techno-democracy!

I just want to live in a country that cares about poverty, inequality and injustice.


Exeter Library Square

At the end of July, the Express & Echo ran an online poll asking readers what new Exeter Library Square should be called. Here’s my version of the story reporting the results.

Less than one-quarter of respondents to the poll voted for “Prince George Square”, even though the royal birth has been almost constantly in the media for the past two weeks.

“Bideford Witches Square”, which would recognise the last three people to be executed for witchcraft in England, was at almost level pegging. Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards are commemorated on a plaque nearby at Rougemont Castle.

Although in only third and fourth place, “JK Rowling Square” and “Bodleian Square” have perhaps the best cases. Rowling studied at Exeter University, and the author of Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy, and The Cuckoo’s Calling has an obvious link to the library. Thomas Bodley was born in Heavitree and gave his name to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Most of the other candidates were a mix of famous Exeter names and organisations. As an indication of the weight that Exeter City Council should place on the poll, “The square that’s compromised by the ugly and unfriendly BT building” took fifth place ahead of them all.

How we name our streets and public buildings is a reflection of the values of history and our values today. It subconsciously and subtly affects our self-worth. City landscapes are often dominated by men, royalty and war, which gives men an inflated sense of their own importance, and undermines the self-esteem of women and girls. We need to see our public spaces named after women for the same reason we need to see women on our banknotes.

Residential roads in the new Newcourt development are all named after men or war. In my fairly recent suburb, the roads are all named after men. The link between the royal family and the military is strong; Prince George is likely one day to join the British forces and one day become their supreme commander.

It is time to redress the balance. The pen is mightier than the sword. We need to recognise arts, education and social justice, and we need to recognise women, not least those who have encouraged children to read, campaigned for public libraries, and paid their taxes to support them.

So Exeter City Council, please name the new space either after Rowling, or give it a neutral name. “Library Square” would do the trick.

Gene Kemp would fit the bill nicely too. Thank you to @organicARTS for prompting me to look her up.

Another update:
Yes, on second thoughts agree with @goal_media that “Library Square” isn’t inspiring enough.

Yet another update:
So magslhalliday suggests her top three of Rowling Square, Coade Square, Carpenter Square (all good stuff), and then maybe Babbage Square and Bodley Square.
My father, who gives tours of the Bodleian Library, suggested to me yesterday (tongue in cheek) that Thomas Bodley gave nothing to Devon but exploited it for the benefit of Oxford. His wealth came from marrying the widow of a Totnes merchant who had made his money from pilchards. Do we want to commemorate such a man?!


Letter to Hugo Swire MP

Dear Mr Swire

Ben Bradshaw has recently visited to the Exeter Foodbank, and describes his visit at http://www.benbradshaw.co.uk/my-visit-to-exeter-foodbank/.

He writes: “One couple had walked with their small children all the way from Clyst St George to collect their food parcel.”

It is a 5.5 mile walk each way from Clyst St George via Topsham to the Mint Methodist church in Exeter. Clyst St George is in your constituency. This family is  represented by you in Parliament, as am I.

Mr Bradshaw reports that “Since April’s changes to the Social Security system there has been a further trebling of the number of people using the service.”

A trebling! And these people are no scroungers; the Foodbank is the lifeline for many. This is a shocking indictment of your Government’s social security policies, which demonstrate a complete lack of empathy and compassion, and have hit the poorest hard. Oh, and poverty is not a crime either, however much the Government and the right-wing press demonise poor people.

How is it that in a country as wealthy as the UK, more than 500,000 people are reliant on food parcels? The report by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam is available at http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/walking-the-breadline-the-scandal-of-food-poverty-in-21st-century-britain-292978

Please represent your constituents, and do something to address food poverty, injustice and inequality.

Yours sincerely
Clare Bryden