Podcast: Genius loci

"Wait a minute: that's bus doesn't go there." Image: BBC.

You know, there are some people – mean, cruel, wrong people – who might think our podcast gets a little bit, well, nerdy sometimes. Those people should stop whining and take more of an interest in public transport.

Anyway. This week, to mix things up a bit, we're taking a different approach to things: we're looking at how cities and places are portrayed in literature film and TV.


First up, Barbara talks about her discovery of the surprisingly not made-up phenomenon of Paris syndrome, and we discuss how our perceptions of places are so often shaped by culture.

Then we're joined by Stephanie Boland, a colleague from our New Statesman mothership, who in her other life is in the middle of a PhD in 20th century literature. Together we discuss cities in the works of Shakespeare, Dickens and Joyce and anyone else who comes to mind.

Next, Helen Lewis and Stephen Bush – hosts of our sister show, the New Statesman podcast – pop in to talk about how angry people (read: I) get about on-screen geographical cock ups. And listener Steven Bell tells us about his city, Glasgow.

Finally, for our map of the week we talk about the True Size Map, which enables you to drag countries around the world to see how big they really are. India is massive, look:

The episode itself is at the bottom of this page. Also, you can (and, obviously, should) subscribe on AcastiTunes, or RSS. While we’re at it, we’re still in the market for nice iTunes reviews, so, y’know, you should definitely feel free.

 This week's links...

 
 
 
 

Community-powered policies should be at the top of Westminster’s to do list

A generic election picture. Image: Getty.

Over the past five decades, political and economic power has become increasingly concentrated in the UK’s capital. Communities feel ignored or alienated by a politics that feels distant and unrepresentative of their daily experiences.

Since the EU referendum result it has become something of a cliché to talk about how to respond to the sense of powerlessness felt by too many people. The foundations of our economy have been shifted by Brexit, technology and deindustrialisation – and these have shone a light on a growing divergence in views and values across geographies and generations. They are both a symptom and cause of the breakdown of the ties that traditionally brought people together.

As the country goes through seismic changes in its outlook, politics and economy, it is clear that a new way of doing politics is needed. Empowering people to take control over the things that affect their daily lives cannot be done from the top down.

Last week, the Co-operative Party launched our policy platform for the General Election – the ideas and priorities we hope to see at the top of the next Parliament’s to do list. We have been the voice for co-operative values and principles in the places where decisions are made and laws are made. As co-operators, we believe that the principles that lie behind successful co‑operatives – democratic control by customers and workers, and a fair share of the wealth we create together – ought to extend to the wider economy and our society. As Labour’s sister party, we campaign for a government that puts these shared values into practice.

Our policy platform has community power at its heart, because the co-operative movement, founded on shop floors and factory production lines, knows that power should flow from the bottom up. Today, this principle holds strong – decisions are best made by the people impacted the most by them, and services work best when the service users have a voice. Our policy platform is clear: this means shifting power from Whitehall to local government, but it also means looking beyond the town hall. Co-operative approaches are about placing power directly in the hands of people and communities.


There are many great examples of Co-operative councillors and local communities taking the lead on this. Co-operative councils like Oldham and Plymouth have pioneered new working relationships with residents, underpinned by a genuine commitment to working with communities rather than merely doing things to them.

Building a fairer future is, by definition, a bottom-up endeavour. Oldham, Plymouth and examples like the Elephant Project in Greater Manchester, where people with experience of disadvantage are involved in decision-making, or buses in Witney run by Co-operative councillors and the local community – are the building blocks of creating a better politics and a fairer economy.

This thread runs through our work over the last few years on community wealth building too – keeping wealth circulating in local economies through growing the local co-operative sector. Worker-owned businesses thriving at the expense of global corporate giants and private outsourcers. Assets owned by communities – from pubs to post offices to rooftop solar panels.

And it runs through our work in Westminster too – with Co-operative MPs and peers calling for parents, not private business, to own and run nurseries; for the stewards of our countryside to be farmers rather than big landowners; and for workers to have a stake in their workplaces and a share of the profit.

Far from being ignored, as suggested in last week’s article on community power, our work has never been more relevant and our co-operative voice is louder than ever.

Anna Birley is policy offer at the Co-operative party.