Birkenhead is a town with a proud and passionate history but in recent times the town has suffered from a prolonged and painful economic decline. Working as project creative director on behalf of Fabrik Studio with clients ION Developments and Rotterdam-based urbanists, MVRDV, we set out to engage local people in an inclusive conversation about the town’s future.
The engagement had two strands – to measure public and stakeholder opinion on specific regeneration plans for the Europa Boulevard area, and to begin to stimulate ideas and aspirations for a much more fundamental rethink of the town’s identity and potential.
We wanted to go beyond traditional consultation but make space for a conversation across a range of spaces and platforms. We also wanted to create a sense of possibility by collecting initial ideas, opinions and case studies from people who were already involved and delivering change.
We branded the project Move Ahead Birkenhead designed and produced a tabloid newspaper with contributions from a diverse range of local stakeholders. We began to share initial ideas through the newspaper, on-line and across social media and ran a two-day public consultation event that challenged the prevailing sense of fatalism and suggested building a future identity on the energies of local people and the things that made the town extraordinary.
The event confirmed strong support for the initial Europa Boulevard development proposals, but also elicited a wealth of ideas and comments that are helping to shape the brief for the next phase of planning and re-imagination.