Youth, urban management and public space : reconciling social exclusion and urban renaissance
The city is under siege. It is under siege from capital and from the entrepreneur. Projects for regeneration of public spaces in commercial core of the city have increasingly become modelled on notions of economic success developed in partnership with the commercial interests of the private stake-holder, rather than civic notions of participatory appraisal. As such, the public spaces of the city centre are more and more defined by commercial concepts of 'appropriateness', supported by the mistrust and fear that underpins the contemporary normative moral landscape of collective public experience. Public spaces are less and less free and creative, and new entrepreneurial institutions of urban management influence the control of activities; activity and morality appear to become more and more legislated and regulated, and those on the margins of the normative conceptual acceptability are increasingly targeted as antisocial nuisances. This is an interdisciplinary research project addressing the tensions in urban renaissance,a s they unfold in the city centre of Newcastle upon Tyne. The research highlights the effect of changing systems and processes of spatial management upon the use of key public spaces in the city centre, particularly emphasising stylistically distinct youth groups or 'collectively distinct tribes'. The focus is on the tensions between the local council, the local police, the traders around the Old Eldon Square area and the stylistically distinct youth groups, known as 'Skaters', 'Goths' and 'Charvers' or 'Chavs'. Conflict between these groups has led to a rise in the awareness of these tensions amongst the general public, the business community and the social and security managerial institutions tasked with maintaining and developing the city centre. This research unpacks the interplay of spatial production emphasising the differences between tribal narratives of lived experience in situ and the renaissance driven strategic planning of the city centre in order to distinguish how far there is a separation between the conceptual space of the manager and the lived realities of diverse youth groups. This is all the more relevant in the light of recent changes to behavioural legislation, the perception of what is appropriate activity in public and the pressures that an increasingly fearful public urban culture place upon young people in public spaces of the city.