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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Building communities

"Where will the Big Society happen?" was the question at the RSA last evening. Loyd Grossman argued that historic but "redundant" parish churches returned to community use were the perfect place for the Big Society to meet. He argued that social networking will happen in real places where there is real inter-action with people not just one's pre-selected friends. This view was challenged. Are former christian churches an independent space or do they come with negative connotations for people of other faiths and none? More so with functioning church buildings. Unitarians pride themselves in being open to community use of their premises but I wonder if our buildings are always seen as neutral and welcoming. I was in Bury St Edmunds last week to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the Unitarian Meeting House and since its refurbishment it certainly is a busy place, used by the community as a resource, and open to all. Respondent Architect Chris Nash argued that community facilities such as railway stations and the workplace were better at making the connections we value. Christian Busch, of Sandbox, promoted virtual spaces as complementary to physical space. People between the ages of 20 and 45/50 are more interested in themes and shared interests not place and neighbourhoods. This was the power of social media. Jonathan Douglas thought that libraries were more useful spaces to build the Big Society. All agreed that the quality of life in this country was not good enough. Certainly faith groups hav something to contribute; sceptical or not about what the term Big Society means.

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