Friday, 23 November 2007

Is Multiculturalism Dead?

Not long ago Britain was proud to proclaim itself a multicultural society in which all cultures were welcome and celebrated in their diversity. Whilst Britain might not be a perfect society, it felt it was managing its diversity a lot better than most other places. Then a series of seismic events came along - the northern milltown riots of 2001, 9/11, 7/7 – and Britain started to ask itself what multiculturalism really meant. The mood of skepticism was even voiced by the Commission for Racial Equality whose Chairman, Trevor Phillips proclaimed “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation. Britain must scrap multiculturalism”.

The talk now is of building greater integration and cohesion rather than in highlighting people’s difference. Does this mean that multiculturalism is a discredited failure or can it make a comeback as an idea? Is integration simply another word for assimilation? Is government trying to create a one-size-fits-all model of British citizenship under the pretext that diversity is a threat to our security? Are their any emerging alternative models which might take us beyond the current dispute?


Munira Mirza will argue that multiculturalism is dead

Someone from the Respect Trust will make a defence of multiculturalism

Phil Wood will make the case for Interculturalism as a new model.

Munira Mirza is a writer and researcher on issues related to cultural policy and identity. She is co-author of the report Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism. She also edited the book Culture Vultures: Is UK arts policy damaging the arts? and in 2005 she presented the BBC Radio 4 documentary series, The Business of Race. She is a founding member of the Manifesto Club, a new organisation that aims to champion humanist politics in the 21st century. Originally from Oldham she is now based in east London.

Phil Wood has been a partner in Comedia since 2000. Prior to that he worked for Kirklees Council variously as a community development worker, assistant head of culture and director of the Creative Town Initiative. He is now directs Comedia’s Intercultural City project and is the co-author (with Charles Landry) of The Intercultural City: Planning for Diversity Advantage, to be published in December 2007. He has been an advisor to the government’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion, Council of Europe and British Council on cultural diversity issues.

Monday, 29 October 2007

some photographs from the first Salon event

Charles Landry

Paul Chatterton

Phil Wood and Paul Chatterton

Charles Landry and Paul Chatterton

Victoria Minton responds to the debate, watched by Adrian Sinclair

The audience respond to the debate

all photographs are © Katy Hayley

Monday, 22 October 2007

Are You Happy Now?

The Examiner tells us Huddersfield is the happiest town in the North of England. When all’s said and done is achieving happiness what the striving’s all about. Or is happiness just the latest fad?

There was a time when a government might see its goal as making its people more secure, or more wealthy or more equal. However David Halpern, adviser to the Tony Blair, told the BBC that within the next 10 years the government would be measured against how happy it made everybody. Conservative leader David Cameron has got in the act too, saying there is more to life than making money, and arguing that improving people's happiness is a key challenge for politicians.

In ‘The Happiness Formula’ the BBC constructed a 4-part TV series on something most of us never even knew existed – the science of happiness. We watched their campaign to ‘Make Slough Happy’, as if happiness was something that can be measured like GDP or shoe size.

Surely no-one sets out in life with the purpose of not being happy but is the pursuit of happiness what life is all about? Is it really a proper place for scientists and politicians to be trampling over? Isn’t the pursuit of our own happiness our business – not theirs? Can you really demonstrate that changes in economic or social policy will make us more or less happy? Isn’t there also a danger of the private sector make a pseudo-science of happiness as a way of selling us lots of ‘wellness’ remedies and lifestyles that we don’t really need?

Tess Peasgood is advising the Government on how happiness research can be factored into resource allocation. Dolan Cummings is not at all happy with this sort of thing.


Tessa Peasgood is at the Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London and is also connected to the Centre for Well-being in Public Policy at Sheffield University. Her current research explores the relationship between an individual´s happiness and satisfaction with life and their resources, specifically their income and health. She is also exploring questions relating to the role of subjective well-being indicators for informing public policy, and the implications of happiness research for government allocation of resources.

Dolan Cummings is the editorial and research director at the Institute of Ideas in London, and a co-organiser of the annual Battle of Ideas festival. He edits the reviews website Culture Wars, for which he writes about theatre, film and books. He is also the editor of Debating Humanism, a collection of essays exploring different conceptions of humanist politics, and a co-founder of the Manifesto Club.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Are we a Creative Town yet?

A debate featuring Charles Landry and Paul Chatterton.

The American cities guru Richard Florida has said that: “Time after time the people I speak with say there are signals that a place “gets it” – that it embraces the culture of the Creative Age”.

So does Huddersfield ‘get it’?

Someone must have thought so once because in 1997 Huddersfield dubbed itself ‘The Creative Town’. The inspiration for that bold gesture came from Charles Landry, who went on to celebrate the town as an model for how small places could reinvent themselves in his book The Creative City.

We have invited Landry back to take the pulse of the town. Ten years on what does he feel about the creative city in general as an idea and has Huddersfield fulfilled the promise he thought it showed back in 1997? And what new insights does he have to share from his most recent book The Art of City-making?

Paul Chatterton, from the University of Leeds, was never convinced by the Creative City idea. He describes it as “a comfortable ‘feel good’ concept for consultants, policy makers and politicians rather than a serious agenda for radical change”. We have invited him along to challenge Landry and put forward his own ideal of how Huddersfield and towns like them should be going forward.

More information at:

Charles Landry is the founder of Comedia. He is a leading advisor on city revitalization and has worked throughout the world, most recently as ‘thinker in residence’ for the city of Perth, Australia. His books include The Art of City Making (2006); The Creative City: A toolkit for Urban Innovators (2000), published to widespread acclaim; Riding the Rapids: Urban Life in an Age of Complexity (2004) and, with Marc Pachter, Culture @ the Crossroads (2001). His association with Kirklees first began in 1993 when he advised the Council on its first cultural policy. He was a board member of the Huddersfield Creative Town Initiative from 1997 to 2000.

Dr Paul Chatterton is a geography lecturer at the University of Leeds, his home town. His interest is in urban change and regeneration policy and alternative models for organising social and economic life and his work focuses on both British cities and Latin America. He did a major study of the growing night-time economy in 6 cities. His two current projects are which explores the ways in which social activists and community groups are developing self-managed models for organising social and economic life beyond the welfare state; and Who runs Cities? (see which promotes citizen engagement in urban governance.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Don't get me started!

The Huddersfield Salon is a new space in Huddersfield for people who are interested in hearing provocative ideas from engaging speakers, and participating in stimulating debate.

Three upcoming dates for your diary:

Monday 8th October
6.30 till 8.30pm
‘Are we a creative town yet?’
Speakers: Dr Paul Chatterton (leeds University) and Charles Landry (Comedia)

Thursday 8th November
6.30 till 8.30pm
‘Are you happy now?’
Speakers: Dolan Cummings (institute of Ideas) and Tessa Peasgood (Imperial College, London)

Thursday 6th December
6.30 till 8.30pm
‘Is multiculturalism dead?’
Speakers: Munira Mirza (The Manifesto Club) and Phil Wood

VENUE: Café Ollo, The Media Centre, Northumberland Street, Huddersfield

Ticket price: £5.00 or £12.00 for three, available from The Media Centre reception or telephone 0870 990 5000

Refreshments available.

Brought to you by a Fine Bunch of people.