If the street was a person…

Who would it be? What has it experienced? Who are its friends? And what is its future? What are its secrets? (ha ha…there are many late night party ones for sure!).

We often forget that our urban environment is a living thing – it has needs and ambitions. How does this influence what we do and how we relate to the street?

We have supported individuals this week that are surviving rather than thriving and have no where else to go. When life conspires against you, when you’ve tried everything and are so worn out you can no longer value yourself, it creates a spiraling circle of neglect and harm that is very hard to recover from – the lucky ones have a support network…sadly there are many unlucky ones and that is where we are seeing amazing individuals and organisations across our community stepping up in incredibly inspiring ways.

So, if we think of the urban environment as a person… many might consider Union Street in that spiral of decline, it might have a complicated past, a reputation that can be hard to shake, it tries to be OK but secretly is desperate for a bit of respect and love  – then what does a support network for a street look like? Who are its friends? What do the good days look like? What is possible?

Long term neglect creates a uncomfortable form of permission to treat a space badly, it feels hopeless and impossible to change and it is not OK – not for people and not for places.

We got to thinking about this as we were exploring trauma informed work in our community – we’ve all been through tough times and they look set to continue. The environment we create for each other and the choices we make play a part in whether local people and businesses can thrive and good things happen.

There’s no quick fix and that’s why we are getting a reputation for being a bit obsessed about Union Street but the dogged determination and focus is what is enabling tiny little green shoots along the street to grow.

So what contributes to an environment that supports a street to thrive?

Push the boundaries

We have been long time advocates of giving ourselves permission to do good stuff. There have been occasional times we have had to ask for forgiveness (!) but mostly it freed us up to try new things and make change happen. We are loving the businesses that are making the most of the relaxation of rules to create great spaces along the street…backgammon at The Union Jack anyone? A burrito outside The Clipper? – yum yes please!

Unity

Recognising what unites us can lead to all sorts of new opportunities. In partnership with Plymouth Art Weekender we commissioned Will Luz this year and he’s definitely getting us all thinking and questioning! He is getting deep into thinking about ‘union’ along Union Street- a pre lockdown commission this work is just resonating more and more with our community and we love seeing others engaging with it. Check it out on walls along the street, postcards and on social…he’ll be in The Plot working away on his final art work this month – ready to be in the street on September.

Welcoming these fresh ways of thinking, understanding each other leads to lasting change on the street that works for us all.

Take time to care

We have seen a surge in volunteers that add so much to what we can do on the street and has certainly resulted in pretty good progress this month – a street powered by people. We’ve got to know more businesses along the street and generally people treasuring the joy of chatting on the street more than ever before.

When we’ve reached out to our friends near and far they have totally been there – we have a super special support network that help us along – thank you xxx

Our mini Nudge team have been taking more care – there are four of us – we go through all sorts of ups and downs during an average week. We are so lucky to have each other – a cup of tea here, a tidy up there, catching a ball that’s about to drop for someone else or sharing a problem – it might seem like a tiny thing but without it we couldn’t do what we do.

A secret shared is a secret halved

Another key part of a support network is a friend to share secrets with. We are supporting Angie from Flameworks to run a gorgeous gentle project. She is a ceramicist, and is going up and down the street with a shopping trolley collecting peoples secrets. Pop along to The Plot during the Art Weekender to see what she does with them, or if you see her trade your secret!

Trust

The relationships we are establishing now feel longer term – not for a project or funding, but because we share the same values. It feels stronger, more comfy and super exciting because the possibilities are bigger, more fun and will make more difference. There’s space for everyone.

Come and check out our new collaborators at The Plot later this month – Jabulani, Hope and the Mountain Bike Collective are all ready to start contributing to the street in a whole new way.

Have ambition

Nudge is run by a board of people who live or work locally who believe in Union Streets possibilities. They have worked together with our community and local partners to refresh our vision and mission to make sure we stay focused on what’s important to our local community and keep making a difference – now is the time to be clear, brave and bold! Come find out more at our AGM on 17 September. 

So lets keep collaborating and supporting each other to make Union Street a street the whole world loves where the lights are on! If you need some ideas about how to do this check out our activity on social media or pop into The Plot 11-1pm Monday – Friday…and we’re busy working out what is possible within ever changing guidelines… but the Street Party will be happening on Sunday 13 September 12-4pm.

Love Hannah, Wendy and all at Team Nudge xxx

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