The first digital event Engage has ever organised took place on Saturday 20th June 2020 in collaboration with residents in Leeds. We had tried to arrange for a 3 city event but our contacts in Edinburgh pulled out with only a week to go and so we transformed the series into a Trans-Pennine event with ideas of expanding it, should it be successful, to the M62 corridor and then further afield within the north of England.

Partnering with Wordscape in Liverpool and PlayfulAnywhere in Leeds we jointly organised an event on Zoom webinars and live-streamed it via YouTube and Facebook. Each city chose its own panellists and host for the evening and questions and comments were sent in throughout the event by those listening at home.

You can watch the event again here in the YouTube recording:

Our four panellists – all women – spoke for about 5mins to a question that had been suggested by the organisers in Leeds: ‘What would it take for a post-Covid city to delight us?’ They were all inspirational, surprising, creative, expansive, challenging and profoundly engaging. They were Jo Harrop, Michelle Charters, Clare Devaney and Erika Rushton.

It’s been a week since 50 of us got together for our first chat about the idea of a post pandemic city delighting us. A lot of great conversation and lots of ideas to digest and mull over in this past week, during a time when cities across the UK are slowly opening up. A timely conversation, then.

The discussion at our first event brought together 4 women that do remarkable work in Liverpool, the city that was the focus of discussion for the evening.

Erika Rushton, a creative economist, discussed the possibility of the next big thing in cities being a thousand small things – micro enterprises and initiatives that are interlinked. This idea has been a feature of the work Erika has done over the years, as the Chair of Baltic Creative that has supported hundreds of creative and digital businesses and with the Beautiful Ideas Company, which supported a number of new social businesses in North Liverpool, many of which have gone on to support the founding of many more in the preceding years. Some of these businesses have gone on to do vital support work during the pandemic, offering a view of how business can, and arguably should, respond to serve their communities in times of crisis.

Michelle Charters, Chief Executive of the Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre, spoke of her community creating online support groups to ensure that they could look after one another safely during the pandemic and how the community of residents, businesses and public leaders rallied around this. She also spoke about equality, how this pandemic has disproportionally effected people of colour, and how all of the communities of the city came together to march for the black lives matter campaign and to demand equality of justice and opportunity in society and an end to racism. An unequal city isn’t a delightful city.

Jo Harrop, kicked off a conversation about the 15 minute city, and how delightful it would be for all citizens to be able to access all of their needs, including leisure and access to green space, within 15 minutes of their dwelling. This kicked off a conversation in the chat about the reduction in cars on the road during the pandemic and the benefits to the natural environment of walking and cycling and how delightful our spaces feel without the roar of engines around us. Has everyone heard more bird song in the past 4 months, or is it just me?

Clare Devaney, CEO of Citizen-I Ltd, talked about daring to dream despite the difficulties of finding delight during the public health crisis and about finding delight in the small things. Clare discussed how she, like many, has brought nature into our homes during lockdown, and her hopes that the city blooms through community led activity in public spaces and high-streets. How do we ensure that all of the community have agency to create the type of spaces the want?

A lot to think about certainly, and a lot of hope for things that we’d like to take forward into post pandemic Liverpool.

This evening (Saturday 27th June) we’re hearing from Leeds and by the looks of things we’re going to hear a set of fresh ideas. Will there be common visions for post pandemic Liverpool and Leeds? What uniquely delightful ideas will there be from the community in Leeds that could inspire action in your city? Come along to find out.

Some of the reactions to the event last week (Saturday 20th June) from our Feedback Forms show just how much participants enjoyed it:

  • The panel was extremely empowering and inspiring to listen to. It was fantastic to see a female heavy panel that was also diverse and inclusive.
  • Thought the panel were great, big focus on value in the people already in the city; listen, learn, improve, respect, collaboration not competition, economic power in the community not the developers, and a local authority that supports local communities not dictates, embrace the differences, bring them out don’t change them, recognise the innovation and opportunities they can bring. The panel were residents and knew the city well and that was reflected well in the things they said. If they are involved in the city and its future then it may well become a delightful place for all of its community members.
  • Thank you for a thought provoking session. Lovely to see you all albeit remotely!
  • Thank you so much for offering this opportunity.  Feeling positive and inspired.  Great sharing of ideas.  Some great collaboration opportunities across the pennines.
  • Some powerful issues discussed this evening. Thank you.
  • Brilliant work from everyone: both organisers and invited speakers! Keep it up!
  • I found the event really interesting and positive!
  • Really enjoyed the session. Can’t join the Leeds date but look forward to future sessions.
  • Great speakers.Know times tight just nice to have a few questions. Great to link Liverpool and Leeds.
  • This was a fantastic event.  Great panel. Thanks.
  • I’m in London but from Liverpool. It’s really good to hear a non London discussion of what’s happening elsewhere while visiting isn’t possible.
  • You rocked it, well done all.

There were no negative comments.