HMP & YOI Polmont
In the Footsteps of Geddes at Polmont
In the Footsteps of Geddes was delivered at the establishment’s Learning Centre to a group of six young individuals from various parts of Scotland. The workshops focused on mapping the knowledge and opinions of the group about the areas they come from and places elsewhere that they visited. The Geddesian principle of visual education was used by having the group engage with the Valley Section [illustration below] as well as contemporary and past images of the areas of their origin in order to discuss the changes that occurred in the townscapes of Scotland over the last century and their bearing on the economic opportunities for the communities.
The young men also used the Place Standard tool to learn about and understand what determines the quality of place. They then applied the fourteen categories to various aspects and experiences of living in the HMP&YOI Polmont establishment, creating a written record as well as a numerical graph of their opinions.
As part of one session the group was also visited by guest speakers – Scottish Historic Buildings Trust Learning Officer, Russell Clegg and PAS Volunteer and planning researcher, Jenny Wood. Russell presented visual materials showcasing the history of Riddle’s Court in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Young people were then able to learn about various building trades involved in the recently completed restoration of that building, which could become potential career paths in their lives in the future.
Russell felt that the young men engaged very well with the content of his session, were curious and asked many pertinent questions relevant to his work and the Patrick Geddes Centre project. Russell was even challenged on the value of spending £6 million on a building as old and difficult to work with from the modern point of view as Riddle’s Court, when a new building could be constructed at smaller cost. This question has been interpreted as proof of high engagement with the session’s content and their critical thinking. The issues of value of architectural heritage and various interpretations of what elements of built environment are important and worthy of preservation were raised in the ensuing conversation between the participants, learning centre staff and the project staff and support.
Jenny talked with the group about children’s rights as laid down by the UN in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This related to her PhD research, in which she worked with 6 to 12-year-olds to talk about their local area and ideas for a local park restoration. The participants of “In the Footsteps of Geddes” were shown some of these outputs, and the mapping exercises used to gather data. A discussion ensued about how conflicts often exist in parks between younger and older children, as well as older members of the community.
Different people with their experiences and ideas about place and how these do not always get listened to in the planning process were another subject matter. This led to the important conclusion that although planners are increasingly trained to involve a wider group of people, regardless of origin, social status and age, there still remains the need for greater inclusion. This is important for making better places in the future.
Jenny also talked to the participants about her experience of performing stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the impact it can have on others. The participants also showed interest in Jenny’s current research on homelessness. Some of the group members had thoughts on and experiences to share about homeless people they’ve encountered and the respect deserved to everyone no matter their housing status.
The project participants were engaged in the topics and expressed interest to find out more. In their feedback some of the participants stated that they had benefited from the experience. One reported that before his participation in the project he never realised that people cared for the environment they lived in. PAS hopes that by working with these individuals their appreciation and understanding of place and its role in determining the quality of living and a person’s life chances will develop further in the future.