Join Kevin Bean, Heather Alcock and Mick Owens to talk about three idiosyncratic practical utopias: the Chartists’ Land Plan, Port Sunlight and the 2012 Olympic Park.
The discussion begins in the nineteenth century, a particularly fertile time for social experimentation in England, with a look at two very different attempts at improving the lives of working men and women in a rapidly industrialising economy: the Chartist Land Plan, with its vision for extending democratic rights to working men and Port Sunlight, one man’s vision for an ideal factory town built in an arcadian and utilitarian form. Coming right up to date, we look at the Olympic Park regeneration as a promised transformation in East London from post-industrial dystopia to family friendly utopia.
Can practical development and planning bear the weight of political visions and dreams of perfection? What compromises have to be made between pragmatism and utopianism or between freedom and social engineering? Are utopian dreams suitable mechanisms for political transformation or distractions from ‘real politics’? Can they deliver all the benefits that they promise or are they always doomed to disappoint? Or is the desire to create something new a necessary starting point for future progress?
Want to continue the conversation over a post-event dinner? The Athenaeum’s Dining Room is taking pre-bookings. To find out more and make a booking, please contact [email protected] or phone 0151 709 7770
Kevin worked as a lecturer in Irish Politics at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool for eighteen years and continues to work as a writer and researcher. His interests include the history of British Labour movement and he is the author of The New Politics of Sinn Féin (2007). He writes on British and Irish politics in a variety of magazines, newspapers, and books as well contributing to radio and television discussions on these issues.
Heather is a PhD researcher at University of Liverpool, studying the global value of Port Sunlight as a heritage site and influential utopian settlement. Heather has twenty years’ experience in the research, analysis, adaptive use, restoration and sustainable management of listed buildings and conservation areas in the USA and UK. Her current research has supported Port Sunlight’s bid to the United Kingdom’s Tentative List for World Heritage Site inscription.
Born and bred on the Wirral, Mick worked for the Mayor of London, where he played a senior role in planning and development, including in the preparation for the 2012 London Olympic bid. Now a researcher, writer and lecturer, his new book, Play the Game, captures the drama of the Olympic bid and tells the story of the regeneration in the words of those involved.
The Liverpool Salon has been hosting public discussions around philosophical, political and cultural topics on Merseyside for over seven years. Join us at Liverpool’s historic Athenaeum club for Practical Utopias, the second in a new series of public conversations that take utopia and dystopia as themes for exploring the possibilities of building other, and better, societies, while reflecting on the shortcomings of our own.