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January 25, 2012

Return to the village square

Why is it that some communities just seem to have more spirit than others?  A group of folk at Govan’s Pearce Institute have an idea that the halcyon days of community belong way back in the days when most of us lived in villages and in particular, when the village square was the cornerstone of everyone’s life.  Govan may seem an unlikely location but a village square for the 21st century is planned.



Once life was simple if we needed to eat, we grew vegetables, raised animals and spent most of our day through the lack of automation tending these things. If we needed water we went to the village square to draw from the well. Also near the village square we would find the commons, where our animals could graze. The village square would also be the place we met, chatted, talked business, saw the traveling circus, and where the collective concerns of our community could be discussed.

There are many and varied ways we can find to communicate with each other these days and the village square has somehow been supplanted by the shopping mall, on-line communities, and much of our community affairs have been professionalised, digitalised, and in many ways taken out of our hands.

Given all the evidence, human beings are sociable animals, we generally crave the company of others, we really need our “village squares” even if they are just metaphors.

The “Village Square” at the Pearce Institute, (PI) will be space run by volunteers, day time as well as evening events. There will be hands on workshops on model making, mapping, meetings, discussions, talks, films. Groups working in the communities will be invited to exhibit, what they do. Groups from out with the community will be invited to share and swap knowledge, share ideas, organisational skills and build solidarity with each other.

We will have a small workshop area behind the Macleod hall, and a more robust space at the back of the building where we can get our hands dirty. The courtyard behind the PI is another area of development that could be looked at for the future. The cafe which closes for business around 2:00 could also become available for meet ups and events. There are also tea and coffee available from machines when the cafe is closed.

The project will work at these levels:

There is no grant money involved. There is a certain amount of material available, but most of what we do will be magiced up by ourselves. Much like the community garden that has thrived on the same principals for the last couple of years.

We would like to persuade folk to invent their own meet-up ideas and topics and to encourage those already working in the community to create awareness of what they are doing. There are a multitude of ideas that will unfold in the square, but the main aim is to encourage, parents and children, young folk, older folk to think about, question and articulate what are their issues and ideas and to think about formats that may be useful in helping solve them.

We can do this in entertaining and inventive ways through cultural activities, actions, interventions, politics, education, art, drama, geography, mapping, technology, different mediums, film, photography, internet, walking, and such like can all be brought into play.

What is the gist. Collectively creating understanding of civil society, how it works, or maybe how it should work. We are not here to supply entertainment, though this can be a by product. Nor is it to just fill our heads with information. It is about participation that is enjoyable but also gives food for thought. For developing ideas that are not just for the moment but can be taken away, shared and developed to expand community awareness, creativity and political engagement.

The Pearce Institute is one of the finest community centres in the city, both in its facilities and activities. In times of “austerity” cuts our local assets are the first to go and we should be very wary of taking anything for granted. The way we protect our community infrastructure is to use it to its full potential.