Gathering Together: Look at Your City Walk
Friday 9th August 2019
Early evening is a potentially good time to bring people together – and one York doesn’t do brilliantly at the moment. In the My Castle Gateway discussions the idea of a family friendly area, with activities and events, not dominated by heavy drinking was a recurring theme.
We have created a virtual tour of our walk around the city, looking at the early evening action and drawing out ideas for the open brief for the new public area in the Castle and Eye of York.
York Art Gallery
The walk began at Exhibition Square – a space that is animated during the day by foot traffic to and from the gallery and by café tables, but is quieter in the evenings. people commented that the seating was limited (and unimaginative) and there was little else to attract visitors. Traffic noise is an issue too. The fountain was also felt to be a missed opportunity with few ways to engage with it. The face of the gallery was very blank when closed – shutters could give information or be used for projections. People asked whether the café could open later to being life to the square, and whether planting could be used to soften the space.
St. Helen’s Square
By contrast, St.Helen’s Square was lively – both due to foot traffic passing through and people lingering. There were different seating opportunities – the grouped public seats around the lamps plus seating at the periphery outside cafes and bars. But no shelter – when it rains, you get wet!
The key observation though was that there were open businesses on most sides and these attracted people, which made the place feel safe and welcoming. Planting was attractive (if formal) and this was suggested the place was looked after.
St. Sampson’s Square
St.Sampson’s Square is well sheltered by mature trees, providing shade in summer and some protection from wind and rain. There is a mix of pubs and cafes around it, with the cafes providing some animation when open (but less so in the evening when chairs/tables are cleared away) – the balance was felt to be important and not quite right here. Tree planting allowed clear space for performance. However, there is little permanent seating and it wasn’t seen as a place to linger in the evening.
As the photo below shows, it’s a lively space in daytime with buskers performing. In the evening though it functions mainly as a route through – for pedestrians heading to other destinations and for a hefty stream of traffic – especially taxis using Petergate as a short-cut. There has been major investment in high-quality paving but this doesn’t feel like it has “reinvigorated” the space – an impression reinforced by refuse bins spilling their contents across the foot way. Cafes are largely closed and pubs don’t allow drinkers outside, so there are few reasons to linger.
And so, that brings our tour to its conclusion. Which spaces in York work well for people to come together – especially in that difficult in-between time of the evening? Are thjere places where you meet friends or linger? How can they inform the future of the Castle and Eye of York area?
If you’ve enjoyed this blog, why not come to one of our many events over the summer to hear ideas and share your thoughts on the project. Book on at http://www.mycastlegateway.org/events or offer your thoughts to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or even write your own blog!