Red Tower: Testing the draft Open Brief

Post it notes gathered on 3rd and 10th February at Red Tower.

3rd and 10th February 2020

We returned to Red Tower to share the draft Open Brief for the new public spaces in the Castle Gateway area. This followed sessions in summer to generate ideas for the new public spaces.

Every Monday the Red Tower hosts a Pay-as-you-feel lunch, you can pick up a bag of food given by supermarkets for a suggested donation of £1 and there is also the involvement of the Local Area Coordinator and other agencies, varying every week.

The Red Tower Team have made an incredible place, a really welcoming community where lots of different people are involved in making it happen. People contribute in so many different ways from arranging supermarket food picks ups to cooking or counting the numbers of people who come. We would especially like to thank Barry Beckwith and Simon Perry for welcoming us to Red Tower for these conversations.

How the new public spaces should feel

Throughout the My Castle Gateway process, many people have argued that the new public spaces should be specifically welcoming to people who live in York. This was really reinforced by the work in Red Tower.

‘It should be a mecca for ordinary people from York’

‘It should be a mecca for food, entertainment, dancing’

‘Entertainment for families’

But also, crucially, as has been in the My Castle Gateway Open Brief from the first:

‘It should be for people who don’t have money to spend’

Food – and the politics of food in York

In part because of the importance of food to the Red Tower Monday sessions, there was a really interesting set of conversations about the politics of food. Red Tower is part of vast network of community hubs across York, from Food Not Bombs to Kitchen For Everyone York at Carecent, St Saviourgate and from Bell Farm Community Association to York Food Bank. This led to a conversation about the role public spaces can play in this network of community-led solidarity and support.

‘How can Castle Gateway tap into – or act as a space for – York’s exchange networks?’

And raises the question – how can we develop an approach to food within the area which is also inclusive? So yes to street food, but in a way that works for people without disposable income?

‘Street food – could it be Pay-As-You-Feel?’

Foss walk to Castle Gateway / Eye of York

After one of the sessions, a group of us went on a walk towards the Castle Gateway area to explore the connections between Navigation Road and the new public space. We went down the Foss via Rowntree Wharfe and the Red Brick. The Foss Walk down the river towards the Castle Gateway area was seen as crucial for walking away from roads and for dog walking.

There were lots of ideas of how to make it more friendly and usable. Could there be benches? How to make the ‘Red Brick’ which is currently a bit notorious for drug use  and other things (‘the full human experience’ is the way people we spoken to in 2017 at Peasholme Centre put it!) feel usable by a wider range of people?


Seating is already a big theme of the draft Open Brief but we had some very good reminder of why seating is so important…

Evolving use

Finally, Red Tower is a community that has evolved its purpose to become thriving community that is of immediate use to the people who live around it – what can we learn from Red Tower in terms of evolving the uses of public space in Castle Gateway?

Ideas for the Open Brief:

  • Economically inclusive: It points to ways in which the Open Brief can be more specific about how the area can be economically inclusive and raises questions about what needs to be built into the design and management of the spaces to make this possible.
  • Evolving Community-Led Use: It points to a crucial ethos for the Castle Gateway area – that it’ll become a thriving and wonderful place through the people who live there and nearby being able to use the area for things that are immediately useful and meaningful.

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