Space: the final frontier

Inside 'The Machine' at our somewhereto_ event at London's Shunt (c) Marc Sethi

Last week was the first ever public-facing launch event of somewhereto_ – a proud moment, not only because of how brilliant the event was at London’s Shunt (taking place inside a huge Victorian ‘machine’), but also to see the emergence into the light of a big old behemoth of a project that is Livity’s largest endeavour… ever. We fought hard to win the tender from the Legacy Trust this time a year ago: it was one of those blood, sweat and tears, late nights and brain-freeze affairs. But we are so proud to be working on what should become a major (and sustainable) part of the fabric of youth provision in the UK over the next two years and beyond.

I’m looking forward to watching it blossom from afar. But two elements of somewhereto_ make me particularly excited for the year ahead in Africa:

1) its sustainability: if we get it right, somewhereto_ should run and run for ever, become part of the, well, fabric of society, and provide a mechanism that will continue to broker space between space-holders and young people in perpetuity. As the Chairman of LandAid, Robin Broadhurst, said in our first panel at the London event, there’s no shortage of space in this country, so why shouldn’t we make it natural, normal and easy for property owners to let people use it when it’s empty?

2) The notion of dead space being transformed and its trnsformative effect on a community or locality. David Barrie, one of our panelists and key consultants for somewhereto_, has done this around the UK in incredibly exciting and inspiring ways (not least with  The People’s Supermarket – and if I didn’t do what I did, I think it’s one of the most exciting jobs I could imagine doing).

Livity's Sam Conniff hosting the second panel discussion (c) Marc Sethi

In some way Livity and Live Magazine in Africa have the potential to do exactly this: find a space, transform it and try and kickstart enterprise, creativity and commerce. Where will that be in the Cape Town area? One of the key decisions I’m going to face is where to base the magazine’s office.

The strongest argument would be, if you were following the methodology of Live in London, to base it within the townships. But following this methodology would also mean finding a bustling, thriving creative agency environment surrounded by other small businesses. If such a place exists in the Western Cape townships then I’m keen to find it. It’s important that young people who come to get involved are inspired, challenged and engaged with new possibilities and opportunities as soon as they walk through the door.

That’s why some people have suggested that we base the magazine in the city centre: make it aspirational, and normalise the experience of journeying into town every day to work. At this point of time, there’s something about that which doesn’t quite feel right to me. What I’m more drawn to currently is the suggestion of a midway point, some of the more mixed suburbs like Mowbray where some creative businesses are springing up. In truth, I don’t know enough about Cape Town to begin to make a call on location at this stage, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding out.

Young creatives getting busy on the somewhereto_ doodleboard (c) Marc Sethi

But finally on somewhereto_, like with other Livity projects like Spinebreakers and the apprenticeships, I would love to see how we can weave them in to the activity around Live magazine in South Africa. And I’m sure I heard  that Durban is bidding for the Olympics in 2020m so perhaps somewhereto_ will become a repeatable legacy idea for all future Olympiads? Perhaps we’ll have to make it work in Rio first, for the 2012 games. One thing’s for certain, as with the expansion to South Africa, we’d have no shortage of volunteers to help set it up.

Watch this space…