A History of Local Government in Ten Spaces: LGiU’s Favourites

The Space Race is over! A great big thank-you to everyone for participating. There were 44 entries in total, so we’ve been debating our favourites for a while. We would have loved to have picked a winner, and for a long time we did try to rank our top five spaces. But the entries proved so diverse that it was impossible to determine which was  ‘best’. In order to settle this once and for all, we decided to let staff pick a space each. You’ll notice there are six entries below, and that’s because Rossall Point Observation Tower was so popular we’ve blogged about it twice!

Jonathan Carr-West chose Derby City Council’s Derby Arena

Derby ArenaI love Derby City Council’s new Derby Arena velodrome and its unabashed modernity. It’s a beautiful building which fuses form and function perfectly. It feels taut. Poised. Its curves mirror and seem barely to contain the energy of the cycle track within. But its commitment to the future goes beyond the aesthetic: it’s also about jobs, inward investment, visitor numbers and the narrative of place. Many of the entries to this competition involved the preservation or restoration of great historic buildings. Of course, local authorities should be cherishing our built heritage, but looking ahead requires a bolder vision. So Derby’s commitment to and investment in shaping the future seems to me to be exactly what local government should be about.

Lauren Lucas chose East Riding of Yorkshire’s Sewerby Hall

Sewerby Hall My pick is Sewerby Hall in Bridlington – how many stately homes boast a zoo, sea views and are accessible by Land Train (answers on the back of a postcard)? Also you can adopt a monkey. I have very fond memories of visiting it as a child on family holidays and took my own daughter there last year. It was still excellent and the council do a great job of running it. Sewerby Hall and Gardens is more than a visitor attraction though. It also has an outreach centre that hosts around 30 adults with learning disabilities from across East Riding. They use the horticultural environment to gain training and work experience in a wide range of subject areas.

Andrew Walker chose Wyre Council’s Rossall Point Observation Tower

ThRossall e Rossall Point observatory stood out for me. The building hosts a National Coastwatch Institution, providing eyes and ears along the coast, as well as an excellent observation deck for birdwatching, and views of the sand dunes. But it’s the design that really grabbed me, leaning into the wind as it looks out over the Lancashire sea.

Ingrid Koehler chose Leeds City Council’s Armley Mills

Armley Mills Armley Mills, the Industrial Heritage Museum in Leeds, is my favourite space. The work of a place affects its character and its people as much or more than anything else. Leeds has an impressive local museum system, but a big part of that is Armley Mills which once housed a thriving cloth mill and now reflects its wider heritage as the City of One Thousand Trades. It captures the stories of the working lives of the men and women and children who laboured at machine and mill, the sweat of their brows building a city and a nation.  It memorialises both toil and ingenuity, the power of water and wheel and the contribution of human labour.

They’re working to ensure the collection is all operable, so it becomes the engineering enthusiast or small child’s wonderland of clanging machines of yester year.

Chris Naylor chose North Somerset Council’s Dismaland

Disabanksys-dismalandmaland is a wonderfully counter-intuitive initiative. It’s just NOT what councils should do, but in fact may have repositioned in Noth Somerset and Weston-super-Mare positively in a way that a traditional tourism strategy might never have achieved! What’s more, locals were encouraged to enjoy the cultural as well as the economic benefits, being offered a locals only day at the exhibit. North Somerset Council commissioned the art project to take place on a disused lido and played along with Banksy’s secrecy wonderfully, pretending that the site was being used for a Hollywood film set.

Hannah Blythe chose Leicester City Council’s National Space Centre

National Space CentreWell, it’s a space race after all! The National Space Centre is an impressive local authority museum, featuring the UK’s largest domed planetarium and a three-storey rocket tower containing the Blue Streak and Thor Able rocket. On a single day out, you can see some awe-inspiring scientific innovation, but that’s just the beginning of the National Space Centre’s educational activities. The Space Centre was set up as a collaboration of Leicester University and the council, and runs educational programmes linked with the National Curriculum for Primary and Secondary Education. The educational team are also active outside of Leicester, taking an exhibition to this year’s Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons.

That’s it folks: the LGiU’s six favourite spaces. Local government manage and own unique buildings up and down the country, providing educational, cultural and sporting facilities, while also generating income for local areas. We hope you’ve enjoyed celebrating these spaces with us.

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