15 November 2010
New research shows that eight out of ten people think everyone should be able to experience beauty on a regular basis. Only 18 per cent of people think that beauty matters less if you are poor.
The findings form part of a project called People and places, commissioned by CABE in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Launched shortly before the government’s new planning bill, it explores how to get people interested and involved in shaping the quality of the place where they live.
In the nationwide survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, people were asked about beauty and the built environment: how important beauty is to them; where they experience it most often; who they think is responsible for it; and whether they think there is enough beauty in their area.
MORI made a set of films in Sheffield to build up a detailed understanding of how beauty is understood and experienced by the city’s many communities. Their views show how beauty affects people's lives. Thirteen year-old Jack Dale talks about finding beauty in a ruined castle on the edge of the city. ‘It’s somewhere we hang out and look after. We stand up to other people who don’t. What’s the point in trashing things? If there is no beauty in your life, just horrible stuff, you’re not going to be a nice person’.
The new research reveals that people have time for beauty and strong views on what should be done. Only 12 per cent of people are too busy to notice beauty in their area. More than half of the lower income group thought there was not enough beauty in their area. 44% of people think councils have more responsibility than anyone else for ensuring the built environment is beautiful.
Last year fewer than one in five people took part in a public consultation. Only 37 per cent of people now think they can influence decisions affecting their local area, down from 44 per cent in 2001. Clearly new approaches are needed to engage a wider range of people involved in shaping their local environment, not least if we want a new planning system that is genuinely collaborative at a neghbourhood level.
Richard Simmons, CABE chief executive, said that although it feels as though discussing beauty has been a taboo, it is time for that to change. "It is clearly a good way to have serious conversations about the quality of a place where we all live. This research shows that talking about beauty is closely linked to our individual sense of well-being: our personal worth, collective pride and appetite for making places better."
AHRC chief executive,Professor Rick Rylance, points out that no one wants to live in an ugly place. “Who doesn't want graceful buildings and to watch trees turning the colours of autumn? This project is about important things: about having an environment that inspires and enriches; about having a sense of belonging to it; and about having a voice in its making. Its questions couldn't be more urgent, nor its findings more timely.'
If you cannot see the video(s) below go to www.cabe.org.uk/redirects/videos