Reading an interesting article, with examples from the UK and the US, about how place branding by communities can have a positive impact including: attracting and retaining talent; shifting negative perceptions; supporting economic recovery; stimulating demand, and strengthening civic pride.
Read the article yourself here.
Liz, I just knew that once you mentioned power, branding and place in your title you were issuing an open invite to the latest bunch of ignoramuses to crawl out of the woodwork. Thank God, up here in B138 we feel we are well above these toponymical squabbles, well content to strengthen our civic pride by retaining our local B138 talent, with no wish to attract blow-ins from the more deprived lower reaches of A105.
So it seems that very few people read the article before actually steaming in with their opinion, or it seems understand what a brand and branding is.
Branding is not marketing
This is a common mistake but the two are not synonymous. What an estate agent, a council regeneration exercise or a developer calls an area is immaterial. They are marketing an area and they rarely take into account what the area means to people who already live there, because they are trying to attract people to come and live there and using trends created by marketing people in media to do it. So all the comments and funny stories about estate agents don't illustrate the brand but how the area is being marketed to outsiders, thinking of moving here.
Branding is not just the name of a place
Sure the name is important or how you gonna find it on a map? What is actually important however is the associations in people's minds and the relationship people have with the name. So, a number of people on this thread were keen to help me disassociate Wood Green with Shopping City, while happily associating Harringay with *its* shopping centre.
In that case, were the people on the Wood Green Hell thread WRONG to continue with their belief that Wood Green was Shopping City and really nothing more than that because THAT IS WHERE THEY GO and what they do there?
Yet when we started a "branding exercise" for Wood Green, i.e. we asked people to give us their ideas and positive associations for the area known as Wood Green, it was clear that Wood Green started at Turnpike Lane and stretches up past the police station branching out to Ally Pally and down Lordship Lane. This is the mental geography of the place that people who know it well have. Brand Wood Green also encompassed history and architecture as well as the small pleasures that people take there.
So, a part of Harringay is known as Green Lanes on the maps. For some people as it is the only place they use, that is what they call it and they have their associations with it - Turkish, hardware, veg, hairdressers etc. Fine but its not the name of the whole area and the mental geography of a place encompasses an area much bigger than a mile strip of shops and restaurants. Call it that if you want but don't expect me to do that or tell me I'm wrong for doing that, for me it's just 'down the road' I never say let's go to Green Lanes for a pizza.
We all 'brand' whether we like it or not
Every time someone calls a place by a pet name Stokie, Crouchie, Tottie they are branding. Adding an ie/y sound in English makes it seem safer, more child-friendly, cuddlier and familiar, like a child says biccy. Those who live there will present their area to outsiders in the terms that they are comfortable with - the shops they like, the things they can do there, the sense of community, the undiscovered strengths. When Tottenham Plough was created, the Tottenham name is being used to present an alternative to a media view of Tottenham as a few housing estates on the edge of London, to associate Tottenham with small business, craft and high quality.
Because brand is a set of ideas and associations. Brand is your relationship with that place. Brand is how you identify in positive (or negative terms).
Harringay has a wealth of historical evidence to establish its right to exist. It wasn't a made-up name by a council dept or an estate agent. The schools are called Harringay not Green Lanes. It was attached to famous places like Harringay Stadium and Arena. It has been severely beaten down by a council that thinks people are too stupid to tell the difference between Harringay and Haringey although they manage it in other places (Camden for example) without even a spelling change. The power of branding is reclaiming the name, its associations and its history and creating a sense of local identity in the face of pressures from outside. The power of branding is bringing together people who have been allowed to see themselves in opposition to one another by divisive marketing of an area by the powers that be and re-creating the pride of the Harringay resident whether born and bred or newly arrived in their area.
Liz - I did read the article and meant to respond but got caught up in responding to others' points - I was going to say pretty much the same thing as you say in your last paragraph (although probably not as eloquently) so I won't bother to repeat it, but know that I agree!
In architecture I don't respond to, or cite, or label the 'brand' of the place. My analysis would cite the narrative of the spirit of place and local distinctiveness. This would not only encompass obvious physical characteristics/ attributes but also characteristics important to people such as social history, stories and local characters. In my opinion branding, as you describe, is an end product packaging up one groups collective interpretation of their place into tangible signs and symbols, like the Shrewsbury example in the article.
By extension a marketing exercise puts that message out there into the public realm/ media and that brand/ marketing may act as a way to embolden the already active spirit of the place. It is just an added layer to the distinctiveness of place.
Specific to local areas as I read them...
Green Lanes in my mind is like one of London's rivers (or the New River to cite an example to HOL readers), flowing through a varied landscape. As a physical piece of infrastructure it is a distributor road on which buildings/ structures/ spaces have developed over time. But you go further to discuss that it is space shared and in most case beloved by many different communities for many different reason. For one person it is the focus of 'Palmers Greek', for another it is Grand Parade, for another it is terminating a cycle ride at Newington Green.
IMO Harringay and Green Lanes are intertwined. Without the physical road it wouldn't be such an exciting place to take a bus up and down, eat or be smoked out by kebabs, go to Blend, find Christmas crackers when all others have sold out, pass across from peaceful pleasant ladder to gardens street, find yourself in Railway Fields, witness cultural curiosities, venture east-west on Overground... It fascinates me as an incubator of such ideas, emotions and stories...and I find it fascinating the way it provokes such pernickety responses on this forum when (mis)associated with another beloved place.
Harringay is still a place (don't worry) with physical and emotional attributes...but from the interpretation of what I read here and elsewhere it would be a very poor brand eroded by politics. I don't believe a place can ever be destroyed by this as there is already a vast body of information associated with it...enhanced by this forum. HOL is an extension of that place - and somewhere which helps me as a new resident to the local area build a more vivid picture of it. Place branding packages that up and better communicates the message of a collective group to a wider audience:
'I am HARRINGAY...'
'I am HARRINGAY Green Lanes'
'I am HARRINGAY Ladder'
'I am HARRINGAY Passage'
'I am HARRINGAY Market'
'I am HARRINGAY festival'
But I am no expert. I just like the area. Up for being part of finding the answers. I would love to see photos of what people like/ dislike/ find important about Harringay.
Useful stuff: http://www.gehlarchitects.com/#/486282/
I did read the article and I disagree. I'm not even sure how much of an overlap there may be in our views on this, Liz. What I saw in the article was a set of conventional assumptions about what is now loosely called "regeneration", "place-making" or "place-shaping". Assumptions which perhaps originated in the U.S. and have been accepted by many people here. But not without argument.
It seems a fairly standard approach with someone trying to "make" or "shape" each place with a pick 'n' mix 'n' match from a list which includes some or all of the following
The article seems to confuse a brand with a tagline. (On which you've read the very perceptive and funny blog entries of Charlotte Pell.) Following one of the links took me to Kentucky and their branding slogan "Kentucky Kicks Ass". Not likely to be considered for the rebranding of Tottenham High Road.)
The naming of places is at one time or another likely to be contentious. Conquerors rename the places of the conquered. Rich and powerful people want their names perpetuated. They may own or have their names attached to shops, squares, streets, Museums, towns and whole countries. Or supposedly prestigious and fancy names can be attached to places to hint at an upmarket or high society association. And not by the people who live there, but those who owned and built it.
If historical evidence is the test, I wonder is there any evidence the Gardens were ever called "The Harringay Gardens? Why call somewhere a warehouse district which as far as I know was an industrial estate and had factories where things were made? Or do we switch the criteria and say that it's up to the people who live there what they want to call it? Stokie or Tottie. In which case why bother with the history? Just have an extra box on the four-year ballot for options.
The New River? Very uninspiring name. I propose At-swim-two-ducks
There's also who benefits (cui bono). There are people around who very deliberately want to change names. Some are estate agents. Some are city planners and property developers. When the former factories are demolished to make way for flats sold off-plan to foreign investors, perhaps the new towerblocks will be called something reminiscent of past artists. Banksy heights?
Over in the far east the history of two riots is bad for property sales. So I'm sure we'll find that the boundaries of the place still called Tottenham will carry on shrinking.
Spurs' name for their new stadium was the Northumberland Project. Michael Polledri who owns Lee Estates' Hale Village hasn't flagged up the Tottenham connection. And what's the betting that someone will propose "The Hale" as the name of the new station?
(Tottenham Hale ward councillor)
Isn't everything you've listed done by outsiders to an area to market it to other outsiders with no input from residents? I don't see an example of any initiative which involved residents directly or even asks for an opinion. You list Haringey Council failures but they don't get to decide on the 'brand' - only those who have a relationship with an area do. Can't some of those things work when they are done by a community for an existing community?
Okay, people are uncomfortable with the word 'brand' because of its commercial beginnings, its association with big companies. Most branding exercises are done for companies, its true. There's even an academic qualification in brand. Neatly bound up communities sold to highest bidder. I do get it. It is a convenient shorthand for me but can be negative for others. You are seeing all of this through the prism of what is happening to Tottenham and I don't blame you at all for being nervous at the use of such terminology. [But surely you can see that Tottenham Ploughman's is a brilliant branding exercise?]
So go with a term you are comfortable with - Robert suggests celebrating local distinctiveness or spirit of place, which I'm happy to adopt if brand sails too close to a commercial wind for you (I dislike regeneration though - most places don't need to be reborn as they never died).
"Conquerors rename the places of the conquered" so it would seem since so many people in positions of power want us to change ours to something that suits them, although I'd say we're not beaten yet but continue to fight our corner. What all your Tottenham examples prove is that the original name does matter. So why feel that we shouldn't care if ours is messed with constantly?
Historical evidence that I've seen suggests that no one called them "Harringay Gardens", they were just "Harringay" - searching in archives for St Ann's brought up the fever hospital which was in West Green (an equally proud and old name). 400 years is good enough for me to keep the name New River - I'm a great respecter of tradition.
I always like to call it "Tottenham Hale Village", to distinguish it from any other one (and to make sure that Google gets to see the words used together...)
Yes, exactly! I see that Google Maps have even managed to correct the station from the bizarre "Harringay Green Lines" they had before!
Which makes perfect sense: it's quite allowed for more than one town to have a 'high street', or a 'London road', so why do people get so caught up about more than one street or road segment all called 'Green Lanes'?
(Incidentally, there's a lot of "Green Lanes" where I grew up. Not any shops on them, though.)
And while we're at it, can we reinstate West Green? It's a proper place and I'm fed up with having to say I live "Er, sort of between Harringay and Wood Green", especially when everyone's already confused about where on earth Harringay is.
And it sounds so nice and restful and bucolic.
I'll second that. I even started a Wikipedia page, but it's over to you guys now. I think there are bunch of West Greeners who feel the same.