The 8th Annual Conference was delighted to announce Patrick Willcocks, European Policy and Urban Affairs Adviser (Birmingham), as our keynote speaker. For the last 25 years (until 2012) he has worked as an economist for local authorities. Currently, he lecturers and does consultancy work in Birmingham and has an intimate knowledge about European cities, particularly Birmingham.
During our seemingly too brief keynote session Patrick talked about why cities are important for Europe, the current challenges and global issues cities face, and what a successful European city might look like in the future.
Points of discussion included ‘smart cities’, areas of environmental and economic concern such as air quality and pollution, climate change, resource stress, unemployment and changing industries, and most importantly, the potential global impact of Africa, China and India’s urbanisation. The conclusion of this talk highlighted that while European cities are often seen as a problem they can also be the best motivators of progress; however, many things will need to change in order to make city life competitive and sustainable.
This session prompted a passionate Q+A session. This included a discussion of the role of the Arts in bigger issues and how the cultural sector can stimulate thought, change and reach the public at large in ways that other areas cannot. The session closed with a discussion comparing the performance of continental cities and the UK which led to a fascinating consideration of the role of privatisation in relation to resources and transport.
The GCfE was delighted to have hosted such an engaging and topical keynote address and further consideration of the future of European cities will surely be a point of interest at future forum events.
For more from Patrick please visit www.urbanpivot.com or follow him @GlobalBirminghm.