The British writer and journalist explains that public space should be social and accessible to everyone and describes the consequences of burgeoning private property
Shared Spaces recorded this interview with the British journalist and writer Owen Jones in May 2014, just before he gave the lecture “Who Has Power Today?” about the present-day situation of political protest which is mainly embodied by street demonstrations. His lecture was programmed as part of the cycle titled “The Idea of Europe”.
Jones stresses that one of the characteristics of public space is that it is social and accessible to the whole population, a place where people can “… express themselves, enjoy their leisure time [and] socialise together.” He contrasts these spaces with private property which can only be used when “… you have the privilege which is granted to you if you get the permission of those who own it.” Jones also mentions the Indignados-inspired movement, Occupy London, which was not able to occupy part of the financial district because that land was private property belonging to the Corporation of London. Accordingly, “… they had to assemble outside St Paul’s Cathedral and reclaim that as the land of the people for them to express themselves.” Jones believes that private property “… is seen as sacred, is seen as having more rights than those of the people and so the forces of the state are always there to impose and reinforce that private property.” He concludes that “… public and social space should be defended and preserved. It shouldn’t be a case of the land of the people being taken away and used for the profit-making purposes of a tiny elite.”
Owen Jones’ favourite public spaces are the parks of London, a city that is well known for its many large green spaces, for example Hyde Park, the example Jones cites. These are places that exemplify the ideals of public space associated with socialisation, free access and leisure.