Research Project

What’s In a Name?
22 December, 2008

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Councils should commemorate local British heroes by naming public places such as streets and parks in their name according to a report published today (Mon).

The report – which has been endorsed by Government Minister John Healey MP – argues that recognising the achievements of local citizens will help to build community cohesion and local civic pride, whilst giving areas a unique identity. It argues that names such as Shakespeare Way and Nelson Road help to celebrate our collection identity and remember British history, and that we should do more to celebrate contemporary British icons.

Published by the New Local Government Network, author James Hulme suggests that councils should organise ‘X Factor’ style public votes to re-name public spaces after local heroes. He urges councils to build upon the example of the Mayor of Mansfield who celebrated the two Olympic gold medals won by local swimmer, Rebecca Adlington by naming a road and the local swimming pool after her.

James Hulme also argues that Edinburgh could rename its public library after local resident J.K. Rowling and that Birmingham should recognise its local achievement by commemorating local figures as diverse as J.R.Tolkien to Corporal Matthew Croucher, who this year was awarded the Victoria Cross for heroic action in Afghanistan.

It suggests that Manchester could name a local park after former Manchester United hero, David Beckham and also name a road after the Gallagher brothers from Oasis.

It also argues that London could recognise contemporary icons such as Twiggy and David Bowie and urges Boris Johnson to pledge that any British athlete who wins more than two medals at the 2012 Olympic Games will have a street named after them in the capital city.

Local Government Minister, John Healey MP has backed the proposals and urges councils to adopt the approach.

Mr Healey said:

”I think it’s great for local democracy and local pride if people can name their public spaces after the people who are important to them. They may choose national icons. But they may also choose their community’s unsung heroes; those who serve others and win the respect and admiration of the people around them.”

“Over the past year, I’ve dealt with the aftermath of last summer’s floods. I’ve seen many ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help their neighbours and get their communities back on their feet. These are just the sort of unsung heroes that local people could honour in this way.”

Hulme also argues that commemorating local achievement would help to develop community cohesion and allow local people to take pride in their locality. In the paper, What’s in a name? Celebrating achievement through public spaces, he argues:

“Celebrating the achievements of local people would give areas a unique identity and focus, especially at a time when there is concern over so called ‘clone towns’ of identikit high streets. It would also be a strong sign that local areas are proud of their heritage and be an opportunity to enlighten newcomers and tourists to their area of the many things achieved there.”

The report also argues that local areas need not just celebrate the achievements of famous heroes, but also commemorate the work of unsung locals such as teachers, policemen and women or local businessmen or women who have made a positive contribution to the area.

Publication Date: 22 December 2008