Happy Birthday Ebenezer!

Let’s celebrate with two tea bags and a slice of practical hope

Today, 29th January, would have been Ebenezer Howard’s birthday. While he was born 171 years ago, Howard’s ideas continue to underpin the work of the TCPA and many people’s thinking about how to build a more sociable and kinder society.  Lockdown means birthdays are odd for everyone right now so to mark this special occasion we’re publishing something a little bit different, too…!   

The global pandemic has forced changes in how we live, work and play. It has done so at a pace and scale that is at times hard to comprehend. We have all been impacted by and grappled with these changes in different ways. We have also seen widespread discussion and exploration of what society will look like when the pandemic is under control. Beyond COVID-19, the climate, housing and wider health crises mean there is certainly a need for a new approach.   

The TCPA has been exploring these ideas for over 120 years. The Garden City idea was far more than an approach to design and planning, it was a moral philosophy of place, a practical framework for realising no less than a new society. It sought to answer the question – how are we going to live? The Garden City movement, and the principles that underpin it have always offered a model for a different way of living, one with social justice at its heart. When we know the impacts of these challenges will not be experienced equally, this aspect is more important than ever.  

So, if the answers have been there for 123 years, why have we failed to make them a reality? Why, despite reference to Garden Cities in national policy, have we failed to make this need for real change land with decision makers? And as we look towards the COP26 event in November, we have to ask how have we failed to make a real difference on tackling climate change or entrenched poverty. We need to explore these questions but more importantly we need to offer practical solutions.  

Two Tea bags to Utopia

On the 171st anniversary of the birth of Ebenezer we are publishing ‘Two Tea bags to Utopia’ which can only be described as a very personal podcast (which, its author suggests, is also potentially career-ending) by our Director of Policy, Dr Hugh Ellis. The podcast is slightly hard to summarise although one early reviewer has described it as like Alan Bennett reading the shipping forecast and best listened to while cleaning the toilet. The content is a personal reflection on our current challenges and what we might do to make change happen. It’s very definitely not TCPA policy but we hope it is a useful contribution to the diverse debate we need about our future. We publish it today in the hope it will be provocative and entertaining in equal measure. But, above all, with a desire that it will get people thinking about the future at a time when the need for ‘practical hope’ is greater than ever. 

So put the kettle on and tuck in.  

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