NewsRestitch Summit

Restitch 2024, the social fabric summit

On 7-8 March 2024, Create Streets co-hosted our second Restitch summit in Coventry. This was for the foreword to the summit which greeted delegates from our founding chair, Nicholas Boys Smith alongside Adam Hawksbee, deputy director of Onward, and Josh Simons, director of Labour Together.

Social fabric matters. The places we inhabit, the people we share them with, the tissue of friendships and family, networks and institutions, the quilt of local businesses, charities and civic government, the intricately interwoven lives and hopes: all these are the essential threads of fair and prosperous places, empowered but also trusting, engaged but also reassured.

On this we can surely all agree: human beings need to belong. We cannot and do not lead our lives in abstract formulations but in real places, with a resilient and finely grained pattern of friends and family, colleagues and comrades. However, institutions and pastimes that in the past brought us together are fraying. Places of congregation, from pubs to parks, from churches to civic halls, are shuttered and abandoned. The miracles of technology, once assumed to be creating a global village, now seem to be creating a global bar-brawl, and to be isolating our fellow citizens into the bargain. The public and economic forces that plan and grow our towns and cities seem to be unfocused, resulting in communities pulled apart, high streets emptying, and social bonds coming undone, at a time when they’re needed most.

Does the future need to look like this? Onward, Create Streets and Labour Together come from different traditions and have different focuses: centre-left and centre-right, politics and place. But we all agree that we must disagree and debate well in order to restitch a stronger social fabric on the ground. We cannot do this by clutching at the fragments of the past or trying slavishly to recreate what has gone before. We need to re-imagine new forms for our communities which are in communion with the past but which can thrive today, looking to the future and harnessing the possibilities of an infinitely interconnected digital world, while remaining aware of the difficulties that can bring.

That is particularly true in an election year. How do we restitch communities, empowering local groups and councils and ensuring that we are listening to those with direct experience of our crumbling towns and villages? How do we restitch politics, “disagreeing well” as a society and avoiding the terrifyingly toxic mutual mistrust now common in America? How do we restitch neighbourhoods, physically reweaving places scarred by urban dual-carriageways or inhumane design?

This is the mission of Restitch 2024. Following on from our successful previous discussions in London and in Halifax, we aim to bring together interesting and thoughtful people across a range of industries and disciplines to seed ideas, build networks and ultimately to reweave our social fabric. We are hopeful for the future. Many of you have inspirational stories of community leadership and renewal to tell.

Welcome to Coventry. We hope you enjoy the summit and leave inspired to restitch your own social fabric in the months and years to come. Thank you so much for coming.

Nicholas Boys Smith, Chair, Create Streets

Adam Hawksbee, Deputy Director, Onward

Josh Simons, Director, Labour Together