The Cockburn Association is one of the oldest ‘civic trusts’ in operation carrying on the legacy of Lord Henry Cockburn to campaign for the protection and enhancement of Edinburgh’s beauty. Entrenched in a continuous battle with developers the team at the face often-insurmountable odds to fight for the future of the city, with limited resources and at times little public awareness for support. My placement involved assistance with the planning and organisation of their annual Doors Open Day which attracts public attention to the heritage of city as well as the Cockburn’s work. As part of this I created an Android application to showcase the venues for the event.
The Cockburn is a very tight knit team, with outstanding knowledge on the city and a humble realism of what their work can achieve. Edinburgh and York have much in common but, it appears that the relationship between bodies like the council are very different here with public opinion often being ignored or overruled.
Event planning is always fraught with a difference of opinions but, the plan is slowly starting to take form for the event this year focused on the theme of Architecture, Design and Innovation. The more discussions take place the more it becomes unnerving the scale of what I’m involved in, at the height of the event there has been a recorded 20,000 visits to sites across the city. Given the impact this event can have for the Cockburn and the city, it makes me concerned for the very rusty programming skills I have, but I remain hopeful that what we do together is going to show the people that Edinburgh is rich in heritage and is still very aware of the demands of the city and its people.
Interim Account (June 2016)
In the 16 years since I last programmed anything, technology has vastly improved and fortunately companies like Google now provide step by step instructions on how to build the code. Despite many failed attempts to build something that would actually run on a phone, I have my first working prototype.
Though very basic and heavily tied to their social media profiles I have proved the principle that I can at the very least make an app that when ready can include all of the event information. I hope that with time I can embellish the design more but this may be more trial and error from this point on.
Given the theme of Design and Innovation there is a strong push to encourage new venues for consideration into the programme. Aided by the database of venues who have previously appeared I have attempted to shortlist several who fit the theme, while also investigating new sites. The ongoing management meetings have stressed the logistics of trying to get the venues secured as early as possible to provide time for the brochure, app and finalisation of details, however alongside the logistical planning the funding is a key talking point. With the issue of Brexit looming and the risk of recession there is already talk of limited funding, and a real awareness that without more money coming in the event is at risk.
Reflections (October 2016)
For me the placement was a success, data may quantify it, but I made a smartphone app that nearly 400 people installed, I was able to see the hidden workings of civic trust and the real relationship between people and the city. Most importantly I got to see the real impact that awareness has, so many people I talked to during the event didn’t know about venues or what the Cockburn really did, some tourists were just happy to learn the city was more than just the castle and Holyrood. I was saddened by the shell Edinburgh has become but can see the links to my own research and the role of heritage in the further for cities to the point I have offered to help the Cockburn again next year on their heritage themed event.