Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Market Square debate

I was having coffee next to a window looking out on Market Square yesterday and so had a ringside seat as workers dismantled the Nottingham Eye. I watched in amazement as a crane gently lowered the massive wheel and workers separated the parts out for loading onto two waiting lorries.

Last night I chatted about the Eye with three locals. Anne and Kevin raved about the view, and soon we were talking about the ice skating rink, the Christmas market and other events that have been held at the revamped Market Square.

They then explained to me how Market Square looked before the renovation.

“I think it was unnecessary and expensive,” Anne said. Our friend Marc nodded in agreement. But I fought to defend Market Square.

“I really like this idea of public space,” I said. “It’s like Chicago’s Millennium Park. It made great art accessible to everyone and has become a gathering place for people of all backgrounds.”

“I like public space, too,” Kevin said. “There was a fun event at Market Square with conjurers all over the place, but I still think the Market Square we had before was fine.”

“Well,” I admitted. “I can see how you feel that way, considering taxpayer money went to fund the Market Square renovation. Private donors underwrote Millennium Park. But do you all think the renovation was unnecessary?”

Three heads nodded in agreement, which left me thinking about the difference in transatlantic mindsets. Americans love change, they embrace it, they reach after it to make life more efficient and enjoyable. Anne, Kevin and Marc all clearly appreciate the new Market Square, yet they still think it was a waste of money. This demonstrates a British attitude I can only sum up using an American phrase: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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