Urban Commoning Practices and Community Resilience: Reflections from Spatial Reappropriation Initiatives in A Northern British Town, Todmorden

Tabassum Ahmed | Architect and PhD Researcher, University of Huddersfield, UK

The concept of the commons have received renewed interest over the last decade after Ostrom’s (1990) foundational contribution on common pool resources restructuring Hardin’s theory of The Tragedy of the Commons (1968). Investigations from various vantage points, including theoretical appraisals and their relevance to social, political, and economic discourses (De Angelis 2010; Hardt and Negri 2009; Harvey 2012) has since then expanded scholarship, with recent contributions on the relationship of the commons to the city (Stavrides 2014, 2016), urban and local governance (Foster 2011; Moroni 2015) and its unfolding in specific urban conditions (Dellenbaugh et al., 2015). In fact, because of the context specific nature of the commons, there is room for expanding knowledge on how unfolding of the commons in specific urban contexts contributes to the planning and governance processes of the city. More specifically given the rise of community-led initiatives and grassroots socio-political movements in the recent years, there is potential to further investigate community-led urban transformations through the lenses of the commons to find how it influences the local governance models and planning processes of the place. Studies on commons-based movements that build upon a framework of co-production of resilience strategies can contribute greatly to understand how communities can bring change for their immediate urban and natural environments.

Highlighting this transformative quality of socially produced relations and practices, i.e., commoning practices, in reshaping the spatial dimensions of the urban, this paper investigates how such practices contribute towards building place-specific resilience within a community in moments of socio-economical change. Using the lenses of the commons the paper analyses the case of Incredible Edible Todmorden, UK, where an active community reappropriates underused public spaces to co-produce community managed growing spaces. The study builds upon data collected through field surveys, mapping, derives and interviews conducted between July 2019 and September 2019. It aims to draw reflections on the processes and challenges at play in using the city as a shared platform while building civic resilience through community participation. More broadly it contributes to highlighting place-specific understanding on the role the urban commons may have in redefining public spaces.