Dr Robert Taub

Art’s Institute Director of Music. Recorded on 13 May 2020

You might not think of music as the natural place for a debate about land ownership but if you think about it it is the perfect mechanism.

Music is a means of communication, it rouses peoples emotions and moves them to action. Couple this with digital content and you have a multi media production through which a drama can play out.

Some Call It Home does exactly that. It uses music alongside visual digital content to present the issues of stewardship verses dominion in a way that invites the audience to debate, think deeply and take action.

The performance uses the sailing of the Mayflower to America as its subject matter, but the principles can be seen the world over.

Native communities saw themselves as stewards of the land. They would live and work in harmony with the land, it was to be preserved and it was not theirs to own. This was in stark contrast to white colonialism which repeatedly throughout history sees land taken and exploited.

It is perhaps an extreme comparison to make with a city like Plymouth, or is it.

Decisions about land ownership within a city are incredibly important. They impact how we live, community cohesion, health and economics.

So the concept of stewarding our city is interesting.

By being stewards rather than owners we would start to build a different relationship with our land, our city.

We would see it as being here in perpetuity and as such our decisions would be about long term preservation and the ultimate survival of the plant.

In turn we would come to expect anyone living in the city to share the same values and steward their homes and communities in a way that preserved harmony and the optimal ecosystem.

It feels like a utopian image but the reality is that future facing cities are already thinking like this.

They know the damage urbanisation can do to plant and people and they are exploring how they return to an equilibrium by returning land to nature, applying principles of community assets and empowering citizens.

In this time of crisis a future facing city should not be asking how we restart and recovery. Instead we should be asking how we allowed this to happen in the first place?

I don’t just mean the virus but all that the virus has highlighted in terms of a world where inequality and climate emergency place us on the precipice of self destruction.

We must ask how we make systemic change to reverse these trends and, ultimately, avoid a future pandemic or, at the very least, create resilience to be able to withstand a future pandemic, ensuring no one is left behind.

Systemic change takes time admittedly. But what if the first step was as simple as changing our mindset.

If organisations and people across the city viewed themselves as stewards of the city we might start to reimagine our collective future.

Now there’s a thought.

Hannah Harris
Plymouth Culture