Skylines

Skylines

United States

Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's urbanism website CityMetric. Every two weeks, Jonn Elledge, Barbara Speed and their guests talk about the politics and workings of cities and transport systems, and test their contention that maps are a great topic for radio. Skylines is a Roifield Brown Production.

Episodes

36. Keep calm and carry on  

Here we go again. Not for the first time in its history, London has been the victim of a terrorist attack. This time there was no bomb - but there was car, driving into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, followed by a knife attack at the gates of Parliament. That story is still developing - and frankly we don't feel qualified to talk about matters of terrorism, crime and security, anyway. So instead we talk about London's history as a target for political violence; the city's stoicism, real and imagined, and the way, in times of trouble, people the world over do just tend to get up and go to work; and whether Manchester really was revived by an IRA bomb. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.

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35. The Manc of the hour  

Yesterday, in Newton Heath, Labour's Andy Burnham launched his manifesto to be the first elected mayor of Greater Manchester. Obviously, nothing can be taken for granted in politics these days – but nonetheless, Manchester is a Labour city, and the bookies currently have him at 1/6. Andy Burnham seems highly likely to become the most important elected politician in the entire north of England. So – what does he actually want to do with the place? He was kind enough to speak with Jonn for a few minutes after the manifesto launch yesterday to tell him. And, by some miracle, the tape of that conversation is pretty much of broadcastable standard, so, you can hear it on this week’s episode. On this podcast, we've not always been as kind about Burnham as we could have been, of course. So to balance things out a bit, and make sure we’re not being too unfair, we invited our colleague Patrick Maguire – another Sefton-lad, and a self-described Burnhamite – to join us this week and to make the case for Burnham. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.

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34. Limps, marriages and deaths  

We don't want to lie to you, this is one of our sillier episodes. Things we discuss, in no particular order: -What embarrassing thing happened that means Jonn’s been limping for the past two days, and whether this is a sign the street furniture is turning against him; -How bad driving in the inner city brings out his road rage; -Whether it's okay to propose on public transport; -Whether it's okay to dump someone on public transport; -Whether it's okay to start a singalong on public transport; -Whether it is ever, in fact, okay to start a conversation on public transport; -Funerals. Oh, and Stephanie makes Jonn sing the Only Fools and Horses theme tune. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Don't worry, next week I'm going to make her talk about the housing crisis. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.

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33. Parallel histories  

“Is there a podcast this week?” Someone tweeted us yesterday. “Is it about trains? I’d like it to be about trains.” Oh boy have we got good news for you. The first half is very much about trains – or at least, the tracks they run on, as Jonn tells Stephanie what I learned when I accidentally wrote a history of the London Underground. (Honestly, he just meant to do the line names but it kind of got out of control.) Quick precis: there’s a huge gap in the 20th century, and the British state is obsessed with bloody royalty. Then Stephanie talks about her favourite crazy article of the week: a piece in the Daily Mail which imagines what London would look like had the Gunpowder plot succeeded in 1605, thus undoing the Reformation and turning these islands back into a Catholic country. Never mind that the last 400 years of British, European and World history would have been different, the article says – let’s just assume that a few of London’s buildings would look a bit French. Then Jonn gets a bit ranty for reasons you’ll understand when we get there. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.  

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32. In the Loop  

“Let’s do an extra podcast when I’m in the States,” she said. “It’ll be easy,” she said. Reader, it was not easy. At risk of demystifying ourselves it took us a surprisingly long time to get to a stage when we could actually hear each other, let alone be sure that our antiquated recording device could hear either one of us. Anyway, we got there in the end, even if the audio quality isn’t quite all we’d hope it would be. So: this week, Stephanie is in the great state of Illinois, splitting her time between an archive in Carbondale down state, and hanging out in Chicago. She tells Jonn about her adventures on Amtrak and how she’s fallen in love with Union Station, and we talk about the best skyscrapers to climb if you fancy a good view of the city. Less trivially, she also discusses signs of resistance to the Trump administration, including the ongoing protests, and the group of lawyers offering free legal advice to those trying to pass immigration at O’Hare Airport. The title of this episode, incidentally, refers to the name of Chicago’s downtown. That, in turn, is named after the loop in the elevated railway network, where trains from the suburbs circle round the central business district before heading back out of the city once again. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.

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31. The Iron Road to Europe  

This week on the podcast we are talking about trains. You might think that we talked about trains a mere two episodes back. To which we respond – trains! Trains are great! Woohoo, trains! Okay, so one big reason why we’re back on public transport again is because it’s what this week’s guest really wanted to talk about. As well as being the political editor of Buzzfeed UK, Jim Waterson is a massive railway nerd, and is the only person ever to – we don’t use this word lightly – beg to appear on this podcast. He tells us the delightfully screwy story of regional Eurostars: how the British government spent hundreds of millions of pounds commissioning trains and building infrastructure so that you could get sleeper trains from Manchester, Wolverhampton or Swansea to the continent – yet never managed to run a single train. Before we hear from Jim, though, Jonn bores Stephanie to tears by enthusiastically recounting everything I’ve learnt about the history of the British railways from a book he’s just finished reading, Matthew Engel’s Eleven Minutes Late. Afterwards we read out some tweets in which people recount their biggest transport horror stories. And we attempt to answer a question for the ages: what the hell is it with men masturbating at women on public transport? Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland. Skylines is supported by 100 Resilient Cities. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

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30. Now we are one  

This week marks our birthday: Skylines is a whole year old. To mark this momentous occasion, I decided to invite two people who've been key to the success of Skylines back, to talk about whatever weird stuff they wanted to. First up, one time co-host Barbara Speed is back, to tell us about her long-time obsession with Greggs. Yes, the “popular high street bakery chain”. No, really, that's what we're talk about. I mean, we talk a bit about what the success of the chain tells us about the British High Street, but for the most part, we're just talking about Greggs, and why Barbara is obsessed with it. Then, a man without whom we wouldn't be here at all – our erstwhile producer, Roifield Brown, who was responsible for giving me the push I needed to start a podcast in the first place – pops by to tell us about his own obsession. In his case, it's the failings and future of his home town, England's second city, Birmingham. (I wrote a lot about Birmingham, and the wider West Midlands, in this series last year.) Thanks to Barbara, Roifield, and to all the other people who've deigned to come and talk nonsense into a microphone with us over the last year. And, y'know, thanks for listening, to it, too. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland. Skylines is supported by 100 Resilient Cities. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

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29. The Permanent Way  

This week, we're not mucking about: we're going full-transport nerd. First up Jonn tells Stephanie about his abortive adventures inter-railing in the long hot summer of 1999 - an almost entirely appalling experience about which he briefly considered writing a very short memoir under the title "Belgian Boy Scouts and Psychosomatic Diarrhoea". The inspiration for this was the news that a German MEP has proposed free interrailing passes for every EU citizen on their 18th birthday. So we share our experiences of scary nuns and Soviet buses on Europe's transport network, and discuss whether better transport links really could create a European identity. Next up, the Guardian technology writer and New Statesman escapee Alex Hern pops by to talk us through the hyperloop: why it is a real thing, why it will nonetheless almost never happen, and why it typifies everything wrong with the entire Silicon Valley culture. To wrap up, the regulars talk about trolleybuses, suspended monorails, outdoor escalators and whatever other weird transport systems come to mind. We also, briefly, get sucked into existential terror by the arrival of president Trump. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.

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28. New year, new mayors  

This week, it's cold, it's January, and everything's a bit depressing. So to cheer ourselves up, why don't we have a nice chat about municipal government structures? First up, Jonn talks Stephanie through what is arguably England's biggest local government shake up in 40 years: plans for "metro mayors" in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and selected other cities. We talk about why it is that, just four months before the elections, it's surprisingly unclear how many of these new mayors there are actually going to be; why some of the other big cities aren't getting mayors at all; and we're probably a bit gratuitously mean about yorkshire. After that, to lighten the mood, Stephanie shares some stories of weird local government initiatives from around the world, including "the guy who tried to ban death" and "the foot powder that got itself elected mayor". And finally we talk about Transport for London's tube bylaws for basically no reason at all. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.

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27. Christmas special service  

There's long been a tradition on British television of Christmas specials. Old characters come back, stories get bigger and more melodramatic, and the whole thing feels just a tiny bit self-indulgent. This is our Christmas special, so, well, you know what to expect. Things we talk about this week, in no particular order: The CityMetric Christmas playlist – that is, which Christmas songs are actually about cities/maps/geography/something; How Jonn started the year by wandering around London with a map and a film crew, pretending to be lost, because of this story about station names; How he ended it riding up front in a train (sorry, Jim); The CityMetric Christmas quiz, which Stephanie wrote specially to flummox him (you can see the questions on our website); How we'd like to hear more from those of you who listen to this thing who aren't in London, New York or another of the cities we bang on about all the time. If you're the person who's listening to this in Tirana or Tehran, please do write in. Lastly, we are giving serious thought to doing a live episode at some point next spring, probably somewhere in London that serves drinks. If you’d be up for that, have suggestions about topics or guests, or would even like to offer us a venue, you can write in about that, too. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland.

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26. Parklife  

This week's podcast presented us with an unusual challenge: which album by 90s Britpop four-piece Blur should we name it after? Leisure would work. So would The Great Escape. (13 would be silly because this is episode 26, and the less said about The Magic Whip the better.) Anyway, we went with Parklife because, well, we're talking about parks, and all sorts of other ways of having fun in cities. We've been a bit gloomy of late, you see (and little wonder; have you seen the world recently?). So this week, we're talking about fun things. Fun thing number one: Christmas. Stephanie and Jonn discuss going home for the holidays, the sad fate of this year’s Gävle Goat, Manchester's long and noble tradition of terrifying giant Santas, and why it is I insist on going to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park every year even though it's obviously going to be hell. Fun thing number two: Parks. Peter Watts swings by, to talk about Britain's parks – their origins, social function, and the fact so many of them are now in serious financial difficulty. Fun thing number three: Walks. Regular CityMetric contributor Ed Jefferson joins Jonn to discuss their common, faintly eccentric interest in spending our free time walking for dozens of miles through depressing industrial landscapes for no particular reason. What on earth do they think they are doing? Last but not least, we asked the internet: what are your favourite urban Christmas traditions? The answers may surprise you. No, really. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland, and is a Roifield Brown production. Skylines is supported by 100 Resilient Cities. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

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25. The End of the World  

This week, in keeping with the global mood, we’re talking about threats to civilisation, and the things we can do to combat them. First up, Stephanie and Jonn discuss Trump – yes, again – and fail to discuss the disappearance of the ice in the Arctic because one of us finds the whole thing far too depressing. Then, in an attempt to cheer ourselves up, we discuss the British government's ban on lettings agency fees, and various things we have done to troll estate agents. After that, it's onto more serious matters, as we hear from two people at the forefront of the efforts to protect us from our dangerous age. Dante Disparte, the founder of consultancy Risk Cooperative, tells us about the threats facing our cities; then Michael Berkowitz, president of the NGO 100 Resilient Cities, tells us what we can do to protect them. (If the name of the latter organisation looks a little bit familiar, that's because they've been kind enough to sponsor our fine podcast.) Then, to round off, we share our favourite stories of municipal arson. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman's cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland and produced by Roifield Brown.

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24. Trumpocalypse Now  

This is, like that Saved By the Bell where Jessie got addicted to drugs, another very special episode. Partly it's because it's, disappointingly, Stephanie-free. (For various boring travel-related reasons, I'm afraid it's been pretty much impossible to get us into the same room at the same time.) But mostly it's because of a sneaking suspicion that, in light of recent events, nobody much cares about things like metro maps and infrastructure right now. So instead, I'm joined by a pair of colleagues from the New Statesman politics desk, Stephan Bush and Julia Rampen, to discuss the big news of the week: President-elect Donald Trump. How is the rust belt like the north of England? Is it economics, culture, or simply racism that cause rural areas to vote differently from urban ones? And most importantly - are we all going to die? We'll be back soon, with our normal co-host, our normal producer and our normal sponsor. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman's cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and (mostly) Stephanie Boland and (usually) produced by Roifield Brown.

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Roads, racism and ruins: American Election Special  

This week, Jonn is in America, chasing cool cities along the interstate and catching up with – gulp! – Trump voters.

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22. Northern soul  

This week's podcast is sort of the conclusion of a two-parter. On the last show, we talked about the history and economy of England's post-industrial northern cities. This week, we're north of the Watford Gap once again, but this time we're talking culture. (A note for overseas listeners: don't worry, we've not given up on the outside world, and we'll be back to a more international service soon enough. Also, a bunch of the stuff we talk about on this one does reflect on cities more broadly so you should listen to it anyway. So there.) First up, in what is clearly an attempt to troll me, Stephanie makes me talk about a subject that's absolutely central to life in Liverpool, Manchester, and many other northern cities, but remains absolutely baffling to me: football. To do that, we're joined by Neil Atkinson, the host of the ludicrously successful Anfield Wrap podcast, which chronicles Liverpool FC and Liverpool life through as many as 15 shows a week. He talks about the role football plays in the life of the city, and why he thinks better links to Salford is the key to boosting th Merseyside economy. You can follow Neil on Twitter here. Our other guest this week is the cultural commentator and BBC 6 Music DJ Stuart Maconie. In October 1936, 200 men marched from Jarrow, near Newcastle, to London to protest against unemployment and poverty in the north during the Great Depression. As I write, Maconie is following their route 80 years on. He talks to Stephanie about northern identity and the relationship between north and south from a windy road somewhere in County Durham. (As an actual famous person, he probably doesn’t need me to point you to his Twitter feed, but just in case: it’s here.) Last but not least we discuss – what would it take to get us to move north? Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman's cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland and produced by Roifield Brown.

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21. North and south  

You know there are people – bad, mean people – who've been known to accuse CityMetric of being a bit London-centric. As the world's leading purveyor of news about minor changes to the tube map, we can't understand this at all. Anyway. In an attempt to balance things out a bit, we're dedicating the whole of this week's episode to the world on the other side of the north/south divide. I talk about my recent trip to Liverpool, and what I made of that great city (which is, I'm sure, dying to know what another bloody Londoner thinks of it). Then Stephanie, an actual northerner, tells me about the relationship between Liverpool and her home town of Manchester. While we're at it, we also discuss why it is that, in Lancashire, local identity comes from cities while, across the Pennines, the Yorkshire identity still dominates Leeds and Sheffield. Next two staffers from the Centre for Cities – Newcastle's Ben Harrison and Sunderland's Paul Swinney – talk about their relationship between their two cities and why Sunderland is definitely not just a part of Newcastle. We also discuss how England's city region and devolution deals are coming along, and why the whole process has turned into a bit of a mess. Last but not least, Stephanie and I discuss one of the key questions of our age. Labour should, by rights, storm next year's Manchester metro mayor election – so how will Andy Burnham mess it up this time? Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge (that's me) and Stephanie Boland, and is a Roifield Brown production. Skylines is supported by 100 Resilient Cities. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

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20. Before the flood  

This is, as they used to say of the installments of Saved By the Bell in which someone got addicted to drugs, a very special episode. In fact, it's special for two reasons. Firstly it's episode 20 (round numbers are cool). Secondly, it's the first to be supported by our new sponsor, 100 Resilient Cities: an NGO dedicated to helping cities prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. To celebrate, this week, we're talking about an issue very close to 100RC's heart: how coastal cities can deal with rising sea levels. To discuss this, Stephanie and I are joined by our colleague India Bourke, the office climate expert. She talks us through the latest science, and we debate why, when the Arctic ice sheet is in dramatic decline, we aren't more frightened. Then I talk to some of the chief resilience officers in port cities at the front line of the fight to keep cities above water: Arnoud Molenaar of Rotterdam in the Netherlands; and Christine Morris and her deputy Katerina Oskarsson, of Norfolk, Virginia. They tell me what challenges their cities are facing from the water; what measures they're taking to defend against them; and how to win the battle for political support. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland, and is a Roifield Brown production. Skylines is supported by 100 Resilient Cities. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

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19. How it all began  

This week's podcast is a game of two halves. (Stephanie didn't manage to get a football reference onto the tape so I'm putting one here instead.) First of all, we talk about why it is people move to cities – or to be more specific, why people continue to move to London, when the experience of finding somewhere to live here is so completely bloody horrible. Stephanie relates her recent experiences with house-hunting and letting agents, while I look on with the serene sympathy of one who's insulated from this particular hellscape. That covers why people move to cities today – then we look at why people moved to cities in the past. To be more specific: several thousand years in the past. Rob Monaco is the US historian behind the frankly brilliant Podcast History of Our World. He runs me through the latest research on where the first cities could be found; discusses what motivated people to found them in the first place; and, most importantly, explains what sewers and street furniture would have looked like in the ancient past. If you've always secretly want to know how to tell your Ur from your Uruk – and who among us hasn’t – then this is the podcast for you.

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18. Sex* and the city (*gender)  

On this week's podcast, we're talking gender. Which of course is not actually the same as sex – the former is social, the latter biological – but until such time as HBO makes a hit sitcom called “Gender and the City”, this is our title and we're sticking to it. Anyway. This week's guests: Caroline Criado-Perez is the writer, journalist and feminist campaigner, who wrote a fantastic feature for us on why cities need to take women into account when planning. She gives us a whistlestop tour of her findings, from playgrounds in Vienna to toilets in Mumbai. Lauren Elkin is the author of Flâneuse: The (Feminine) Art of Walking in Cities, recently serialised on BBC Radio 4. She tells Stephanie about the origins of the book, and why walking can be a radical act. Sarah Coughlan and Marissa Santikarn are two-thirds of the Berlinials podcast. They tell us about the joys and hassles of ex-pat Berlin. Lastly, Stephanie and I discuss how her experiences of London differ from mine (most notably: I get cat-called surprisingly rarely). And we talk about how cities could be made more welcoming for women. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland, and is a Roifield Brown production.

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17. Kings in the north  

Last week, Britain's Labour party announced the results of the internal party elections to determine its candidates for three of the new "metro mayor" posts being created next May. Former health secretary Andy Burnham will contest Greater Manchester; Liverpool Walton MP is the candidate for the greater Liverpool region; and Siôn Simon is to run in the West Midlands (Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and the Black Country). The Labour party nationally is – and let's be nice about this – completely knackered. But it remains strong in Britain's cities, and won back the mayoralties in both London and Bristol earlier this year. It's highly probable that Burnham, Rotherham and Simon will all be elected as metro mayors next May. So this seems like a great moment to discuss who these new titans of the British political scene are. Stephanie and I are joined by our colleague Julia Rampen, who edits the New Statesman's politics blog, the Staggers, to talk about what new mayors can do for the Midlands and the North; how Manchester will cope with a Liverpool-supporter as mayor; and, most vexingly, why every one of them is a bloke. Skylines is the podcast from CityMetric, the New Statesman cities site. It's presented by Jonn Elledge and Stephanie Boland, and is a Roifield Brown production.

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