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

53. The poison sky  

I don't mean to worry you, but if you live in a city, the air you breathe is probably killing you. As many as 40,000 deaths a year in the UK have been linked to air pollution; the WHO reckons that, in 2012, it was a factor in one in every eight deaths around the globe. So, that's the cheery topic for this week's show: why the air is disgusting and what we can do about it. To discuss it, I'm joined by the New Statesman's environment correspondent India Bourke and our Wellcome scholar Sanjana Varghese. We also speak to Simon Alcock of ClientEarth, about the environmental law charity's ongoing efforts to hold the British government to account for its repeated breaches of European law on air pollution. Don’t have nightmares, now. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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52. Transatlantic  

Well, this is new: our first crossover with another podcast. Exciting times. The podcast in question is Talking Headways which, in its own words, "explores the intersection of transportation, urban planning and city living". It’s hosted by Jeff Wood, who also runs the San Francisco-based transport consultancy the Overhead Wire, also produces the Direct Transfer daily newsletter. The plan is that we'll do two of these crossovers. This week, I'm asking Jeff some big questions about transport in the US: why some cities have it, why most don't, and whether that's likely to change. At some future date, if all goes to plan, we'll swap roles, and Jeff will interview me about the situation here in the UK. (Both episodes will be available in a slightly different version on the Talking Headways too.) Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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51. The slightly delayed 50th episode special  

Why is Leeds is better than Manchester? Where should Crossrail 3 go? Can cities escape their economic destiny? And why are British seaside towns so terrible? All these questions and more are answered, badly, in our slightly late 50th episode special, as Stephanie and Jonn answer a selection of reader questions about high speed trains, city status, and the Redcliffe-Maud report, all the while working their way through an unexpectedly acidic bottle of cava. It all seemed like a good idea at the time. No podcast next week, because Jonn is off on his holidays. We'll be back in a fortnight. 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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50. Gimme Shelter  

This is, somehow, the 50th episode of Skylines. That seems quite a lot, doesn’t it? Well done to both you and I for making it this far. This is not, in all honesty, what I intended for this episode: originally, I had hoped Stephanie would come back and we could answer listener questions, possibly while getting slightly drunk. But best laid plans did what best laid plans do, and we couldn’t make our diaries work, so we’ll do that in some future show. This week, instead, I’ve got a very special guest: myself. On Wednesday night I gave a speech on the politics of housing following the general election to a group of people working in the sector (who, if I’m absolutely honest with myself, know far more about the subject than I do). In that speech I pulled together much of what I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while – why we have a crisis, why it’s hard to solve, what I think the government is likely to do about it. And so, since I found myself facing a gap in the podcast schedule, I thought you guys might like to hear it. In other words: this episode is 20 minutes of me talking about housing, bookended up a few more minutes of me talking about the podcast and then reading some tweets. If you’ve always enjoyed Skylines but don’t much like my voice, this is probably an episode you should skip. Next week, we’ll be back to regular service with some real people joining me to talk about things. I promise. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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49. The strange death of municipal England  

A hundred years ago, England’s municipal governments were the envy of the world. Every city ran its own trams, power and water systems, and the town hall was often the best looking building in town. Today, CityMetric’s excitement about the rise of the metro mayor notwithstanding, England is one of the most centralised countries in the western world. So what went wrong? To take us on a whistle stop history of municipal England, I’m joined by self-professed local government nerd Emma Burnell. Our conversation takes in everything from Joseph Chamberlain to Clement Attlee to Derek Hatton to the Grenfell fire. After that, we ask the audience: what’s the strangest local government name/boundary/job title you’ve come across? From the responses, incidentally, I am delighted to see that we’ve accidentally made the Tees Valley’s own Sue Jeffrey into a meme. PS: if you’d like to give us a nice review on iTunes, it'd help other people discover the show, which we'd, y'know, like. So, thanks. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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48. Going Underground  

This week, we’re all about pushing the envelope and breaking new ground. So here's an entire podcast about the Tube. First up, the clever bit. One time CityMetric James O'Malley has since blossomed into the editor of Gizmodo UK. Earlier this year, he caused a bit of a splash with his scoop about how Transport for London has been using wifi data to track passengers – to find out how people actually move around London Underground. So – what are TfL playing at? How will this sort of thing help transport authorities redesign their networks? Should we be worried? And are all the signs at King’s Cross such lies? Then, the less clever bit: Jonn is joined by Stephen Bush so we can slug it out to debate the official CityMetric ranking of the London Underground lines. This was meant to be a short, jokey segment to end on. Reader, it did not turn out that way. Apart from anything else, it takes us a surprisingly long time to agree on what counts as a line. Before we go, a spot of housekeeping. This is our 48th...

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47. The Middle Bit  

You know, on this podcast, we’ve talked a lot about the American Midwest considering it’s a place Jonn’s been twice, for a few days each time. So, we figured it was about time we got one of the locals on to tell us about the region, to argue with our diagnosis of its ills – and, most importantly, to explain what its obsession with weird public art is. Dayton native Sarah Manavis wrote an excellent piece for us with the memorable headline “Here are the six freak statues of Ohio”. She tells us the parable of Touchdown Jesus; explains how Arnold Schwarzenegger came to be in Columbus; and discusses how her home state came to vote for Trump. Oh, and also – why is somewhere very clearly in the eastern half of the United States known as the MidWest? After that, Patrick Maguire, the not-quite-Scouse wunderkind of the New Statesman politics desk joins us for this week’s audience participation bit, in which we ask: what’s everyone’s favourite weird tourist attraction? Alas, it’s Patrick’s last week at the New Statesman. So as a very special treat we let him talk about his home town, Southport, and its lawnmower museum. PS: if you’d like to give us a nice review on iTunes, we’d really like that very much. Thanks. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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46. Election special  

Election Special This week, with apologies to international listeners, there is only one story in town. Mere weeks after we stopped banging on about our metro mayors, it's time for a general election. So I've dragged two of the New Statesman's political correspondents, Stephen Bush and Patrick Maguire, back into the podcast catacomb to discuss the lie of the land. We talk, in no particular order, about the provincial metropolitan split; why cities are more liberal; whether small towns can rediscover their purpose; why the north is less stuffed than Ohio; and then, to cheer ourselves up, whether Zac Goldsmith will cheer us all up by losing. Again. And, inevitably, we make our predictions. Oh, god. PS: if you’d like to give us a nice review on iTunes, we’d really like that very much. Thanks. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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45. Francophonie  

Stephanie’s been to Paris, and Jonn’s been to Montreal, so this week we’re chatting French-speaking cities. Where does the Parisian Metro stand in the pantheon of underground railways? Why does the whole of Paris smell of wee? Which country is Montreal actually in? All these and more questions are answered within. (Also, a genuine question: which is the largest French speaking city in the world? It isn’t Paris.) Then we ask the audience what weird phenomenon or tradition were they most surprised by when they moved to a new city. And painfully, inevitably, we discuss the UK’s looming general election. 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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44. SPQR  

It’s just Jonn this week, which is a problem, because there’s no one to stop him from indulging his sillier ideas. For example: an entire podcast about Ancient Rome. Our guest is Kevin Feeney, a historian of the late Roman Empire based at Yale University, Connecticut. He gives us a whistlestop tour of Imperial Rome, with occasional side trips to other ancient cities. We also discuss other important matters such as the nature of Roman emergency services; whether the Emperor Claudius was all that Robert Graves made him out to be; why ancient Britain sucked; and, inevitably, why the whole enterprise fell apart. Then we round off with the audience participation bit. This week we’re asking: which cities or places from history would you like to visit and why? Oh – and if you’d like to give us a nice review on iTunes, we’d really like that very much. Thanks. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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43. Mistakes were made  

Well. We got that a bit wrong, didn’t we? Last week on this podcast, Stephen Bush, Patrick Maguire joined Jonn to make their predictions for last Thursday’s English mayoral elections. This week, we conduct the post-mortem, looking at the actual results and how they diverged from our predictions. (Spoiler alert: it’s a lot.) We talk about what the Tories’ success, the Liberal Democrats’ failure, how the supplementary vote gives us a headache, and why Manchester mayor Andy Burnham might just be the man to save us. That covers the politics. To talk about the more wonkish stuff, Jonn is joined by two very clever people from the Centre for Cities, director Andrew Carter and principal economist Paul Swinney. We discuss how the new mayors will establish themselves, what that Tory success means for the future of devolution policy – and what will happen to those cities that have been left behind. Advance warning: next week I’m off to Montreal for a conference (about trains!), so in all likelihood there won’t be a new podcast. We’ll be back in two weeks. Just so you know. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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42. Level Five  

The big day is here at last: as we write, residents of six English city regions are finally going to the polls to elect their first metro mayors. If you're a regular listener, you've probably been looking forward to this day, either because you think it's a great step forward for British democracy – or because it means we'll finally shut up about it and talk about something else. Anyway: we won't get the results until Friday, but Jonn has dragged Stephen Bush and Patrick Maguire from the New Statesman's politics team back to the podcasting catacomb to make some brief predictions. Tune in to find out what the results will be; or, if you’re listening after Friday, to find out how wrong we were. Before that, though, let's talk about something completely different. The Guardian tech correspondent Alex Hern is back to answer one of the big questions in the world day: are driverless cars really going to happen? Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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41. Bouncing back  

Stephanie’s back! Well, technically she’s in her flat eating ice cream and proof-reading her PhD thesis, but she very kindly agreed to co-host this week’s episode. This week we are talking about de-industrialisation. From the north of England to the American rustbelt, there are many parts of the western world that were once economic powerhouses, but have since seen the factories and jobs that once drove them drain away. So why have some cities done so much better than others at making the transition to the service economy? And what can we do about those that remain? To dig into this issue further, we talk to two cities that have been through this transition, but now seem to be bouncing back. Grant Ervin is the chief resilience officer for the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Duncan Booker does the same job across the Atlantic in Glasgow, Scotland. They tell Jonn a little about their cities’ histories, and how they managed to turn things round. 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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40. Snap  

In retrospect, I suppose it was inevitable that the entire UK wasn't going to spend the next two weeks on the edge of its seat about the outcome of the West Midlands mayoral election. Anyway. What does Theresa May's decision to call a snap general election on 8 June mean for the metro mayor contests scheduled for 4 May? Will focusing minds on national politics make Tory victories more likely? Is the LibDem fightback really a thing? What'll it do to turnout? To help answer these and other equally fascinating questions, Jonn is joined by two of his colleagues from the New Statesman's politics desk, Stephen Bush and Patrick Maguire. If you've ever wanted to know Stephen's views on which preferential voting system is the worst, then this is the podcast for you. Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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39. Shakespeare's engine  

This week, CityMetric's tour of the upcoming mayoral elections takes us to the West Midlands: the annoying name for the multi-centred conurbation that takes in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and points in between. The West Midlands is the most competitive of the major metropolitan regions that will pick their new mayors on 4 May. Indeed, it's the only one of the big three where we don't in effect already know the result: right now, according to the polling expert Professor John Curtice, Labour’s Siôn Simon and the Conservatives' Andy Street are neck and neck. And so I've been to Birmingham to interview them both. Simon tells me about the region's cultural and engineering heritage; Street talks about his plans to boost the local economy. And, obviously, I make both of them nerd out about trams for a bit. Before and after those interviews, I'm joined by my colleagues Stephen Bush and Helen Lewis, a Midlands native herself, to talk about the region, the election – and to make some foolhardy predictions for who is likely to win. If you want to learn more about the West Midlands mayoral election (could happen), you can find a rundown of the candidates, and a series of articles on the region, on CityMetric. (They're linked from the show notes on the website.) Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's cities site, CityMetric. It's hosted by Jonn Elledge.

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38. Build More Bloody Houses  

It's Stephanie's last day on staff at the New Statesman, so that means it's Jonn’s last opportunity to do something he’s been threatening for a while: to explain to her exactly why Britain has a housing crisis. The reasons include a growing population, the end of council housing, and the north-south divide in the British economy. The big one, however, remains land – and the fact we place to many artificial restrictions on where we can build. To help explain that one, we’re joined by Catharine Banks, of the policy team at housing charity Shelter, who talks us through the reasons for the shocking fact that we don't know who owns nearly a fifth of the land in England & Wales. And finally, inevitably, you lot tell us your housing horror stories. Warning: involves slugs and kettles. 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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37. The Mersey Beat  

It's another metro mayor special: this time, we're off to Liverpool. Officially, of course, it's the Liverpool City Region. Unofficially, it'll probably end up being called Merseyside. It was nearly called the Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton & Wirral Combined Authority; there but by the grace of god. Anyway. Whatever it is, on 4 May, it's getting a metro mayor. Specifically, it's almost certain going to be Labour's Steve Rotheram. To talk about this not-particularly-close election, Jonn has dragged in two colleagues from the New Statesman's politics desk: Patrick Maguire, who himself hails from the Sefton; and Stephen Bush, who's just returned from a trip to the Wirral. They talk about how Rotheram is campaigning more like it's a marginal than a sure thing; how the other parties are responding; and how, in British local government, one-party states inevitably throw up other forms of opposition. They discuss the May government's attitude towards these new metro mayor posts created by its predecessors; and chat about what kind of relationship the new mayor of the Liverpool City Region is likely to have with Joe Anderson, who is the, er, the existing elected mayor of Liverpool. Also, for some reason, Power Rangers. 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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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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