A Word amongst friends

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How many of you recognise this face? John Gilbert was one of Hollywood’s early superstars, rivaling Valentino at the height of his fame. So, why have you probably never heard of him? That’s because his career collapsed after his failure to make the transition to the talkies.

What’s the connection between this and UIA? Well, we are currently living through another great transition moment. The twin drivers of the recent pandemic and the climate emergency are likely to have lasting consequences on the way many of us work and travel. …


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On a scale of 1–10, how much did you love the lockdown? Most likely, the responses will cluster around either end of the scale. In this age of extremes, love and hate trump the safe centre. Reactions to the pandemic are no different.

For many of us, the biggest lockdown shift has been to a work and social life largely on line. If you’re a city official, as well as working from home, this may have been compounded by redeployment to new tasks and uncertainty about what’s ahead. For many, the ‘New Normal’ will mean organisational disruption and budget cuts.


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Where were you on the night of 31st January 2020? In future years it might become one of those frozen moments in time. Like, where were you when you heard that Michael Jackson had died?

That late January night I was travelling back from the EU Cities Forum in Porto, a bi-annual gathering of Europe’s urban policy makers. Coming through passport control, about 90 minutes before the BREXIT hour, I was confronted with an ‘Arrivals from the EU’ channel already barricaded with red barriers.

A crew of hard-hatted contractors, following orders, made themselves look busy. Cock-up? Conspiracy? …


Today’s my last of many London to Paris train journeys this year. But how different it feels after last Thursday’s UK election results. If we had any residual doubts, we now know that, to coin a phrase, BREXIT will get done. Although it won’t happen overnight, the long detangling process will begin in earnest from early 2020.

Everyone is ready to move on. Even those wedded to the idea of Britain staying in the EU now accept that this won’t happen. The debate now shifts to the kind of future relationship Britain will have with the EU. After years of…


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Memory’s a funny thing. Sometimes, after moderating big events, I remember almost nothing of the detailed discussions. It’s as if the intensity of the exchange is so much that nothing sticks. Or maybe inside my head it has nothing to stick to! But, just back from moderating the 2017 EU Cities Forum in Rotterdam, my head’s stuffed full of content. What’s going on?

Two years ago in Brussels it was all very different. Back then, cities and other urban actors came together to discuss quite abstract existential questions. Do we need an urban agenda for the EU? What would an…


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Last week, at Housing Europe’s Annual Conference in Lyon, Saskia Sassen shared her compelling interpretation of what’s going on. She referred to Dark Pools of finance, and conjured images of armies of bright young physicists writing algorithms in large open plan Goldman Sachs offices. On this new front line they are busily engaged in the alchemic transformation of urban property into fields of assets.

The net effect is a revolution in property ownership where ordinary people are squeezed out. At the same time our cities become rendered, fake and devoid of communities. …


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A few years ago, many cities would have laughed at the idea of introducing a Universal Basic Income. Fast forward to today, and the concept is being tested in neighbourhoods and cities across the EU, from Barcelona and Copenhagen to Stockholm and Utrecht.

The Catalan Joke

As a Scot, I’ve given my various Catalan friends lots to laugh about over the years. The weather, the state of our respective economies, gastronomy — and of course football: the sources of their collective mirth are plentiful.

Most recently though, two Barcelona friends were laughing about something different. Over drinks, I was explaining…


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They say it’s the most depressing day of the year. Blue Monday. Three weeks into the New Year, most of us have already abandoned our resolutions. The weather is rubbish. And it’s the day the Christmas bills arrive, if you’ve got a plastic habit. It’s also the week before tax bills are due in many EU countries. All in all, it’s miserable.


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For many of us, the collapse of Communism in Europe was the most significant historical moment in our lifetime. The crumbling of the Eastern Bloc and the subsequent implosion of the USSR led to the reunification of Europe. At the time, it seemed like the catalyst towards the inevitable spread of liberal democracy throughout the continent. The historian, Francis Fukuyama seemed to capture the mood when he spoke of ‘The End of History.


“I had to come back from Canada when my father and uncle were murdered and there was no one to help on the family farm.” “My mother was killed and her body thrown down a well.” “My father has been kidnapped several times.”

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You cannot spend a week in Bogota without hearing personal stories like these. Matter of fact statements routinely added to conversations which started with simple questions like ‘How is your English so good?’

And what a week the last one was to spend in Colombia. It began with the narrow ‘No’ decision in the peace deal referendum…

Eddy Adams

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