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>COAL not dole ISLAND

 

>EMMA CAMPBELL

Belfast, UK

 

This thesis observes two lifestyle types in Northern Ireland (NI).
It begins with the Scrounger, the person who doesn’t ‘work’ and relies on state benefits as a way to get by. Whether the reasons for not working, or working part-time are valid or not, the spaces in which benefits applications are made deliberately create stigma. And the rules of the game create a trap of dependency and once you’re in the system, it’s hard to get out. 50% of Northern Ireland’s population claim some form of benefits.

Representing the other 50%, the Striver works from sixteen to forty hours per week. Strivers own a car and spend an average of eight days per year in traffic. Of the 725,000 workers in NI, 90,000 commute to Belfast, making it one of the most congested cities in Europe and creating a brain drain in smaller towns and cities in NI. Striver’s spend a huge chunk of money on their car and a huge chunk of time in traffic. Unfortunately, jobs outside Belfast are hard to come by so commuters accept their position in a different version of the dependency trap.

COAL not dole ISLAND imagines what might happen if universal credit, the current state benefit system, is replaced by a universal basic income. Will this finally dissolve the double-sided dependency trap? The proposal is based in Coalisland, a small run-down, post-industrial town in Mid-Ulster. Now one of NI’s most economically deprived areas, Coalisland was once a burgeoning town supplying coal across Ireland from a canal basin in its centre. The proposal suggests that after a universal basic income is implemented, Coalisland’s citizen’s will all have more free time reconfigure and regenerate its spaces.

 

First the canal basin is reflooded, making a floating marketplace. Then, empty plots behind the main streets will be taken over by Coalislanders. At ground level, rammed earth spaces will be created over time to host allotments, festivals, sports and crafts. These spaces will be formed under a new field of co-working spaces on stilts. Serviced by lightening speed internet connections, Coalisland becomes a new co-working tele-hubs in NI-wide network, cutting commuting time significantly and bringing life back into the town.