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Skylines, the CityMetric podcast

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Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's urbanism site. Every two weeks, Jonn Elledge, colleagues and guests discuss the politics & workings of cities and test their contention that maps are a great topic for radio.

Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's urbanism site. Every two weeks, Jonn Elledge, colleagues and guests discuss the politics & workings of cities and test their contention that maps are a great topic for radio.
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Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman's urbanism site. Every two weeks, Jonn Elledge, colleagues and guests discuss the politics & workings of cities and test their contention that maps are a great topic for radio.




111. Why aye, man

You'll be delighted, I'm sure, to learn this podcast is not about Brexit. I've been in Newcastle, capital in the north east of England, for a couple of days: partly for work, partly just because I wanted to get out of London for a bit, and it was the largest British city I'd never been to, and people kept telling me it was cool. And it is. It really, really is. Stunning architecture, great cultural offering, some seaside, a metro and the best collection of bridges you will find pretty much...


110. The rise of the robots

110. The rise of the robots This week, it’s about work, automation, fear and loathing in god’s own county of Essex. New Statesman tech writer Sarah Manavis has been to Tilbury to visit an “Amazon fulfilment centre”, which is almost exactly as fun as it sounds. She tells me what the experience taught her about modern corporate culture, as well as complaining about having to get up in the morning and also about her puppy Martha. Dove-tailing neatly with the issues raised by that...


REPEAT: Sex* and the city (*gender)

This is a repeat – sorry gang, I’ve been horrendously busy. But, there are quite a lot of episodes of this thing now. And as the audience has grown, that means a lot of you haven’t heard our early work. So, to plug the gap, here’s an example of it. What follows is the original blurb, from August 2016. 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...


109. Remember, Shaun Bailey is 47 years old

This week, it’s all about mayors, and also someone who the smart money says will never become one. I’ve dragged Stephen Bush back into the podcasting catacomb to discuss Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate to be the next mayor of London. Bailey, alas, declined an invitation to appear on Skylines earlier this year - but given how well his contact with journalists is going at the moment, it’s by no means clear this was a mistake. Anyway: Stephen and I discuss his faltering campaign,...


108. Brizzle

This week, we’re off to an English city that, to my shame, I’ve been neglecting: Bristol, the largest city in the south west, and indeed the largest city in the south outside London. I’m joined by Sian Norris, founder of the Bristol Women’s Literary Festival, to talk about the city she’s lived in since her childhood. She tells me what makes Bristol so liveable, why it’s struggling with inequality, and how it’s coping with the recent influx of London expats bidding up house prices. Since...


107. Social contracts

It’s a bit of a game of two halves this week. First up, I talk to Eric Klinenberg – director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University – about his new book, Palaces for the People. He argues that what he terms ‘social infrastructure’ has a major effect on everything from crime to disaster resilience. Solving the problems of the future, he suggests, is going to mean investing more in infrastructure, public space and community links. After that, it’s our semi-regular “Ask...


106. Walking with Elizabeth

Crossrail is running late. The opening of London’s £15bn new railway, also known, horribly, as the Elizabeth line, has been delayed by the better part of a year, to autumn 2019. This came as a bit of a surprise – but, given the horrible tendency of mega-projects like this to run both overtime and over-budget, should it have done? To find out, I decided to walk the length of the new section of track, from Woolwich in the east to Paddington in the west, to see, basically, whether or not the...


105. Scouse Exceptionalism

Exciting news, lads: Skylines has been on tour! Well, sort of: this is the first episode we’ve ever recorded primarily outside London. I’ve just got back from Liverpool, where I was attending the Labour party’s annual conference. While I was there, friend of the podcast Neil Atkinson, the host of the Anfield Wrap football podcast who appeared way back Skylines 22, very kindly agreed to let us use his studio next to Albert Dock to record this week’s episode. The two of us are joined by his...


104. London Blues, #2

And so to the second of our London Tory mayoral candidate interviews. This time it's Joy Morrissey: an American-born Ealing councillor, former staffer at Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice, and private renter. She tells me how she got into the race largely to talk about housing policy, which lies at the root of the city's other social problems – and how she didn’t entirely expect to make it this far. Ideally there would be a part three of this series, in which I spoke to the...


103. London Blues, #1

There are three people on the shortlist to be the Conservative candidate for London mayor in the 2020 election. So this week, we're speaking with them. First up: Andrew Boff, a long-serving member of the Greater London Assembly and former leader of Hillingdon council, who has run for this particular gig five times now. Andrew tells me why housing targets should focus on bedrooms, not front doors; why he believes stop and search remains a valuable part of the Metropolitan Police's work; and...


102. God’s own country

Leeds! Sheffield! Bradford! Huddersfield! This podcast has, figuratively speaking, not spent enough time in any of them. So, this week we’re off to the ancient county of Yorkshire, Britain’s largest, home to the biggest metropolitan area in England not to have its own devolution deal, to discuss God’s Own Country. To help me out, I’m joined by two Yorkshire-expats of my acquaintance, Halifax’s James Ball and Hull’s Jasmine Andersson. We talk about Yorkshire geography and identity, why the...


101. Mayoral health check

We’re just over halfway through Sadiq Khan’s term as mayor of London – and just under half-way through most of the various other metro mayors’ own terms elsewhere in the country. What better time, then, to drag the New Statesman special correspondent Stephen Bush back into the podcast bunker to ask how this whole mayor thing is going? To that end, we discuss the three candidates on the shortlist to be the Tory candidate in London’s 2020 mayoral election, how good Khan’s record really is,...


100. Letter from the Queen

Human beings generally have ten fingers. In what is probably not a coincidence, the world’s most popular number system counts in base 10. And so, due to what was essentially a series of evolutionary accidents, the largely meaningless fact this is our 100th episode feels like A Big Deal. But I’m a huge fan of meaningless celebrations, especially when they’re about myself. So this episode is by way of a sort of party. Former co-host Stephanie Boland is back, with one of those city quizzes...


99. Lies, damned lies and the CPRE

Bit angry this week, lads. The CPRE – officially the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England; known also in certain circles as the campaign for the protection of the rural elite – has put out the latest volume of its great work of magical realism, the State of the Green Belt report. It’s nonsense, on multiple levels. I think the CPRE’s firmly held belief that the green belt should be sacrosanct is nonsense of course, but more than that – the figures it’s collected to show the rising...


98. A huge, developing problem

This week, we’re talking about one of the biggest problems facing the developing world today. Untold millions are moving from country to cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, in search of a better life – but with a few exceptions, those cities are not building the infrastructure those new arrivals require. So, what to do? Luckily, we have an expert on hand to tell us. Sarah Colenbrander is an environmental economist currently working at the International Institute for Environment &...


97. The other forty-nine

Last year, an American writer called Sarah Manavis joined me on the podcast to talk about her home state of Ohio (episode 47). Due to a series of unfortunate accidents that have taken place since, she now works at the next desk from me. And so, I asked her back, to talk about the cities of her homeland with myself and the editor of the soon-to-launch New Statesman America, Nicky Woolf. The three of us discuss why New York stinks in summer; why LA stinks the whole time; how Chicago invented...


96. Second City Blues

No, it's not about Manchester. This is one of those guest episodes we sometimes do, where we repeat a CityMetric-ish episode of another podcast. This week, it's an episode of Friday 15, the show on which our erstwhile producer Roifield Brown chats to a guest about life and music. Roifield recently did an episode with Jez Collins, founder of the Birmingham Music Archive, which exists to recognise and celebrate the musical heritage of one of England's largest but least known cities. Roifield...


95. 1666 & All That

“Love this!” someone tweeted me when we recently did an episode on Victorian London. “Please do the Stuarts!” This sounded like an excellent idea, and it was, I’m sure, a coincidence that the person who suggested it was a historian specialising in 17th century Britain. So, here she is. Rebecca Rideal is the author of, “1666: Plague, War and Hellfire”, which covers the Great Plague, the Great Fire of London and a not especially great and indeed largely forgotten war with Holland. She came...


94. The fat of the land

This week, we’re going back to basics, and ignoring cities to talk about farms. Dr Sarah Taber is a North Carolina-based crop scientist who recently went viral. In a lengthy thread posted to Twitter, she explained why civilisations in different parts of the world developed entirely different diets: the short version is that wet regions developed low-meat diets, while dry regions developed high-meat diets. She went on to explain why cows are a useful source of food in those dryer regions,...


93. The Great Northern Rail Crisis

You wouldn’t necessarily know it reading the news from London, but the north of England’s railway network is in a bit of a mess. Delayed electrification work, a new timetable, mass cancellations, the whole shebang. To explain how bad things are, and how they got that way, I’m joined by Jen Williams, political and social affairs editor for the Manchester Evening News. She tells me why nobody seems sure who’s to blame for this mess, and whether there’s any realistic chance of anyone tidying...