Urbisunderground is the communal web site set up by/for the alternative* teenagers who hang around outside Urbis in Manchester.
Building and maintaining it seems to be a semi official youth work project, rather than self organised, but the web presence certainly followed from the real world meeting place rather than the other way round.
They talk about being "on Urbis" - by which they mean being at the real world place, not the web site: "there was a weird atmosphere on Urbis last night" - in the same way they would talk about being on messenger or on My Space.
These arches used to be open, and behind the newly put up hoardings are some concrete steps leading down to an open paved area.
As I was cycling past yesterday I heard the slap and trundle of skateboards coming from inside, and just after I'd taken the photos five or six lads clambered out with their skateboards and scampered off looking very pleased with themselves.
For a few months at least, the answer to property developer's question is going to be: "much more fun than before."
I've read this a couple of times recently, and wonder what it means.
"Over" as in nobody will bother to remark on its existence any more.
Or "over" as in everyone will hurriedly leave (to facebook or bebo?) and in a year's time it will be like wandering round a ghost town poking about in the remains of all the lives that were once lived there, finding dusty tins of spam on the shelves.
This summer Manchester city council were planning to put an urban beach on the grass outside Urbis.
Anyone who knows Manchester will know that this would be right on top of the hundreds (really, hundreds) of teenage emos who come to hang around on a Saturday afternoon like a black clad Biblical hoard.
(Don’t let that sound like I’m sneering, I think they are a fantastic sight to behold – they’ve taken over a place and made it their own, and they don’t do any harm except wear out the grass (and the contrast to the official “euro pavement latte” image Urbis perhaps wants to project is enjoyable and instructive.))
So two campaigns sprang up, for and against the beach, coming both from within the emos and outside them.
This was played out on two Myspace pages, and, by the sound of some of the posts, some bad feeling in person.
In the end, the British summer put paid to the beach, but this blog post (whether true or hoax) gives a taste of the arguement:
"We received this in a mesage:
"Hey, my dad works for Manchester Council, and he said that whatever petitions are going on or w/e, the beach is definately going ahead. Apparently part of the reason they're building it in the first place is to try and get rid of people making the Urbis area look untidy, drinking and basically just being nuisances on Urbis. The council are basically just seeing it like "The people who sit on urbis don't own it, and they have no say in the matter". Work starts really soon i think." "
If nothing else, all this reminded me of how much of teenage life is spent hanging around, and that we all needed somewhere for that purpose.
And just to prove I haven’t quite recovered from my own Bonkers One Man Crusade: it’s worth contrasting the activism of the Urbis Beach Battle with the spurious tosh peddled by the government’s e-petitions site. Which one seems more vital?