Detroit: Appetite for Reconstruction

Credit: KnitSpirit

Credit: KnitSpirit

The photographs depicting the incredible decline of Detroit are shocking but well documented. Images of abandoned hospitals, crumbling theatres, buildings engulfed by trees and slums have a tragic beauty to them. The Motor City’s glory days fell victim to increased globalised competition and a harsh recession, which forced residents to leave the city in their droves. It was the antithesis to the American Dream.

By 2014, the population had dropped to 689,000; two-fifths of the number who lived there in 1960, which explains the eerie, ‘ghost town’ feel of the photography, perhaps best captured by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Documenting Detroit’s decline and capturing the tragedy is perhaps the easy part. As the city climbs out of bankruptcy, its recovery is slowly taking shape  and Detroiters are building their own futures in an attempt to redefine their city.

The question of what to do with the abundance of decaying houses needs to be addressed  before the city can make a realistic, long-term recovery. A glance at reveals that the local government has knocked down over 10,000 vacant homes in a two and a half year period as part of the USA’s largest ‘blight removal’ programme. With the aim to demolish a further 40,000 over the next 8 years, it looks like a trend set to continue.

Credit: Thomas Hawk

Credit: Thomas Hawk

Alongside this demolition programme, however, is the ‘Building Detroit’ initiative, where residents can buy properties at auction from as little as $1000. This makes space for some Detroiters to exercise creativity as cheap prices mean affordability for ambitious innovators with a vision. A combination of low-cost buildings, community spirit and creativity could prove to be the recipe  required to rebuild a unique identity for the city of Detroit.

Three projects that highlight the desire Detroiters have to rebuild their city are:

  1. The Brick + Beam Detroit project, which acknowledges the efforts of residents seeking to find solutions to ‘rehabbing’ existing building structures. Project funding for a supportive network to enable ‘rehabbers’ to work together and share expertise. An interactive map on The Brick + Beam website allows users to show their progress and share insight whilst the resources tab tackles issues such as hiring contractors, DIY surveying and repairs.
  2. Barbers and gardeners unite in a wonderfully creative partnership called ‘The Buzz Initiative’ where modern barber inspired mowing patterns are adapted for vacant lots. (Only in America, right?!) This unique solution to land management has seen different creative talents across the city unite with a shared goal and has been awarded $84,055 in funding.
  3. To some people, unwanted buildings are simply giant blank canvasses and those who paint them are celebrated at the annual ‘Murals in the Market Festival’, which sees 50 local and international artists paint their large scale murals across the Eastern Market District. For a dose of inspiration have a browse at the efforts from last year’s festival.

Impoverished areas sparking unique and exciting imaginative output is not new. Many places have created a specific urban identity, such as Tacheles in Berlin, the street art movement and parts of London or New York before their more recent gentrification. Hardship, natural disasters, loss, recession and other major challenges throughout history have led to creative and determined communities coming forth and reclaiming places across the globe. Instead of being known as the fallen motor city, Detroit could become known as the creative comeback kid.

In order to achieve this, local government agencies should choose to support the redevelopment of the city through the arts, seeing them as pivotal to the city’s future, understanding the value in them and, thereby, securing the sustainable regrowth of Detroit.

#BackingTheBlues at RKH

We’re proudly supporting Leicester City by taking part in the #BackingTheBlues campaign on Friday 29th April. Before everything in the office turns blue for the day, we asked Leicester fans from the team to share their memories of supporting Leicester City and feelings at this late stage of the season.


My Mum and Dad started supporting City straight after the Second World War, going to matches with my Mum’s Dad.

The first game I went to was the first leg of the 1963/64 League Cup Final. We’d moved to live in Stafford and I saw the game with my Mum and Dad at Stoke City on 15th April 1964. I was 9, Gordon Banks was in goal for Leicester, Stanley Matthews was still a Stoke player but injured for this game, it ended as a 1-1 draw.

Since that game I have seen at least one Leicester game in every season; at times I have been able to follow them home and away, and for most of the last 25 years I’ve been a season ticket holder.

This season is by far and away the best, far beyond what I ever could have hoped for. My more realistic hope was that I might see us win the FA Cup, I’m overwhelmed at the thought that we may end up winning the Premier League.

So many memories over those years, time makes the rubbish fade and picks out some of the highlights:

  • I was one of at least 42,000 on 13 March 1968 for an FA Cup replay against Tommy Docherty’s Rotherham that we won 2-0. There were so many in there that my feet were often off the ground and I saw very little. Dangerous but exciting.
  • I was at the Leicester v Shrewsbury FA Cup Quarter Final game at Filbert Street in March 1982, definitely the strangest game I’ve ever seen with Leicester having four goalkeepers, 13 minutes of injury time and winning 5-2, including a goal from a 21 year old Gary Lineker.
  • Then in August 1997 I saw Leicester draw 3-3 at home to Arsenal in the Premiership. All the action was in the last few minutes of normal time and seemingly endless injury time. The action even carried on after the final whistle with “ugly scenes” including Steve Walsh and Ian Wright having to be dragged apart.
  • The Martin O’Neill years created many memories, Wembley trip with my Dad and Son were special, perhaps the best of these was seeing Steve Claridge’s last minute winner against Crystal Palace in 1996 to take us into the Premier League. 

Sadly my Dad is no longer with us; he wouldn't have believed the run we are on this season. He does have a plaque in the Memorial Garden at the club and his ashes were sprinkled there so we pay him a visit before home games.


Since a 2-0 win in August 1991 against Plymouth Argyle, innumerable weekends have been spoilt by football. Two league cups aside, early memories of watching Leicester are mostly of tears and upset. Over the years I’ve got used to avoiding “highlights” and regularly pondered why my Dad decided to share this affliction with me almost 25 years ago. 

It’d be easy to recall memories of play-off and league cup finals, but when talking with my Dad or friends, it’s often the awful games that make us smile the most. Cold dark evenings watching a terrible match at an empty ground decided by a deflected goal or unbelievable mistake seem to be a core memory for many Leicester fans. Entertainment has more regularly been found in trivial aspects of the game, the match ball being sponsored by a local takeaway or laughing at the songs being chanted, rather than moments of quality football.

Leicester fans don’t expect to win. We want our team to put up a fight and hoped we could establish ourselves as a Premier League team in time. Last season was dramatic; the events in the summer left many people confused and everyone else worried. Nobody thought this would happen. I’d have happily taken guaranteed fourth from bottom before the season started.

This season has been different. Rather than pretending football doesn’t exist, I want to watch every match, the highlights and then listen to podcasts after. I now get why my Dad introduced Leicester to me. All those awful matches devoid of quality or interest make what’s happening even more special. If things go as many predict now, I suspect it’ll be tears of joy and disbelief at the end of this season.


I’m not from Leicester and was never really a rabid football supporter before I got here. I’d been to watch Shrewsbury fairly regularly and half-heartedly supported Everton when I was young to annoy the Liverpool fans that filled my school, but I was more of a fan of football as a whole. 

The first weekend I came to Leicester, I watched us lose to Spurs in the 1999 Worthington Cup final. They won in injury time after having Justin Edinburgh sent off for swinging at Robbie Savage (we’ve all wanted to do it at some point) and with that valiant failure I fell in love. 

I’ve been a season ticket holder (with a few years off for good behaviour) pretty much ever since. 

It’s hard being a Leicester fan. We tend to do things the hard way and this season aside there hasn’t been much joy in recent years. I re-christened the King Power ‘The Theatre of Nightmares’ (rather than the Theatre of Dreams that is Old Trafford), so few times had I left the stadium feeling happy. 

There is this lovely irony to being a Foxes fan though, demonstrated this season when 4-0 up against Swansea and 8 points clear at the top of the Premier League, the fans were singing ‘we are staying up, say we are staying up.’ Whilst not exactly enjoying the pain they put us through, we certainly appreciate it.

The O’Neill years left us and so began the decline ending with the ignominy of being relegated to League One. The thing is, the years spent clawing our way back up from that lowest point have made this high point even sweeter. If you’d have told me at the start of the season that we would be one win away from claiming the world’s biggest football prize, I would have laughed in your face. 

I would have been happy with 17th place this season. After the miracle of last season’s Great Escape a consolidation year would have been perfectly satisfactory. What we’re seeing is beyond my wildest dreams. I can’t believe it’s happening in my lifetime and I’ve been in the stadium to witness it.

So, to pick out some memories:

  • Having to run away from a load of chasing Derby fans at Pride Park because I never know when to keep my mouth shut.

  • Muzzy Izzet’s goal against Grimsby.

  • Lilian Nalis’s wonder goal against Leeds.

  • Being promoted from League One.

  • Leicester’s 5-3 victory over Manchester United.

  • Galloping away with the Championship.

  • The Great Escape last season.

  • Jamie Vardy’s goal against Liverpool this season.

And I’m hoping (hardly believing it while I do) that there is going to be another memory soon - that of Big Wes lifting the Premier League trophy. It gives me butterflies now as I type this. What a time to be a City fan.