A champion for curious thinking around authentic change in towns and cities
By Chris Goldstraw
Ben Young From Standard Practice
Ben Young is a connector of people, a facilitator of action and a champion for civic space in cities. He has been involved in placemaking projects in Manchester over the last six years bringing people together through outdoor and indoor cinemas, summer socials, workshops, dog shows, the building of a pub and converting unused places into lively civic spaces.
He now heads up Standard Practice, an award-winning collective of designers, makers and urbanists, forming a new studio model in a concerted effort to bring about and participate in authentic change across our towns and cities.
We meet Ben in Standard Practices current home ‘The Old Bank Residency’, a project in the NOMA area of Manchester, UK, that has been set up as a place to congregate around ideas, projects and activities that are neighbourly, tolerant, environmentally considerate and civic minded.
We arrive on a Friday lunchtime when Dhal and DIY is in full swing. Every Friday afternoon there is a host of activities designed to celebrate DIY culture, always paired with a delicious dhal served in bowls made in Old Banks own pottery studio. We grab a bowl and sit down with Ben.
What is the Old Bank and how did you end up here?
The Old Bank is a beautiful old rickety building that is going to be restored in the next year or two. Until then, we have taken occupation of the space to offer a non-transactional civic space to Manchester. So you could say we are a building society in an Old Bank.
What does Standard Practice do?
Loads of things. We make stuff, we’ve opened gallery spaces, a wood workshop, a pottery, a tiny cinema and a dry cleaners. We’ve run workshops, consultation events, political campaigns, dog shows and marathons. We always take a DIY approach to the world around us, making things up as we go along, learning by doing.
What is next for you?
Fiction. Exploring places through small fictions.
What does a successful project look like and why?
All of our projects aim to involve members of the public as co-authors and collaborators. A great example is the Pilcrow Pub. Over a 10 month period we invited enthusiastic volunteers to a series of workshops to help build the pub. Each one was led by professional craftspeople, collectively we made bar-stools, beer pump handles, willow-woven flower baskets, tables, tiles, and much more. I tend to judge success a little differently: if at the end of a project, the result is nothing like the picture I had in my head, we are on the right track!
What drives you and Standard Practice?
We are driven by a curiosity for what the world could be and thoroughly enjoy this exploration.
Which Awling belt did you choose and what do you think?
I’ve been wearing the Original belt - Pitch black/pewter. A great belt for me is one that goes with the majority of my outfits and one that I don’t have to think about, it just becomes what I reach for. This belt has ticked all those boxes.
How do you choose your clothes and accessories?
My taste is quite restrained with odd flashes of ill-advised eccentricity. I guess, a bit like places, I like clothes to look like people have been involved in making them.
Do you have any go to brands?
I’m weirdly drawn to particular brands of tapes and adhesives. I like frog tape, UHU, 3M, my friend Joe has got me into Mapei products. Not sure I’ve ever acknowledged this before. Don’t think I want it psychoanalysing!
And finally… What does style mean to you?
Wow, a big closer! Style has nothing to do with clothes. It’s got a lot more to do with attitude.