For almost a week in February 2005, a large section of the newly regenerated south bank of the River Tyne, in Gateshead, was entirely sectioned off from the rest of the Newcastle-Gateshead conurbation by metal fencing, armed police, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and road closures. The headline in the Newcastle Chronicle was ‘Lockdown!’ (Smith, 2005), and so it seemed to be. This is an increasingly familiar experience in many British cities: Brighton and Manchester had experienced much the same the year before, Edinburgh would later in the same year. In the former, as in Gateshead, it was the annual conference of the ruling Labour Party, in Edinburgh, the G8 summit.
This chapter examines the Gateshead ‘lockdown’ and traces this particular event back through three linked and increasingly intertwined contextual threads: disaster preparedness; urban management through territorial defence; and surveillance. It argues that these threads are being woven together in an emerging conception of urban resilience, a combination of security and recovery from disaster that is becoming increasingly central to urban policy, and furthermore that this urban resilience is itself being woven into concepts of urban competitiveness linked to regeneration, one aspect of which being the need for security of the elite-driven urban redevelopment agenda that relies heavily on attracting such ‘meetings tourism’ as both evidence and product of regional, national, or even global urban economic status. It argues that the intertwining of these trajectories in the resurgent city concept heralds an era of a renewed pragmatic and open control of the city by hyper-mobile transnational ‘kinetic elites’ who, while participating little in the slow, difficult, and more dangerous spaces of ordinary people, are able to move rapidly in and through urban spaces with little risk to themselves (Slotterdijk, 1998; Murakami Wood & Graham, 2006). However, it also argues that such controls, like the perambulatory mediaeval court, and like the regeneration strategies they seek to protect, are in many ways superficial and image-centred, or what Williams (2004) calls, the city “not so much materialised, as staged” (p 229), and that this undermines many of the claims to resilience.