A community hub at the Barbican Kitchen door could catalyse neighbourhood connections

Updates: my column in the EC1 Echo promotes these ideas for a community hub. However, staff changes at the Communities and Neighbourhoods team mean any developments on the hub are delayed until 2023. Further updates here on the idea of a hub, and a community room.

Just inside the Barbican Centre’s terrace entrance, on the way to the Barbican Kitchen restaurant, there’s a modest display area. The Centre’s Communities and Neighbourhoods team have announced it will be available for community use. Here’s some ideas on making it a physical and virtual information and connections hub. Details in these slides, and more below on how the ideas developed.

Ideas for a community hub

In summary I’m suggesting combining traditional notice boards with digital systems, using cards to hold and share information, and offer display panels in the hub to different interest groups. For example:

  • A “shop window” of printed and digital information cards in the hub and online.
  • A wall newspaper showing recent articles from the Echo, with online links.
  • A combined activities calendar created from the events diaries of Culture Mile organisations.
  • Maps of heritage sites and venues, community assets, and development plans.
  • Guides and maps of Footways and discovery walks.

In addition, informal meet-ups could be scheduled around topics throughout the week. Check in at the hub, get a drink or snack at the nearby Kitchen. Find a seat in the many Centre spaces. Follow up in the online community.

Barbican Centre Open Lab supports artists developing new projects. How about a Creative Communities Lab to help people contribute content to the hub – and/or start their own hub space with a Hub Kit. Explore how other hubs might be set up in Clerkenwell and City.

How the ideas developed

The Communities team have held several drop-in sessions at Barbican Library this year, to develop ideas on future plans in Culture Mile and beyond. The team fund the Imagine awards for projects, and in the past have produced Imagine packs and run a radio station. They aim to start an online community.

A lot of the drop-in discussions focussed on the need for better information about local events and spaces to meet, together with ideas for walks and storytelling.

The ideas reminded me of work I had done for a number of local projects – including the Peel Institute in Clerkenwell – developing in 2019 a community hub and platform model.

I digested the drop-in sessions report by Anna Casey, and suggested how to create a Culture Mile community platform and hub (s).

There could be one core hub, but ideally a network of hubs sharing information. This tied in with what I had found in the Exploring EC1 project researching local places and community assets.

When Anna told us about the Barbican Centre hub space I started thinking about how to put the theoretical hub and platform into practice, and developed this set of slides.

Moving forward

The Communities and Neighbourhoods team have now contracted me to help develop ideas, and join them in a workshop.

I have put a Creative Commons license on the material so that anyone can use and develop the ideas for non commercial use, provided they attach a similar license to their work. The ideas could be developed separately or together.

I’ll alert key interests to the ideas, and I’m writing a piece about the hub for next column for the EC1 Echo – now here.

In my first column I focussed on the many different names we use for local neighbourhoods. Smithfield, Farringdon, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Barbican, Barts Square, Clerkenwell, St Luke’s, Finsbury are a few. Oliver added the headline: The name game – Does a name follow a sense of community or vice versa?

I concluded that at the moment I’m not sure we have a lot in common beyond the post codes.

The ideas in the slides offer some ways in which we could develop a better understanding of the people, places, projects and great opportunities that we have in Clerkenwell and the City, and build new relationships.

I’ll update here on reaction to the ideas, whether for the hub, or as spin-off projects.

Update September 8 2022

The Communities and Neighbourhoods team who commissioned work on the community hub have lost two key staff, and the hub is going to be delayed until 2023 while new appointments are made. On the other hand the Barbican Association reports on a plan to create a community room in the Barbican Library. Maybe some of the hub ideas could be used there.

News of the latest Imagine Fund projects is here.

Karena Johnson has been appointed the new Head of Creative Collaboration & Learning at the Barbican Arts Centre.

“Currently Artistic Director and CEO of Hoxton Hall, Karena will join the Barbican in September 2022 and will oversee the Barbican’s innovative learning programme; community projects and events, its public programme, as well as Barbican Futures, the driving force behind the Barbican becoming a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming international centre for art, education, and enterprise”.

david@socialreporter.com or Twitter @davidwilcox