Clash of dates highlights the engagement opportunity for Destination City

Update: I’ve developed a set of pages on this wiki bringing together official reports, articles and blog posts about Destination City together with questions that I think might arise at the November 7 event. The City Question Time event has moved to December 14 6pm at the Old Bailey, with a festive celebration afterwards. Sign up here for either or both events.

So far the City of London’s flagship Destination City programme has mainly invested in events to attract more visitors and their spending – with a £1 million for the Golden Key event a year ago, and a £1.3 budget for Bartholomew Fair last month.

But as policy chief Chris Hayward has emphasised, the programme is about far more than that, aiming to make the City an attractive seven-days-a-week destination.

A recent report from the City Property Association illuminates how Destination City might influence design of streets and other public spaces, how funds are spent on the public realm, enhancing the riverside, and improving walkways and signage.

Illustration from CPA report showing public realm improvements, corridors and routes.

Clearly property developers and the entertainment and leisure industries have a strong interest – but so to do residents and workers.

Mr Hayward said at a City Question Time session in June: “if you feel we’re not consulting widely enough on Destination City, or the more engagement residents could have, we want to know how precisely we do it … we want Destination City to be owned by the residents as much as by anybody else.”

It is therefore unfortunate that the next Q and A session is scheduled for November 7 when the Destination City team are holding their first public meeting, courtesy of Cripplegate Ward. More about that meeting here. I understand the scheduling was entirely unintentional, and due to a mix-up over diaries.

However, I think that the clash can be turned to advantage, because it highlights the need for engagement with Destination City – and associated programmes – to be more than one-off presentational events.

My suggestion – in response to Chris Hayward’s invitation – is:

1) Publish the presentations planned for November 7 a week in advance, on the same basis as City committee reports. Provide references to previous reports, including the CPA ideas. That would give people a chance to review, reflect, discuss and prepare questions.

2) Include proposals for resident engagement that reflect “ownership”. At the moment the invitation refers to creating a residents’ panel. I don’t think that will be enough on its own. For example:

3) Start to pilot the proposed community information hub at Barbican Library, which promises ways to engage with Destination City and share information. That could be started online. Visitors have a new website promoting the City. How about one for residents?

4) Establish a continuing two-way communication system. I know that the Barbican Communities team were considering an online forum when developing original ideas for the community hub. Now is the time to establish that. Meanwhile engage on social media.

Publishing presentations and reports early would make for a more informed meeting with the Destination City team, and brief people going to the City Question Time. Chris Hayward would be able to answer questions in line with the Destination City presentation. Everyone could watch the video recording of the Question Time event later.

Following through with proposals for the information hub and forum – together with workshops and other events – would demonstrate a real commitment to making residents stakeholders in Destination City.

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