Community hub delayed – but community room in prospect

The community hub originally planned near the terrace entrance to the Barbican Arts Centre has been delayed – but as I reported in an update to my post there’s promise of a community room in the Barbican Library.

Here’s photos of the area that would be enclosed as a room for use by local residents and groups.

An informative post on the Barbican Association blog explains the background to the plan – which still needs some permissions and funding. The post says:

“It will have an entrance from the library but also a new entrance into the arts centre lobby to allow the room to be used outside library opening hours. Access out of hours will be by arrangement with the Arts Centre.

“The room will accommodate up to 90 people, it will have a cupboard with chairs and tables to be used in the room, and there will be an overhead projector fixed adjacent to a lowered ceiling, with four speakers for the soundfield system.

“The room can be booked by individuals or groups through the library. The library will charge but, as with the City’s other libraries, there will be a sliding scale in which residents pay the lowest, local community and charity organisations pay more, and commercial hirers pay the highest rate”.

The community hub is delayed because of staff changes at the Communities and Neighbourhoods team. Both Anna Casey and Rachel Smith, who took the plans forward, are leaving. Further staff changes are in prospect.

I guess the original plans for the hub will now be caught up in the major Barbican Renewal project, so I would expect that the idea and form of a hub may be completely revised. The Renewal design brief says:

“Alongside delivering architecturally sensitive improvements to our venues, there is a huge opportunity to bring currently underutilised spaces across the Centre to life. The Barbican contains many spaces that currently don’t meet their full potential, and we believe with the right interventions, our car parks, Exhibition Halls and other public and outdoor spaces could be adapted to deliver so much more in support of our creative and commercial ambitions”.

The community room could contain some of the displays that I suggestion for the hub – but the attraction of the original location was that it would be highly visible to anyone visiting the Centre.

Maybe there’s some space outside the room, in or near the library, that could be used for displays.

The room will be available for study/reading when not in use, and the book stock currently in the space will be integrated into the rest of the library if it is still being well used.

I expect general responsibility for any future hub in the Centre plans lies with Karena Johnson, who 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”.

Some form of physical and virtual community hub seems to me important when the Culture Mile Business Improvement District will need ways to inform and engage local residents as well as businesses.