Culture Mile changes as Destination City sets out plans

For the past five years Culture Mile has been a programme of activities and projects in the north west of the City, a way of branding the area, and a team coordinating development. Some of that is changing, but quite how much won’t be clear for a few months.

City Corporation committees have now approved reorganisation which mean that the work will be distributed across five streams, including the Destination City visitor-attraction programme, and the Business Improvement District (BID), if that is approved by a ballot of businesses in January.

Those changes were approved by Culture Heritage and Libraries committee in July and recently confirmed by Policy and Resources committee, which agreed plans for Destination City.

The diagram above shows the different streams. The July committee heard that “Culture Mile has been staffed by a mix of fixed term contracts and permanent staff. All staff in a cross-cutting function – central coordination, partnerships and the marketing and communications are due to come off contract by March 2023”.

Culture Mile was founded by the Barbican Centre, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London, and developed a range of programmes from its launch in 2017. However, it was hit by the pandemic and funding cuts. The Culture and Heritage committee heard:

“In November 2019, the Policy & Resources Committee considered Culture Mile’s core revenue budget funding proposals of £1.378m for 2020/21 and £1.15m for 2021/22 and decided to reduce Culture Mile’s 2020/21 Core Revenue Budget to £1m and to provide this for one year. Committee members took the view that Culture Mile should move quickly to a business model which balanced City Corporation investment with external funding and were concerned that bold action was needed to ensure that City Corporation did not become the ‘bank of last resort’ for the project. The Property and Communities workstreams were discontinued at end March 2020, when the reduction in core revenue funding took effect”.

In future:

  • The Creative Neighbourhoods and Communities scheme will continue to be led by the Barbican Centre.
  • Creative Learning, supporting cultural learning and helping young people develop skills for the 21st century workplace, will be led by the Museum of London.
  • Streets and spaces will be the responsibility of the City Corporation’s Environment department. Culture Mile launched a major “Look and Feel” programme in 2018. That will also provide a framework for some of the BID programmes.

The Destination City programme is new, and the BID has not yet been approved, so final arrangements won’t be clear for a few months.

At the moment it looks as if the BID proposals provide the only over-arching strategy for north-west area the City, which includes the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates, Smithfield and and Barts Square. As I wrote earlier, the BID plans are business-driven, but could benefit residents if there is consultation on what works for all interests.

The BID board will not have any resident representation, but there are proposals for a community forum.

One of the issues for residents will be how Destination City proposes to balance the benefits for businesses of increased visitor footfall against possible disturbance.

For the BID, there’s an opportunity to develop practical proposals around the offer in its proposal document:

“The Culture Mile BID wants to work collaboratively with its residential communities, recognising the valuable contribution the wider community makes to the vibrancy and identity of the area. We want to develop a framework for meaningful engagement, which enables residents to feed into the work, not simply be informed of its plans. This could take the form of a Community Forum, facilitated by the BID, resident involvement with steering groups and development of agreed channels of communication between residents and the BID. Together, we can build a stronger more resilient, more inclusive and welcoming Culture Mile to benefit residents, businesses and visitors”.

The Destination City implementation proposals, agreed by committee, say:

“In order to drive change, we must embrace change. We propose that our brand promise – what people can always expect from us – is to be welcoming; innovative; inclusive; accessible; safe; and sustainable. This promise will run through all aspects of Destination City. Our mission is to create exceptional experiences that are distinctively city for residents, workers and visitors through a seasonal programme of Major and Mini activations and an Always On world class leisure offering.

“We will work collaboratively through the Chief Officer and Officer groups to deliver our promise. We will use the City Plan as the primary way to implement approaches in cultural developments, transport, pedestrianisation, animation, safety and crime prevention, hygiene, facilities, wayfinding, the built environment and so on.

“Underpinned by sustainability, inclusivity and innovation, Destination City’s activation programme will be based around the brand pillars developed as part of the brand review.

“We will seek to create district identities around our brand pillars which will inform programming and partnership delivery across the Square Mile. These will be subject to refinement during the brand review process but seek to encompass with the below themes:

  • History and heritage. A City dripping in treasures and stories of the past, present and future. A City founded on a spirit of enterprise and innovation, open to discovery and excited to share its story with the world.
  • Culture and creativity. A City as comfortable with the roof top concert, as the conservatoire; the pop-up, pop-art as the gallery. A City that continues to inspire invention, making and design – and the talent who want to excel.
  • Shopping and socialising. A City of fun, colour and lightness. With vibrant clusters and a destination retail-hospitality offer that entices people to stay.
  • Wellness. A City where everyone is welcomed and included. A City of community and connections, education and enrichment, relaxation and renewal.

Without a core Culture Mile team, I think that Corporation members and residents could argue that there should be some governance arrangements which make it clear where responsibilities will lie in future, and how decisions will be made, as the five pillars of Culture Mile develop separately .

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