Destination City: good for visitors … what about residents too?

The Culture, Heritage and Libraries committee held a wide-ranging discussion today following a presentation about the vision for Destination City, which I wrote about earlier.

Here’s some of the issues, and a suggestion on where best to explore the pros and cons of the programme for residents.

It was all rather high-level, because practical details of the highlight of the programme, Bartholomew Fair, were on the non-public agenda.

As I wrote earlier, that means no public discussion of a £1.3 million three-week programme in September that will Impact on residents as well as businesses. The Fair will set the style for a £2.5 million programme that aims to bring lots more visitors – and their money – to support pubs, cafes, restaurants and a leisure industry hit by work from home.

That may be good news for residents, or it could bring nuisance.

The issue was discussed in general terms, with calls from several Members for better ways to engage with residents. That may follow from the Residential Reset programme announced earlier this year.

In addition Policy chief Chris Hayward said in a question time session “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.”

What might that mean in practice? It is difficult to see how engagement will be managed. Will it be through the Destination City programme, Residential Reset, or Business Improvement Districts, which now cover all the City, and this morning has their own briefing on the DC programme.

Committee chair Munsur Ali shifted my attention in that direction during discussion when he talked about the need to make a unique offer to residents and other interests, and about Culture Mile branding – see video from here.

Culture Mile was a City Corporation programme which ran from 2018 to April this year, covering the north west of the City, with some elements of what is now Destination City. It also included a comprehensive Look and Feel Strategy which included public realm improvements and information systems that would definitely benefit residents.

The report has illuminating User Scenarios which work through how visitors with different interests could engage with the Culture Mile offer. See page 32 onwards for stories of of The Culture Lover, The Family, The Elderly Couple, The Artist.

Although Culture Mile has now been subsumed into Destination City and other programmes, the latest Business Improvement District covers the same area and is called the Culture Mile BID.

As Munsur Ali observed, the Culture Mile identity and logo is still very visible on the streets – for reasons I reported in January.

I recently had a very helpful meeting with the Culture Mile BID staff, and came away believing that although their main remit is to support business, they are keen to work constructively with residents. They have just launched a £60,000 community grants fund.

It is still early days for the BID, which was only established in April. However, following today’s committee discussion, I do think it provides a useful focus for understanding how Destination City may play out for residents.

The Culture Mile area, which includes Golden Lane and Barbican Estates, has about half the City’s residential population in ; it includes many of the main cultural institutions; it is the original home of Bartholomew Fair; there is likely to be a Neighbourhood Forum, and maybe a community forum; it would be a good location for an information hub.

I think that the Culture Mile BID is the ideal test bed for exploring what Destination City could mean for residents, businesses, and visitors.

The BID could rework the User Scenarios in the context of the new programmes. That would be a good way to explore what happens after Bartholomew Fair: what will bring visitors back, what will be on offer to residents.

I think I heard Munsur Ali suggest that residents should be able to put forward suggestions about the Destination City programme, not just be consulted. The Culture Mile BID might take account of that in its grants programme, next time around – welcoming ideas as well as funding proposals. Maybe the BID could organise with residents a review of their experiences after Bartholomew Fair.

More suggestions later.

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