Can Destination City also help create a Liveable City?

I originally drafted this piece for a column in the EC1 Echo, but space is tight this time and we’ll revisit in print in the New Year. Meanwhile there’s discussion on Twitter about the cost and focus of the Destination City programme, and future use of the Museum of London site. The Culture Mile Business Improvement District is holding a launch event next week. It seems a good time to help promote some discussion about ways in which the City’s programmes can work for residents as well as businesses and tourists. I’ve made suggestions based on ideas previously posted here: a Museum of the Streets and community information hub. There’s a lot of links which wouldn’t appear in print, so I’ve listed below. Image from promotion of The Golden Key Destination City launch event.

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Draft column for the EC1 Echo

There’s change in prospect next year for the City’s north western residential area. Businesses have been told that voting for a Culture Mile Business Improvement District (BID) in January “will place businesses in the driving seat, enabling them to shape the City of the future”.

In addition, lots more visitors are promised through the Corporation’s new tourism-boosting Destination City programme, with a first year budget of £2.3 million. This will clearly impact on tourism to Clerkenwell and Islington as well.

The Elizabeth Line has made Farringdon the most accessible place in London, and Destination City plans “always on” attractions, animation of public spaces, and much higher footfall to take advantage of that.

Good news for tourists and businesses – but how can residents ensure that these plans also offer them a Liveable City without too much unwelcome disturbance?

Let’s rewind 50 years to the time when the current mix of business, residential and cultural development was emerging.

The London Metropolitan Archives include “The Living City”, a film made for the City Corporation in 1970 linking its history to a vision for the future, including the then-new Barbican development of homes, school and arts centre. In the film the commentator signs off saying:

“The great business concerns make the City a world centre of finance and commerce. But it is the citizens, those who live, work and have their being within the Square Mile, who bring it vigour and vitality.

“They make it what it is today: the living city”.

So far there hasn’t been any significant engagement with citizens, although that may change with a community forum suggested in the BID proposals.

Here’s a couple of ideas that might spark constructive discussion.

First, use closure of the Museum of London this month as a catalyst for innovation. Create a Museum of the Streets that both helps bridge the gap before a new Museum opens in 2025 in West Smithfield, and helps direct visitor footfall.

Offer visitors arriving on the Elizabeth Line walks, talks, maps and other ways to explore the rich history of the area in displays at venues and on smartphones. Virtual tours can preview what’s on offer in the City – and in Clerkenwell. Take the Farringdon exit for Destination Clerkenwell.

Design collaboratively to minimise disturbance yet boost trade and support venues.

There’s lots of existing content that could be assembled and promoted. The museum may continue to have an online presence, the Culture Mile website has an Explore section, and I can offer maps and walks curated for the Exploring EC1 project. The London Metropolitan Archives have a collection of historic photos on the Historypin site.

Second, follow through on the idea of a physical and virtual community information hub, initiated by the Barbican Centre’s Communities and Neighbourhoods project, that I’ve written about before. It could link with a new community room in Barbican Library, and library information resources.

The BID proposal has several references to mapping local assets and creating new information systems. That work could be done in ways to benefit residents, businesses and visitors, and contribute to the hub.

Both these initiatives would benefit from partnership with the EC1 Echo, for news and information, and with the Peel Institute, which is planning to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the history and attractions of Clerkenwell, and links with the City.

We need a new story, so why not make a new movie together? The UK HQ for the video-sharing app-makers TikTok sits on top of Farringdon East station.

Additional notes

After writing the piece above I blogged about the way that the Culture Mile programme is changing, with Destination City and the BID, if approved, taking the lead.

Discussion on Twitter prompted me to look back at the November meeting of the Culture, Heritage and Libraries committee, and make some notes about discussion of Destination City. The October 15 event cost £1 million, and some members questioned how decisions were made, and the benefits.

I’ve also written about the Museum of London closure after this weekend. It won’t be empty, because I guess much of the contents will have to stay in place until the new museum is ready in several years time. However, maybe there will be some rooms or galleries that could be used on an interim basis – whatever the decision on redevelopment.



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