Rhinegold Photo credit: Paul Cochrane
Katy Wright

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Plans for Square Mile cultural hub revealed

12:19, 20th July 2017

Plans to create a cultural hub in London’s Square Mile have been announced.

The Culture Mile initiative will see the regeneration of an area in the north-west corner of the City over the next ten to 15 years through creative exchange, cultural collaboration and learning projects.

The project will be led by the City of London Corporation together with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London. The partners will work together to transform the area, improving the links between venues and developing the area into a more attractive destination.

Three major building projects lie at the heart of the project: the proposed Centre for Music, the new Museum of London, and the transformation of Beech Street. The latter project is still in its very early stages, with a feasibility report underway, but the transformation would address the air quality, introduce retail units and provide better access to the cultural institutions at either end.

Improvements to the urban realm will be rolled out over the next decade, including better signage, green spaces, lighting and public information. The development project begins today (20 July) with the unveiling of a series of temporary art installations, signage, gardens, and trails; it is intended that events will take place seven days a week, and regular pop-ups will enliven the area’s streets.

The blue area on the map indicates the planned Culture Mile area, but this isn’t a hard boundary. The five partners are currently in conversation with organisations in and around the area in order to develop an extensive network.
The blue area on the map indicates the planned Culture Mile area. but this isn’t a hard boundary. The five partners are currently in conversation with organisations in and around the area in order to develop an extensive network.

Education is a key aspect of the initiative, with organisations working together to create a programme of learning opportunities, aimed particularly at under-served groups.

The five partners will be supported by a network of organisations in and around the area. 60 organisations have been approached, and 12 have already signed up; these include the ABRSM, City Music Foundation and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Introducing the initiative at Milton Court, Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said Culture Mile aimed to redefine the area so it was known as much for culture as for finance and described it as ‘an affirmation of our commitment to culture’.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican Centre, stated that the City of London Corporation had been looking to improve the area for some time, and that the initiative would create a cultural and creative hub building on its existing offering.

Acknowledging that the area ‘is not the most appealing and connected public realm in London’, Kenyon said that the Crossrail project would make the area much more accessible, with around 1.5 million additional visitors a year within a 45-minute journey of the area once the Elizabeth Line becomes fully operational in December 2019 and the North-South Thameslink line is upgraded.

He added that the Brexit vote had added a sense of urgency to the Culture Mile project, and went on to confirm that the initiative would continue even if one of the three architectural projects – including the Centre for Music – was not realised.

Kathryn McDowell, managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra, emphasised that the initiative would transform the area into an exciting place to be, while Lynne Williams, principal of the Guildhall School, noted that the area’s development would create more opportunities and greater visibility for the conservatoire’s students.

www.culturemile.london/

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