Table of Contents
A Guide to Culture Mile - and Destination City
Plans to engage residents in Destination City highlight the need for accessible information about the Corporation’s flagship programme, and a main area for cultural development. I suggest we need a Guide to what’s happening and what’s planned, with councillors taking a lead in its development.
More in the blog post on Why we need a Guide to Culture Mile and Destination City - and ideas for the Guide below,
What is happening - and what is unclear
Culture Mile is a key element in the City Corporation’s Destination City programme, which aims to attract more visitors to the Square Mile to support an economy hit by working from home. It is also the area with the largest number of residents, including Barbican and Golden Lane Estates.
Five years ago the City launched a comprehensive plan for the area, called the Look and Feel Strategy. It cost £300,000, was developed following extensive public consultation, and covered street-level improvements, greening, signage, and digital information systems.
Today new arrangements are in place, with responsibilities split between the Destination City team, a new Business Improvement District, and a number of City departments. There does not now appear to be any overall strategy for these improvements (but see update below on a new public realm study).
Members of the City's Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee have for some time pressed for an overall cultural strategy. Work on this was promised, but no report has yet appeared.
At the same time Destination City has started a resident engagement programme with a meeting in Cripplegate on November 7 at the heart of Culture Mile, and appointment of a City Envoy to manage the process. The City's Policy Chief has promised that residents' should have some ownership of Destination City. Further meetings are promised, but it isn't clear what “ownership” means. (see update on the Engagement page)
In parallel, the City Property Association has published “Visualising Destination City” which includes an outline of public realm improvements. No details of those are available.
Primera, the company that manages City Mile Business Improvement Districts, has appointed a Placemaking Director, who will work in Culture Mile. No brief is yet available.
In April 2023 the City Corporation announced funding of £650,000 for a “cultural transformation” of Smithfield in advance of the Museum of London opening its new home in West Smithfield in 2026. No further details have been published.
In June 2023 City Corporation planners ran a Destination City workshop to ask residents their view on how and where public realm improvements and other investments would bring benefits. A report is not yet available.
The original proposals for the Culture Mile BID suggested that there would be ways to engage residents, including a community forum. There is a Neighbourhood Forum for Barbican and Golden Lane Estates, but not for the rest of Culture Mile.
It is all rather confusing.
My suggestion is for the collaborative development of a guide to Culture Mile that would help residents - and everyone else - understand what is in prospect. It could provide a practical perspective on the high-level aims of Destination City.
So far I have brought together past reports and presentations about Destination City, together with blog posts about that programme and Culture Mile. Main links above, and more below. The guide can build on these resources, picking up some of the ideas put forward by residents at the November meeting.
Working together on a guide would help build relationships between the different interests, and could contribute to a new strategy that would benefit residents, workers and visitors.
The guide could be developed in association with Barbican Library, which is planning a community information hub, based on work I did last year. The guide could be developed in stages:
- Clarifying what is planned for Culture Mile and Destination City, and who is responsible
- Developing information services about events, activities and groups in the area, with maps of street-level improvements
- Helping support further collaborative projects of benefit to residents, workers and visitors.
Guide development could pilot an approach that could be adapted for other areas in the City, and the four other BIDs.
At this stage I’m testing the idea with residents and councillors, and organising content that I have already, including maps and material on both Destination City and the Culture Mile. I can make a start on the first phase, if other residents and councillors are interested. The Cloth Fair programme and website - complementing the official Bartholomew Fair - showed what we can do together. That initial work would scope out what further collaboration and resources are needed, and who might take a lead on different elements.
Here’s some questions that might shape that development. They could be amplified or refined at a workshop with residents. Barbican Library has previously hosted sessions that provided a brief for the proposed information hub.
- What was the Look and Feel strategy, and what elements are still in play, if any?
- Who is responsible for development of a new strategy?
- What are the immediate plans for placemaking, wayfinding, and public realm improvements - as outlined in the CPA report on Visualising Destination City?
- What other Destination City and Culture Mile plans are there that will affect residents?
- How can residents be involved?
Who might take a lead?
My past experience is that it is fairly easy to come up with ideas like the Guide, and gets nods of approval from the many interests who would need to be involved … but as a resident it is very difficult to move things forward. Someone with official status has to take the lead. In the case of Cloth Fair it was councillor Matthew Bell.
In this case I think that the main areas of interest are culture, heritage, museum and environment, together with the BIDs and the Destination City team.
Members of the Culture, Heritage and Libraries committee have in the past expressed frustration about the lack of clarity around their role in relation to Destination City. Might convening a group to develop the Guide provide a practical way to exert some influence, and also benefit residents and workers?
The Culture Mile BID says in its newsletter:
We have recently commissioned a Public Realm Study for the BID, which is being led by urban design consultants AR Urbanism, and transport consultants Steer.
Drawing on and tying together existing strategies, public realm schemes and developments, this study will provide a vision and a coherent narrative for public realm in the Culture Mile area, guiding future initiatives, and tackling urban realm and movement challenges.
As part of this study, we are keen to speak to visitors, residents and local workers to identify key issues and opportunities.
Hit the link below now to complete the survey.
I've asked whether the brief to consultants is available, whether there will be more consultation, and whether the aim is to replace the Look and Feel Strategy.
David Wilcox firstname.lastname@example.org