January cultural infrastructure forum at Art Fund


Future Cities Forum is looking forward to its discussions about the role of cultural infrastructure in January at the offices of Art Fund in Granary Square, Kings Cross (above). Art Fund occupies offices next to Regent's Canal in an 1860s building adapted sensitively to preserve the historic exterior.

The building was originally conceived as the nerve centre of the King's Cross Goods Yard. It sits alongside other important historic buildings such as the Grade ll Granary complex, now home to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Coal Drops Yard has also been part of a new restoration and masterplan by Heatherwick Studio and under the railway arches, a range of stores with established names and emerging brands, cafes, bars and restaurants have taken occupancy.

Sarah Philip is Director of Programmes and Policy at Art Fund and leads the team responsible for managing and developing the organisation's grant giving programmes which supports the museums and galleries sector in the UK. She will be talking at the round table about the importance of funding new acquisitions, curational and collections development. She has co-ordinated the Jonathan Ruffer curational grants programme, New Collecting Awards, and the Weston Loan Programme.

In 2014, Art Fund ran a successful campaign to save the Wedgwood Collection which documents the evolution of ceramics design over 250 years, and is of great importance to Stoke-on-Trent, the Potteries and the UK. As the National Portrait Gallery starts its redevelopment programme, 'Inspiring People' this July, Art Fund is supporting the museum taking 300 portraits across the country to be shown in regional exhibitions - some of which are rarely loaned.

Our discussions will ask questions about the master-planning and design of new cultural districts, the role that museums, performance venues and libraries play, the success and sustainability of neighbouring retail and the curation of public spaces.

Joining Sarah at the event will be Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture & Society for The Wellcome Trust. Simon joined the Trust in 2010 and before taking up his current role in November 2014, he was head of the Wellcome Library, where he led a highly successful digitisation programme and an exciting redesign of the library's public spaces.

Simon originally studied Zoology, before an interest in the history of science and medicine led him to join the Science Museum, where he worked on the Wellcome medical collections and managed the PRISM Grant Fund for preservation of industrial and scientific material. Before joining Wellcome, Simon was Director of Museums and Special Collections at the Royal College of Surgeons, where he led the curational team responsible for the redevelopment of the Hunterian Museum.

An important guest at the event, will be Sir Simon Jenkins who chaired the National Trust from 2008 to 2014, was editor of the Evening Standard from 1976 to 1978 and editor of The Times from 1990 to 1992. Simon spoke at our March forum in 2017 about the destruction of cultural sites and precious objects in Iraq and Syria. He said:

'Following the destruction we are left with a problem of what we do afterwards and there is a cult at the moment that says 'build something new'.The battle is on to rebuild. However many of the temples destroyed by Isis are relatively new as they were were put up by the French in the 19th century. They thought we can rebuild them true to their orrigial intention and it will be to the long term advantage of the civilisation to keep them. Now we have a cult of the new. However, we can preserve but we cannot recreate.'

Councillor Jonathan Simpson, Cabinet Member for promoting Culture and Communities at Camden Council, has overseen many initiatives to extend the nightlife of the area. He spoke at our 2018 'Art, Investment and Cities' Forum about the need to make culture inclusive. Camden was one of the successful boroughs that won an award from Mayor Sadiq Khan in the first London Borough of Culture competition.

The prize money is delivering cultural augmented reality trails around Camden. It is being called 'Camden Alive' and is an 'innovative collaboration with Camden's communities and cultural institutions to build augmented reality culture routes' according to the council.

Jonathan said 'cultural augmented reality routes will, via a smartphone, bring to life the thousands of diverse cultural and historical stories and places of interest across the borough...working with communities and residents who feel they are rarely able to access mainstream cultural provision in Camden and London'.

We will also be joined by Pam Alexander OBE who is a Mayor of London's Cultural Ambassador, and a board member at the London Legacy Development Corporation. She commented at our forum last June on the importance of how you fund regeneration to include the creative industries:

'The East Bank will create for the east what the West End has always had. We are also developing the Creative Land Trust which will try and secure land for the arts and creative industries as there is always a challenge when you are trying to create more land value to fund regeneration. You need to make sure that as you bring in the corporates that help to fund regeneration that you allow space for the creative and cultural industries'.

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