New funds for creative industries as London City airport delays cultural welcome


As London City Airport delays its' long anticipated 'cultural welcome' - a new art installation by leading artist, Anne Hardy, to welcome international visitors to the capital - the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has this week launched a new emergency £2.3 million fund to support culture and creative industries at risk due to the impact of the Coronavirus.

The Mayor's office states that the virus is having a significant impact on London's arts scene and night time economy, with countless shows, events and concerts scrapped or postponed, despite the fact that this sector is integral to the recovery of the capital and its economy estimated to be worth £52 billion a year. The Mayor's new 'Culture at Risk Business Support Fund' is working with the Music Venue Trust, the LGBTQ+Venues Forum, the Creative Land Trust and BFI.

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries said:

'Culture is part of London's DNA. It is the reason many of us choose to live here and why so many visit each year. It inspires and entertains and boosts our economy day and night'.

'Entrances' into the capital and the way they are 'curated' are also important and London City Airport has been working on how to introduce the right 'cultural welcome' in its international arrivals. The airport, which sits near the new East London emerging cultural district, with the creation of the V&A's new museum and collections centre at Stratford, has seen a rise in interest of tourism flights beyond its business traveller numbers and has been considering how its presents itself to those touching down in London.

Liam McKay, Board Director at London City Airport, who has been speaking this week to Future Cities Forum about the difficulties of running the airport in the next weeks and months ahead, expressed his determination that the new 'cultural welcome' will be staged as soon as government indicates easing of restrictions:

'We are planning to have Anne Hardy's installation open some time in the summer, and this could be put in place relatively quickly. It will be at a time when commercial operations have re-started and we see a return to a steady flow of passengers through the airport.'

'Destination London' will be staged for the airport's international arrivals corridor and the artist has explored often overlooked flora in proximity to the airport, reflecting on London as a location for seeds from around the world to flourish.

The commission, presented over five large series of layered photograms, features plant life collected from the surrounding locality, including the airport runway. Anne has described the inspiration for her work rooted in the surrounding landscape of tidal flows and post-industrial development forming a particular kind of archaeology in flux, holding within it a parallel botanic universe of international plants.

Anne Hardy was selected for the installation project from a shortlist of East London-based artists - a panel including the Mayor of London's office, the University of East London and Artwise.

London City is not the only airport to consider the idea of a 'cultural welcome'. Amsterdam's Schipol Airport opened its exhibition hall - Holland Boulevard - displaying Dutch art from the Rijksmuseum's collection as a way of introducing passengers to the cultural offer of the country, back in 2017.

Open 24 hours a day, passengers are invited to relax during their journey by taking a step out of the stress of travel, exploring art and culture. It stands as an introduction to 17th century Dutch painting, with portrait, landscape and seascape as genres. Travellers wanting to read can visit the new Airport Library, with around 500 books by well-known Dutch authors, translated into more than 40 languages.The NEMO Science Museum challenges passengers - young and old - to discover the relevance of science and technology to our lives.

Despite the fact that London City Airport has been on standby to accept helicopter flights in and out to help the East London Nightingale Hospital, the surge in cases of the C-virus may be reducing now and the airport will have to look at plans to re-open to the public with special measures in place such as social distancing. During the epidemic Liam says that one of the most important things that the airport has been able to do is support the local community:

'As a significant business in East London we have decided that the best way to help during the C-Virus is through giving money to support food banks where needed for the local communities.'

The airport has pledged to donate £50,000 to help nine food banks across Newham, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets as well as Barking and Dagenham. Thousands of Coronavirus cases have been confirmed across the four boroughs. The Newham food bank has seen a demand surge of over 300% across its centres. This donation means that over the past year, London City Airport has provided grants of more than £165,000 to support local causes.

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