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Our September Oxford 'Science Cities and culture' forum

Oxford at dusk, looking past Hertford College to the Sheldonian Theatre

Future Cities Forum will be holding its next 'Science Cities' forum in Oxford at St John's College. The event will be held in the new library building designed by Wright & Wright Architects.

This forum will ask questions around investment and development in the science campuses in the City, the cultural attractions that tempt international talent to Oxford and the current economic challenges and opportunities for such a diverse population.

The Leader of Oxford City Council, Cllr Susan Brown, who will be joining our forum discussion, has been speaking about deprivation in the city and how to counter it. The Council has signed a new charter to underscore its commitment to making the local economy fairer for everyone. As part of the signing of the charter, the City Council has made 13 pledges, including hiring a diverse workforce and providing apprenticeship opportunities for young people.

Cllr Brown says:

'We are fortunate to have a strong economy in our city that is growing. But we need to ensure it works for everyone who live in Oxford...We created and pay the Oxford Living Wage....provide apprenticeships for young people, and are building affordable business space'

How can the City encourage young people to take up training in areas that will benefit their career prospects but also serve Oxford's science development? How can the City attract international talent too and enhance its science facilities?

Oxford is developing new lab space in the former Clarendon Centre in Corn Market. It is part of an international race to create the best research and development and attract investment. Part of that is in the building on well-designed science centres. There has been much debate about whether laboratories should be based outside the city centre but vacant retail has opened up an opportunity for scientists to work closer to urban amenities. Peter Canavan, Partner at Carter Jonas, explained at our October forum last year that the re-use of The Clarendon Centre is in some ways the story of our UK high streets:

'The number of science units are not sufficient in themselves, so student accommodation will also be built there. It is very much the north American model. It creates and maintains an active space through the whole day and therefore does not become deserted. Often experiments in labs go through the night, and this what will be the case there. It is complemented by the activities of Cornmarket and a public square too and in turn the development adds to this public realm',

Creating good quality public realm is a concern for Stuart Grant, CEO of ARC Group, which is developing significant science facilities outside the city at Harwell. Stuart said at our October forum:

'Harwell was an old airfield originally and then it became the centre for the UK's atomic energy research. The setting is really important. We have mature trees, views into the AONB, and a cricket ground - people love the environment - and you can reach London in 38 Oxford Business Park we own 80 acres which we bought a year ago... and we hired Allies and Morrison to review the master plan, so we can create jobs... with new housing'

Stuart will be speaking again at this year's Future Cities Forum in September, along with architects, planners and cultural leaders.

At our discussion event at The Bodleian Library in 2021, Future Cities Forum invited Cabinet Member for Culture and Tourism, Cllr Mary Clarkson, to comment on how to create a vibrant cultural programme for all in the city, to provide cultural attractions for all tastes and performance spaces that the community can enjoy. She said:

'It is important for buildings to be multi-purpose, the more we have multi-use, the more resilient we can be. Westgate is not only about retail as it has cinemas and performance spaces, but there is huge inequality in the city. On the one hand you have the universities and the success of the vaccine discovery programme, but on the other hand many groups in wider Oxford do not feel the city centre is for them. Culture has to be for everybody and you do not have to go through the gates of a college or museum to experience it.'

Above: Queen Street entrance to the Clarendon shopping centre in 2022 - soon to be re-modelled for science labs, workspace and amenities to help demand for life sciences growth in Oxford and the region


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