The importance of cultural projects in regeneration was a key theme last night (7 October) at the launch of the fifth issue of 3Fox International's BOLD magazine, which focuses on regeneration in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.
The event was hosted by Rooff at The Boathouse studio space, part of its Ice House Quarter scheme which offers workspace for those in the creative industries. It was sponsored by Bouygues Development and attended by 101 guests, largely made up of those in the property industry with an interest in development projects in the east London borough.
Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Barking and Dagenham, the latest issue of BOLD looks at the people and projects which have had a cultural impact on the borough throughout its history. The magazine also features all the latest news on regeneration projects.
Guests were welcomed by council leader, Darren Rodwell, who said: “BOLD is the best magazine I’ve seen all year. It’s absolutely fantastic and it has brought together what we are trying to encapsulate as a borough.
“We’re not the only ones in this though. It is not just the council, it is our investors, our partners and our friends who are helping us create a sustainable future. I want people to go away today under no illusions. If you want to work with this borough, we will work with you to create a sustainable future.”
Fashion designer and co-founder of HemingwayDesign, Wayne Hemingway, spoke in detail about regeneration projects which had inspired him in European capital cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen. “The best regeneration projects are not development-led, they're people-led,” he said.
“Also, the best regeneration doesn't come from loads of money being thrown at it. It comes from good ideas, whether they be design-based or art ideas or just from thinking about things differently.”
Hemingway backed up this assertion by pointing to original and successful ideas such as the installation of pianos as part of the redevelopment of St Pancras International and taxis in Amsterdam which “take you anywhere but home”, as an attempt to keep people in the city after work, in turn stimulating the night-time economy and improving the vibrancy of the place.
Mark Boleat, chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee – effectively the leader – of the City of London Corporation, also addressed the importance of cultural projects in regeneration, which he called “essential”.
“Regeneration can be built in lots of different things, but culture is an essential block in some areas and Barking is clearly one of them. But regeneration does not happen without political leadership, sometimes to get out of the way to allow people to do things and sometimes to make things happen. I am sure that Barking and Dagenham is going to succeed because it’s got a lot of ingredients but one of them is political leadership.”
Also speaking was Joyce Wilson, area director for the Arts Council England, who backed up this assertion. “The Arts Council has had a very long relationship with Barking and Dagenham and we have happily been investing in arts organisations for many years,” she said.
“I have to say that the real breakthrough came when Darren was appointed as leader. He has been such a champion for arts and culture which has made such a difference in the way that we view our investment in the borough and in particular, the impact it can have.”
The Arts Council supports the Creative Barking and Dagenham project, a “people and places” programme, which aims to create new ways for local people to experience arts and creative activities.
“The work that Creative Barking and Dagenham is facilitating here is creating a real buzz about the borough, not just here, but actually across the whole of London.”
Wilson also reserved praise for the council. “With cuts to local government funding and the immense pressure that there is on budgets, the Arts Council does not underestimate how difficult it has been for Barking and Dagenham to prioritise arts and culture. But we get a real sense in this borough that they have a real desire to work with us.”
A key regeneration partner for the borough is Bouygues Development, which is working with the council to deliver a number of schemes, and sponsored the event.
Managing director, Nicolas Guérin, said: “We have managed to create a relationship with the borough that is extremely strong.
“Development for us is not just about building, it’s about leaving behind something for the people and the community.” As Rodwell reitirates his pride in being the council leader, it is a vision that the local authority clearly shares.
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