Place-making and Arts – winning or losing?

20 January 2015

Delegates from over 50 organisations took part in the second of a series of three learning exchanges to debate how we promote opportunities for children and young people in London’s changing cityscape.

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Christine Parsloe, Leisure and Cultural Manager for the London Borough of Merton and Guardian Public Servant of the Year, began the day with a view from within Local Authorities. Her speech depicted a landscape of significant change and challenge where Local Authorities are being externalized, shared across authorities and cut.

Holly Donagh, Partnerships Director at A New Direction, gave a wider overview of London and the drivers for change in the city. London is growing at a rate twice as fast as the rest of Britain.

Laia Gasch, special assistant to Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, chaired a debate in the afternoon and acknowledged the pressure on transport, school places and housing. She suggested that Local authorities will be focusing on jobs and growth and that there may not be arts and culture teams in five years time. In this context, she asked, ‘is it the case that, forarts and culture, we are losing the argument?’

The panelists all gave some examples of how arts and culture can be used to create opportunities for young people through other people’s agendas and other people’s budgets. Clearly the pace of change is fast and it is hard to predict how arts and culture will be run in different local authorities. What is more certain is the fact that people are unlikely to want to live in a place that has no arts and culture.

Alex Hearn, regeneration manager for Brent, pointed out that property developers recognize this and gave the example of the Cathedral Group who now employs a Creative Director.

Arts and Culture have significant value for Place, particularly in the context of children and young people, however organisations need to be agile, collaborative and responsive to change.

A summary of the day’s discussion as well as recordings and presentations can be found here.


The third and final Learning Exchange will take place next week on January 28. The day will be themed on Value and be led by Francois Matarasso. You can still book a place for the event here.