At the beginning of last year, a baby was born at Great Ormond Street, or a job-seeking graduate disembarked a train at Kings Cross and tipped the Capital’s population over the edge; at more than 8.6million, the number of people living in London officially
London’s growth is inching forward compared with other global cities; the UN’s estimate of nine new people per hour is nothing compared with 22 in Mexico City, 53 in Shanghai, and 85 in Lagos.
And yet the unprecedented growth has people asking: ‘what will London look like in 50 years?’, one of many questions posed by City Now City Future, the Museum of London’s year-long exploration of the future of urban life.
The season is made up of more than a hundred events, exhibitions, creative commissions, talks and debates that explore urban change in London and around the world.
The 12-month programme is a first for the Museum of London, which typically sticks to three and six-month mini-seasons alongside its permanent galleries.
The museum’s digital curator Foteini Aravani says it is an opportunity for an in-depth exploration of a topic relevant to more than half the world’s population, and counting.
“By 2050 more than 70% of us may be living in cities,” she says. “We want to explore the joys, frustrations, innovations and challenges of living in a global city, what that means for residents and visitors, and cover the hot topics that matter to city dwellers today.”
At the heart of the City Now City Future season is The City Is Ours, a groundbreaking interactive exhibition that explores how and why our cities are transforming, and what urban communities around the world are doing to improve city life.
The exhibition arrives in London after 12 months in Paris at the Cite des sciences et de l’industrie, and while Foteini says the global focus makes it relevant to any urban audience, great care has been taken to localise some parts for Londoners.
“We’ve created an additional London focused section that explores London-specific innovations and local communities who are making this city a better place to live and work.”
Case studies include everything from growing projects and renewable energy schemes to state-of-the-art technological ventures, and charities tackling the social problems of the new world order. These will form the basis for a series of walks, talks and workshops at free lunchtime sessions from July.
And while innovation can offer a window into the future, a large proportion of the programme has been dedicated towards encouraging visitors to share their thoughts about the future.
My Point Forward is an interactive film installation from Portslade-based artists’ group Blast Theory that records visitors’ predictions over films shot in different areas of London, while the London Salon series brings together writers and academics to share their experiences of the Capital, and what it will mean 10, 20 or 100 years from now.
Foteini says this future focus, while unusual for an institution built around artefacts from the past, is important not just for the broader agenda around global urbanisation, but for exploring the museum‘s own position in it, particularly in light of an upcoming move to West Smithfield . “As we look forward to moving to a new museum in 2022 we‘re thinking hard about what a museum for London should be and how best to be part of people’s daily lives.”
The Museum of London’s City Now City Future season launches on 19 May and runs until April 2018; The City is Ours exhibition opens 14 July until 2 January