Catherine McGuinness Column: Steps toward Culture Mile


Plans for Culture Mile were announced in July last year.

Led by the City of London Corporation with the Barbican, Guildhall School, London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London, the five core partners will lead the transformation of the north west area of the City over the next decade and beyond, improving their offer to audiences with imaginative collaborations, outdoor programming and events seven days a week.

Over the past 18 months, the City Corporation has developed a ‘Look and Feel’ strategy for Culture Mile which sets out an approach to physically transform the area from Farringdon to Moorgate.

This is an essential step towards improving the public spaces in the area which, as many readers will know, is currently dominated by vehicles and perceived by many to be hard to reach and difficult to navigate.

The proposals set out an ambitious and exciting vision which will radically transform the area over the next 10-15 years, creating a place where we all want to spend time – be it as a resident, a visitor, or a City worker.

The strategy was developed with Fluid, a London-based design and creative agency, alongside Culture Mile’s five core partners, through workshops, consultations with residents and businesses in the local community, public engagement events and drop-in sessions to identify key projects across the area.

news london
Beech Street was transformed with a groundbreaking sound and light installation last year

The plans include the essential improvement of Beech Street, which is a crucial axis for Culture Mile and a priority for the City Corporation, new public space around the new Museum of London at West Smithfield, and the proposed Centre for Music.

During the next two-three years, there will be a number of changes that you will start to see taking place to improve the area, including better wayfinding, increased greening, temporary art installations, and new street furniture.

New creative lighting projects, more digital information, accessibility and safety improvements, and improved infrastructure will complement better signage and public information systems.

For Culture Mile to realise this ambitious plan there are four key aims.

We want to create a ‘Cultural Spine’ running from the site of the new museum in West Smithfield though Long Lane, Beech Street and on to Moorgate through Silk Street.

london magazine
Culture Mile is beginning to leave its mark

The Cultural Spine will prioritise pedestrian movement, offering better connections at ground level, direct routes, improved air quality creating a healthier environment, and providing visitors with the confidence to wander and explore.

We will bring the area’s world-class cultural activities into the streets to activate them, taking the ‘inside out’. We will create a destination known for both generating and consuming culture, by using vacant or under-utilised spaces and providing cultural infrastructure to animate the streets and the area’s hidden activities, developing new places for local community activity.

New cultural programming will celebrate the area’s rich and diverse story, revealing its social, cultural and architectural history. We want to create an environment that people want to discover and explore as well as safeguarding the area’s character and its areas of urban oasis. To achieve this we need better lighting, wayfinding and more green spaces.

Together we will create a place where culture is produced as well as consumed, and where the creative industries are supported, with both artists and small businesses encouraged to set up and grow in Culture Mile.