Surviving – and Thriving

As part of our transition from Shad Thames to our new home in Kensington, the museum has benefited from the support of the Arts Council’s Survive and Thrive programme. With the guidance of Museums Development Officers and sector peers, we have identified working with communities as a key developmental ambition (see Transformers post).

To this end, last month over 25 professionals from a cross-section of local organisations and the creative industries came together at the Tabernacle Theatre on 12th March in an event that aimed to explore what we might do both inside and outside our new home to engage the professional creative community.

I’m Matt by the way and I was fortunate enough to have this as the first event in my new role as Producer of Public Programmes.

The Presentations

Kicking off the event was Angela McConville, CEO of the West Way Trust. The Trust is one of the first social enterprises in the UK and now manages 23 acres of land under the West Way. Activities of the Trust include securing High Street Funding from the Mayor of London and the Trust’s Creative Employment Programme in partnership with key community and sector partners. Angela’s talk offered a fascinating insight into the history of the Trust and the wider socio-cultural context of Kensington and Chelsea.

Next up was Tim Jones, Senior Innovation Lead for the place-making agency Future City. Tim outlined an approach to place-making that binds successful urban places together and makes them attractive to live in. Tim outlined how creative districts are formed, talking about the borough’s strengths, from its rich diversity right through to making the most of its ‘Royal’ status.

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Angela McConville giving her presentation

Discussions

Overall, one was left with the feeling of a unique place, where a wide range of nationalities and cultures meet in a borough that is a microcosm of London as a whole.  After this came the discussion and it wasn’t long before recommendations were flying in. It was suggested that the museum could take the lead in connecting with young designers and providing opportunities for career development, from responding to pressures on studio spaces through to tapping into the skills and resources of various design luminaries in the borough.

The museum was also seen as catalyst for community engagement and the integration of the creative industries. Questions were asked about the potential for the museum to become a community work hub with new audiences and develop the practical design skills of its audiences.

The museum’s central location was also discussed extensively and it was suggested that engagement with the north of Kensington where social and economic deprivation present key challenges should be a key priority for the museum.

Aside from this, there was tremendous enthusiasm for the museum’s arrival and a great awareness of design as an agent or currency of exchange for ideas, skills and programmes.

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Discussions and Brainstorming ideas

Conclusions

In the spirit of true collaboration, this event concluded by blending into another – the launch of the West Way Trust’s creative employment programme later that evening. With an inspiring array of young people taking early steps into their futures, the event has also helped shape our next steps  as we continue to develop programme plans and build ideas for community engagement.

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