CityBites Podcast: Culture + Place

This episode of the CityBites ‘Connections’ podcast series is on the evolving relationship between culture and place. You’ll hear how different types and scales of organisation are mitigating the damage to the creative sector… how society, government and the market are reassessing culture’s value to local identity and economy… and what aspects of this changing world could be with us for the long term. 

In cases like the Southbank Centre, ‘London’s living room’, culture creates and defines place. Normally audiences flock to these destinations, but so do people who just want somewhere inviting to meet, work or pass the time at no charge. Now too many venues – whether single- or multi-purpose – stand empty, and as guest Gillian Moore points out, the generally sensible move to diversify revenue has had awful knock-on effects as the pandemic hit tenant businesses.

At the other end of the spectrum, individual artists and freelancers from fashion to video face an economic cliff-edge, though some help has come – often from each other. For some, this massive disruption could force a change of career. Even if individuals come out OK, will the neighbourhoods where they made and shared creative output be the poorer?

Somewhere between the two lies public art: beautifying barriers, making statements, cheering us up – and in recent years, claiming more space in development and regeneration schemes. It’s worth considering how climate action could intersect here. The creative industries were worth £306m a DAY to the UK economy in 2018 and had been on the ascendant; that talent and investment will be seeking a new outlet, and both climate action and cultural delivery can be very effective at ground level. That’s a topic for another podcast…


Today’s guests have been working to reduce the pandemic’s damage to culture and place across all scales:

Gillian Moore CBE is Director of Music at the Southbank Centre. She has worked at bringing music and the arts to London and international audiences for more than 35 years, including efforts to integrate education and the arts. She held leadership roles at the London Sinfonietta before joining Southbank in 2006 and was awarded an MBE in 1994 and a CBE in 2018 for her services to music. She also writes and broadcasts regularly about music, and you can find her on BBC3 – or see her championing column on the Southbank Centre here.

“People do happen across the Southbank because they just happen to be wandering along the riverfront. But we can never take that for granted. We know that even people who live half a mile or a mile away, kids who live on local estates, they’ve not seen the River Thames. So we have to make lots of extra effort to be in different places.” – Gillian Moore

Aida Esposito is founder-director of creativethinking, a cultural strategist for cross-sector clients and co-director of the Tottenham Creative Enterprise Zone. She is a passionate cultural and creative specialist who has delivered  innovative strategy, development and projects around the world. Through the pandemic, among other things, Aida has been connecting councils with individual artists and small businesses to generate work and help shape what places can look like.

“I think arts organisations will become much more savvy about how they use digital to augment what they’re trying to do, what they’re trying to say, and how they show work. Hopefully we will have a digital world which is complementary, another public space to use and engage with alongside other more physical manifestations.” – Aida Esposito

Paul Augarde is an award-winning placemaking strategist, working with cross-sector clients on socioeconomic and cultural regeneration strategies and focusing on resilient mixed communities. He’s an associate at Coherent Cities and WorkWild and a board member of arts charities ACAVA and UP Projects. Paul was core to the creation of Poplar Works and helped direct the £1.5m Creative Workspace Resilience Fund on behalf of the Mayor and the Creative Land Trust.

What the creative workspace sector has done really cleverly is support their tenant base. So as and when we come out of this, they will still have a strong market and a strong set of tenants. Whereas I suspect within certain parts of the private sector, that won’t be the case and they won’t have built that strength.” – Paul Augarde

Listen to the podcast to hear their lively debate…

or check out these resources:

Catch all podcast episodes on Future of London’s City Bites page.


The wonderful Queenhithe mosaic of London’s history seems particularly apt & the far end still has room for our current disaster. Designed by Tessa Hunkin and executed by South Bank Mosaics under the supervision of Jo Thorpe [thanks to Spitalfields Life for the info]

Curb Appeal: Managing Covid-19’s impact on public-private space

Social distancing has been key to reducing Covid-19 transmission, but it’s also been hugely disruptive. As loosening restrictions jostle with public confidence and business risk, what are the implications for urban design and movement, and for business and landlord viability? And can we flex enough to navigate a second wave?

Watch this lively webinar, hosted by RE:Women, to find out:

  • What councils, landlords and planners can do to make the space outside shops & restaurants a pleasant ‘waiting room’
  • What impact retail and F&B occupiers expect on operations and revenue, and what they’re doing about it
  • How area-aware station design for Crossrail and other projects could be impacted – and can help with local recovery.


  • Harbinder Birdi – Senior Partner, Hawkins\Brown
  • Jacqueline Bleicher – Founder/Director, Global Urban Design
  • Ally Reid – Investment Manager, LandSec
  • Lisa Taylor – Director, Coherent Cities (session producer & moderator)

Learning From Crisis: Immediate Economic Response

How can we, as individuals and organisations, support vulnerable groups now to collectively pull out of this “V- or W-shaped” economic dive? How can we start to deliver the re-imagined town centres and local economies we want and not leave people behind?

In the first of a three-part series exploring the local economic response to the Covid-19 crisis, this Future of London webinar invited effective operators leading the Covid response daily to share their experience and perspectives on communities, the creative industries, small business and rough sleepers – vulnerable groups, where the pandemic or the slump to come could be the blow that knocks them down.

FoL Executive Director and Coherent Cities Director Lisa Taylor hosted three great speakers:

  • Nabeel Khan, Director of Enterprise, Jobs & Skills at LB Lambeth, providing insight into the council’s economic scenario planning and priorities;
  • GLA Rough Sleeping Lead David Eastwood, outlining GLA and partner efforts to bring in and care for rough sleepers and the work underway to keep supporting them;
  • Aida Esposito, Tottenham Creative Enterprise Zone co-director and Founder/Director of Creative Thinking, on the pandemic’s threat to the creative sector and on tapping the potential of creative businesses and workers to adapt.

Check out the Future of London post for full resources and other Learning from Crisis events and write-ups.

City Bites: What’s at risk in recovery? Tony Travers & Barbara Brownlee on government roles in economic recovery

City Bites podcast: ‘Connections’ Ep. 2

How can UK government tiers interact usefully for economic recovery, especially in contentious cities like London? What support do local authorities need from national government to adapt to the new normal? And what might out city centres look like when the dust settles?

I asked Barbara Brownlee, City of Westminster Executive Director of Growth, Planning & Housing and LSE Professor Tony Travers for their perspectives in this compelling – and sometimes surprising – first episode of the City Bites “Connections” series with Future f London.


  • Treasury needs councils to avoid financial crisis, partly for economic recovery but also because local authorities are best placed for testing and managing all aspects of Covid response and relationships on the ground. Further, as Brownlee pointed out, being forced into a Section 114 budget-balancing exercise by these extraordinary Covid-19 costs would mean harsh cuts and no room for flexibility or collaboration. Despite increasing bluster, Travers believes we can expect MHCLG to do its best to help keep boroughs afloat.
  • Watch for councils, property companies and partners to start referring to all that vacant office space as “new” commercial or mixed-use space (Travers credits Arup’s Alex Jan with this reframing). Where landlords are amenable and planning authorities can flex, this could be a great way to bring fresh energy to town and city centres as smaller/ newer/ consortium organisations start to afford cheaper floor space.
  • Brownlee does represent a central London authority, but both make the case for not abandoning central cities (in the UK or elsewhere) in favour of sprawl. They also point out that large, historic landlords in city centres, like London’s Great Estates, have the patience – and patient capital – to make sound decisions, “viewing this as a 200-year thing, rather than a 20-month thing”.
  • In economic terms, both are particularly worried about the huge hole in Transport for London and commuter rail revenues – and the impact of that on investment – and about the terrible losses in the cultural sector, for livelihoods, businesses, footfall and export value.
  • Local authorities have limited powers to take direct action like policing risky queues or offering business rates relief, but they do have unique leveraging powers; watch for – or seek – more of this from them.
  • Both are convinced we will never go back to business as usual in terms of how we work, with Brownlee citing much more direct working on rough sleeping issues, and “100%” certainty that council staff and committees will stay at least partly remote and be as or more efficient than in the past.

Catch all City Bites episodes here.