Illustration Centre raising funds

Round windmill base from the early 18th century
Round windmill base from the early 18th century

The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration – due to be built in the New River Head buildings close to Amwell Street in Clerkenwell – is embarking on an ambitious fundraising drive. When built, the Centre will not only be the UK’s permanent national centre for illustration and graphic arts, but will also be the largest space dedicated to illustration in the world. 

As the Centre’s fundraiser Harry Hickmore says, “It will be a significant new cultural landmark in the centre of Clerkenwell, and we expect to be open by summer of 2023.” 

The “multi-purpose site”, acquired in 2019, will include two new galleries, a cafe and education centre, a shop, and a dedicated space for the 40,000-strong archive of its founder, illustrator Quentin Blake. 

The architectural plans have been completed by Tim Ronalds Architects, whose work include Wilton’s Music Hall and Hackney Empire. Currently called the House of Illustration and operating from rented space in King’s Cross, the Centre needs £12m to achieve its aims.

“Currently we’re at 28 per cent of that,” says Hickmore, who is optimistic about the funding programme, adding that it’s important the Centre becomes part of Clerkenwell’s cultural offering.

 “The pre-planning has been achieved and local residents have responded positively which is good, as we want them to feel engaged,” he says. 

The New River Head’s buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the complex dates back to 1609, when engineering began to bring clean water from Hertfordshire to London. The key building is the late-18th century Engine House, once a 19th century visitor attraction. Earlier still is a round windmill base from the early 18th century. 

If you are interested in joining a tour of the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration: Email: harry.hickmore@houseofillustration.org.uk