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Only connect

EC1 Echo columnist David Wilcox wonders: what does The City need to extend a welcome to visitors? The answer is connection

A three dimensional network made from green string
Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

I live just south of Smithfield, and enjoy walking through the market buildings into Clerkenwell, via St John’s Gateway, St James Churchyard, Spa Fields and Exmouth Market. There are lots of other interesting routes, and I’ve been experimenting with different sorts of maps, photos and videos to record explorations. That’s given me great insights into the shared history of EC1 and it feels a familiar, welcoming neighbourhood. But what’s it like for Clerkenwell residents to walk the other way? Is the City as welcoming… or just somewhere to visit for the Museum of London or St Paul’s Cathedral?

I began thinking about joining up the north and south of EC1. As I’ve found, reflective walks are the best ways to engage with neighbourhoods. The Footways project, for example, which promotes quiet and interesting routes throughout central London, has charted one from Angel to St Paul’s along with other walks through EC1.

The City would certainly like to be more welcoming: as reported it staged a major festival on October 15 to launch its Destination City campaign to attract visitors. The City’s Culture Mile – including the Barbican, Barts Square, and Golden Lane – is also due to become a Business Improvement District (BID), and surveys show that businesses like projects for greening, cycling, walking and tackling air pollution.

However, while projects provide a better environment, it is people who create welcoming neighbourhoods, and people need places to get to know each other. As I wrote in the last EC1 Echo, community drop-in sessions at Barbican Library have highlighted the need for a range of different meeting places and while Clerkenwell is lucky to have The Peel, and Golden Lane estate, their community centre there’s currently nothing in south EC1. That may change with the creation of a community room in the Barbican library.

One proposal for the BID is a neighbourhood forum – there is one for the Victoria BID in SW1, for example – and an online forum for our area could work. That said, it can be difficult to engage people and facilitate discussion on a new tech platform, while both Barbican and Golden Lane already have their own, not to mention the Next Door app.

So my hunch is to now identify the human connectors – whether they have professional roles or personal enthusiasms – and offer ways to meet up, in fun gatherings, both in-person and online. If you agree, get in touch.


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