Creative Estuary visits Barking Riverside

For the most recent meeting of the Creative Estuary Cultural Co-location Advisory Board we explored cultural co-location in Creative Estuary and visited Barking Riverside. Project Lead, Councillor and Professor, Samer Bagaeen has written a blog about it.

The Creative Estuary is funded through investment from the Cultural Development Fund which has 4 key aims and outcomes: to unlock economic growth and productivity, to strengthen local leadership, to enhance creative skills, and to make places attractive to live, work and visit. Creative Estuary’s Cultural Co-location project tests and demonstrates new practice in the role of culture in planning and placemaking, through co-locating cultural facilities within planned civic infrastructure in different development scenarios.

The Advisory Group for the Creative Estuary’s Cultural Co-Location project went out again into the field and met at the Wilds at Barking Riverside at the end of April.
There’s always plenty to talk about, debate and decide when we meet quarterly and there is never enough time to take in the breadth and depth of work that we at Creative Estuary and our partner organisations are doing. This blog will hopefully offer a glimpse of the breadth of work and inspire future collaborations.
From influencing planning guidance and policy, audits and inventories on creative assets for cultural production, chipping away at bringing forward cultural infrastructure, to legacy planning and capturing the learning and the tools we have been working on, we are a busy group of mission- oriented professionals.

Sharing lessons learnt was high on the agenda for this meeting so we started out with partner updates before learning about the good work going on with Lisa’s and Rachel’s teams. Thurrock and Purfleet went on first with an update on Purfleet Centre Regeneration Limited (PCRL) who is delivering a £1bn+ regeneration project that has reimagined the existing town of Purfleet-on-Thames to enable it to become a creative hub and a riverside destination – 2,800 homes, town centre and infrastructure. Our partners at Thurrock are developing a cultural strategy for the borough and Creative Estuary is supporting pieces of work on the development of permanent and meanwhile infrastructure, citizen led cultural programming, the long-term value and asset management of cultural infrastructure, and you guessed it, influencing and shaping planning policy.

Lisa went through the chronology of how Barking and Dagenham had become a secret haven for film. If you watched The Batman at the cinemas, then you may know it was filmed in studios brough forward by Film Barking and Dagenham.

Working with education institutions was and remains critical to the team. One big part of the project is about skills for young people to let them know that there are plenty of opportunities for them in this part of the Estuary. Lisa’s team worked with teachers sowing the seed and getting young people to think about different career options, including production roles on film sets. There was more to come, Lisa’s assured us with The Wharf Studios London delivering 6 sound studios and Eastbrook Studios delivering a further 12 sound stages.

Lisa was beaming when she talked about how the borough not only hosted Marvel, Sony, Warner Bros, Apple, Netflix, Sky and the BBC, but also piloted a two-day boot camp with one of the local colleges over the course of the past year with young people learning the basics of production before going on paid placements with Barking and Dagenham film college. There was of course more to come with a flag ship career event at UCL Pearl in July with 450 primary school students and 450 secondary school students from the borough. The diverse pipeline of film and production talent looks like it is in safe hands. This ambition for the creative industries was embedded in the borough’s strategy 5 years ago and it very much has a spatial dimension moving forward.

We then heard from Rachel Roe and her team at the GLA about their work supporting creative enterprise zones, the development of cultural infrastructure, and public realm and art commissions. Rachel presented the Cultural Facilities Design Toolkit – a suite of design guides for cultural infrastructure providing guidance as a prompt for use before the planning process to help deliver successful cultural infrastructure. If you are an architect or a planner then this is the tool for you. There is also an opportunity for dissemination through the professional bodies such as the Royal Town Planning Institute and through architecture organisations such as the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The meeting concluded with a briefing by Alex Man on the work of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor and the opportunities to explore and hold knowledge exchange events to raise awareness of this work of Creative Estuary and its partners with leadership at local authorities, and the development and investment communities. Delivery plans across our geography are coming forward showcasing how new and regenerated spaces and places will be ready for investment, in the context of transport needs and skills delivery for the pipeline of talent working across the creative industries and in the built environment professions delivering some pretty amazing places. To look up close at delivery, we were shown around parts of Barking Riverside by Matthew Sims, the placemaking manager at Barking Riverside Ltd.

If your children see these professions as career paths, then do look at our amazing work. If you also believe that culture is not only ‘nice to have’ but you think it is the gateway to levelling up, then come speak to us.

Creative Estuary includes Prof. Samer Bagaeen, Kent School of Architecture and Planning, Project Manager for Cultural Co-Location, Emma Wilcox, Project Director, and Catherine Byrne, Project Officer. Max Farrell Chairs the Advisory Group whose membership includes Kevin McGeough and Laura Bailey from the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, Amy Linford and Roxie Curry from Thurrock Council, Stephanie Holt-Castle from Kent County Council, Selina Mason from Lendlease, Sherry Dobbin from Futurecity, Rachael Roe from the Greater London Authority, Dr Elanor Warwick from the Clarion Housing Group, and Lisa Dee from Film Barking and Dagenham. We were joined at the Wilds by Joseph Henry and Alex Mann from the GLA and Harry Zimmerman, an apprentice from the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation.