First Impressions of Bloomsbury² Squared
Friday, 6 February 2015
In the first of our participant blogs, Shirley Blake, Programme Manager for Bloomsbury² Squared in London Borough of Camden, provides her first impressions of being involved in the Rethinking Parks programme.
I have recently joined the London Borough of Camden as Bloomsbury² Squared Programme Manager, working on the one year Rethinking Parks project for nine of the Bloomsbury Squares.
It is still early days, but I am now getting to know the various stakeholders linked to the Bloomsbury Squares. So far I have been impressed by three things in particular:
- The cultural and heritage wealth of the Bloomsbury Squares, which is amazing. Some of the trees in the parks are spectacular and it is said that Brunswick Square has one of the oldest plane trees in the country. New funding approaches must be found to ensure that the current high quality of these beautiful Squares is protected for the future.
- The level of support Nesta is providing to help us take this project forward. I attended the recent workshop on prototyping and, whilst I found the thinking processes of this concept very different, it certainly provided insights on how to progress the Bloomsbury Squares work.
- The enthusiasm of the Friends of each of the Squares, who are committed to seeing that the quality and character of their Squares are protected and enhanced.
“These squares…are our back gardens”
The nine Bloomsbury Squares all have their own characters; some have more of a community focus, whilst others are on the tourist trails. But comments from the Friends that “in this city environment, these squares are very important to us and act effectively as our back gardens” really brought home to me the need for sensitivity in how the Squares are managed and developed.
Our consultants Shared Assets have now completed their work on a baseline analysis of each of the Bloomsbury Squares, and we are sharing the findings from this with our stakeholders. One key finding so far is that a compulsory levy will definitely provide one way of raising significant levels of new funding for the parks, but it will also require some substantial partnership building work. A broader concept of a Parks Improvement District model, based on the Bryant Park model in the US, is also being explored.
I am really looking forward to helping to rethink the management and maintenance approaches to the Squares over the next 12 months, and exploring all the options available.