Why we must embrace London Open House
By Westminster Property Association Executive Director Charles Begley, 17 August 2020
In just over a month this year’s Open House Festival, curated by the excellent charity Open City, will showcase a weekend of our great city’s buildings and open spaces to the public. The founding principles of the event are to make London a more accessible, equitable and open city, and last year more than 250,000 curious visitors took a peek around 800 buildings and locations.
The built environment has an incredible power to excite and enthral, be it due to scale and feats of engineering, fascinating history or simply sublime beauty. It forms the very fabric of a city and how we all work, live and play.
This year the festival takes on an added significance. The normally bustling streets of the City and West End have been largely deserted for months. Offices have been locked and countless businesses, which depend on the 1million+ daily workers in the districts, face an uncertain future. For every 100 office workers up to 18 jobs in retail and leisure are created and sustained in shops, bars, restaurants, cultural institutions and leisure.
These workers have played their full part in helping London become the global city it is today. Combined the City of London and Westminster generate £124billion in GVA annually, accounting for more than 30% of London’s economy and contributing to the nation’s prosperity.
Companies have used our capital’s competitive advantage through the agglomeration of skills and talent, attracted by all that London has to offer, to great effect. As much as commuting pains us all, that competitive advantage cannot be replicated on the internet.
This year’s Open House London is therefore more important than ever and will remind people just how incredible London is. WPA members have a unique opportunity through the London Property Alliance’s support of the event to be part of that, and we would encourage as many as possible to take part.
As London cautiously recovers and we all grapple with new ways of working, Open House London will help us celebrate the architecture and open spaces which underpin its appeal. Clearly it will be a very different way of celebrating this year given the circumstances, but the festival’s organisers are open to innovative ideas and are being as flexible as possible to accommodate participation and a hybrid of virtual access and physical events. Some plan to show groups of disadvantaged children around their buildings. Some are showing areas usually off limits, others are holding talks and tours in spaces already open to the public. But all want to shine a light on what they do, attracting new audiences and reconnecting with existing ones.
Our members are well placed to help support these efforts, and we would urge you all to find out what your organisations are doing to get involved. Through our partnership with Open House London this year we can provide advice and guidance, and in turn amplify your efforts.
London has faced crises throughout its long history, and emerged even stronger. The city’s layers of history and soaring skyline will continue to enthral people across the UK and all over the world. Let’s remind them how amazing London is and embrace this year’s festival.
Open House Festival takes place over the weekend of 19 – 20 September, with participants additionally able to host and manage events until 27 September. There is no charge for participating via London Property Alliance’s partnership, although members are encouraged to donate to the charity’s organisers Open City.
To find out how you can get involved, or if have any questions, please contact Katie Glover at firstname.lastname@example.org.
London Property Alliance (CPA & WPA) – Executive Director