Caitlin Warfield writes that the future of culture and business in urban centres depends on their ability to work together.
To say the last year has been a challenging one feels like a massive understatement. We’ve seen cultural institutions across the City of London close their doors due to the pandemic and our buildings, usually hives of activity, have been much quieter.
What we’ve learned during this time is the importance of creativity to bring people together. London has suffered in the same way many city centres across the UK have suffered. Without arts and culture – without people – the happy chaos of city life is diminished.
We believe in the unique ability of culture to transform those spaces from places we rush through to places we linger, places we gather, and eventually places we seek out to come together.
People and places
Brookfield Properties is one of the world’s largest real estate managers; we’re a global firm but we care deeply about local communities. For more than 30 years, Arts Brookfield, our cultural arm, has invested in activity that creates places where people and communities truly want to be.
Since arriving in the London ten years ago, Brookfield Properties has forged partnerships with cultural organisations including the London Symphony Orchestra, Sculpture in the City, Crafts Council and Culture Mile. We also commission artists directly and have a curator on our staff. As a property developer, we recognise the importance of creativity in creating inclusive and welcoming environments. As a corporate supporter of the arts, we want to build long-lasting relationships that support artists and performers to create work, using our spaces as inspiration.
Covid-19 has brought front of mind something we’ve always known – our cities need culture. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic we need our cultural institutions to bring life back to our streets, reigniting the character and spirit of our urban centres. We need artists and performers to help us to reflect on the impact of the past year and celebrate a new beginning. Our cities are nothing without creativity. Our communities and high streets will not thrive without it.
During the pandemic, we’ve continued to invest in culture and support artists and performers directly whenever we can.
At the height of November’s lockdown, we collaborated with Culture Mile to bring together London Symphony Orchestra performers and freelance videographers, choreographers and dancers. They created short films in response to life under lockdown, exploring our relationship with space amid a world of individual isolation.
This partnership meant we could continue to support artists and performers despite having to cancel planned ‘real life’ performances. We’re now exploring how we can work with them again to reanimate our spaces with music and performance as the Square Mile emerges from the pandemic. We have already committed to a full-scale outdoor music festival at London Wall Place in the summer of 2022.
Similarly, we’ve recently worked with the Crafts Council, supporting the Brookfield Properties Crafts Council Collection Award. This award, one of the biggest prizes for craft in the UK, directly benefits makers and their gallery, while the Crafts Council bolsters its collection with two new works created during lockdown. Once we can reopen to the public, we will host a free exhibition of the winner Anna Ray’s works at two of our city locations.
Sculpture in the City, which will launch its 10th season, brings great contemporary sculpture to the heart of the City, free and accessible to all. We’ve worked with the team at Sculpture in the City from the very first edition. Most recently we have worked together on Bridging Home by Do Hoh Suh, a landmark installation on one of the Square Mile’s prominent highwalks.
Roadmap to recovery
As we progress down the roadmap to recovery, we’re keen to welcome workers and visitors back to the city once more. We’ve joined the Lord Mayor’s Culture and Commerce Taskforce to explore how businesses and creatives can truly work together for mutual benefit. Both sectors have been hit hard by the pandemic but can support each other to emerge stronger and more resilient than before. Partnership working is absolutely crucial to the long-term success of the City of London.
The pandemic may have meant our city centres have lain dormant for the better part of a year, but it has been an opportunity for us to get closer to the culture sector and think about what kind of city we want to create when our streets come back to life once again.
We know that working life patterns will change. However, there is something special about coming to the office, collaborating with colleagues and the spontaneous interactions only happen when people are together. Creativity gives us a reason to come into workplace and our city. There’s never been a better time for business to be close to cultural organisations as we welcome communities back for a more hopeful and resilient future.
Caitlin Warfield is Vice President of EMEA Marketing at Brookfield Properties.