Recovery of London’s Home of Arts and Science

14 July 2020

South Kensington is London’s home of arts and science, with a vital role to play in enriching lives. Our arts and science institutions face unprecedented challenges as a result of Covid-19. We, as leaders of these institutions, local authorities, community groups and businesses, are committed to creating the safe, accessible environment necessary to enable people from local boroughs, from London, the UK - and eventually the world - to rediscover this renowned cultural quarter. Ensuring the survival and recovery of these institutions, and the local businesses they support, will require imagination, innovation, the ability to act quickly and strong local support. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster City Council and the members of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group (ERCG) are working closely together towards this goal.

South Kensington is so much more than a stimulating day out.  Here we generate and share knowledge and inspire the scientists, musicians, designers, engineers, and artists of the future and as we have seen in this pandemic, the research that happens here directly addresses the biggest challenges facing humanity.  Together we teach over 20,000 students, support over one million children in school groups, and welcome over 20 million visitors from around the world.  We directly employ over 10,000 people in RBKC and Westminster and foster many more jobs in local economy in hospitality and retail.  Four out of five visitors to London say they come to experience its culture. 

The arts and science institutions in South Kensington were founded with a radical mission; to promote knowledge and inspiration in the arts and science, to be a centre of debate and inquiry, open and accessible to all, for the benefit of society.  Experimentation, imagination and innovation are at the heart of what happens in this, one of the first ever planned cultural quarters in the world, and this is now helping the world to tackle its current crisis.  

The safety of our visitors, residents, students and staff is always the top priority for our organisations and we now have new issues to manage.  Social distancing requires more space for people to move, outdoor places to eat, clear signage and wayfinding, and new transport routes. Weekly meetings are being held between senior council officials and ERCG to agree enhanced provision for cyclists and pedestrian and other steps to ensure South Kensington offers visitors a fantastic way to welcome culture back into their lives. Building trust and confidence, through visible safety measures and procedures, is essential. 

South Kensington has always been a special place for Londoners – last year, 61% of Londoners visited one of our venues – and our local audience is very important to us.  With international travel unlikely to return to a significant level for a long time, Londoners have this extraordinary place to themselves.  We are collaborating to encourage more local people to make the most of this opportunity to explore the world class treasures on their doorstep.

Luke Blair and Sir Michael Dixon, Co-Chairs, Exhibition Road Cultural Group

Rachael Robathan, Leader, Westminster City Council

Elizabeth Campbell, Leader, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

MEMBERS OF THE ERCG

Natural History Museum

Science Museum

V&A

Royal Albert Hall

Imperial College

Royal College of Music

Goethe-Institut

Institut français

Kensington Palace

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Serpentine Galleries

Royal Parks

Design Museum

The Ismaili Centre

Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851

South Kensington Estates

The Royal Society of Sculptors

Japan House

Leighton House Museum

Royal College of Art

The Winton Gallery, Science Museum

The Hintze Hall, Natural History Museum

V&A

Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Society of Sculptors

Serpentine Pavilion 2020, Serpentine Galleries

La Médiathèque, Institut français