A new voluntary trust has been proposed to look after the squares and gardens in the Bloomsbury area. It would cover not just those maintained by the Council, but by other landowners as well, including the University. This would take in Gordon Square and Torrington Square, for example, as well Russell Square, Bloomsbury Square and Brunswick Square.
The idea for the Trust has come out of a study set up when Camden was selected as one of the pilot projects for the Rethinking Parks programme, funded by NESTA, the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. A Bloomsbury Partnership ‘Interim Board’ has been exploring new ideas for looking after our local historic parks. The Interim Board includes local residents, the Association of Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens (an umbrella organisation for Friends of the various squares), businesses, land owners, universities, and Camden Council.
According to a recent update from Camden Council and the Interim Board, “It is clear that there is interest in the idea of a voluntary charitable Bloomsbury Trust and the work which it could achieve, but the major challenge is finding a viable funding model which would enable it to be self-sustaining.”
The Trust would need to support its own administrative costs as well as finance projects and activities. The Interim Board has ruled out any reliance on an events programme for raising funding – seeing limited capacity within the squares for this to be a significant source of money. Instead it wants to explore options for raising funds through local philanthropy, legacies and donations.
The original NESTA project idea had been to establish a parks-focused Business Improvement District (BID) where, through a levy, businesses would voluntarily and collectively invest in local parks. Parks Improvement Districts of this type have had success in the United States. But there was little local business interest in the idea.
The Interim Board wants to continue its work, and Jim Walsh, Chief Executive Officer of Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, has agreed to act as interim chair. Jim would be very pleased to hear from anyone with suggestions on how a Trust model could be made to work for the benefit of the Bloomsbury area, or who might be interested in becoming involved as a potential Trustee.
Contact Jim Walsh, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL Jim@conwayhall.org.uk