Visions, Strategies & Masterplans
Projects by service
THE CASE FOR A RIVER THAMES CULTURAL VISION
Putting the Thames back at the centre of London’s cultural story
River Thames time-lapse: The view looking east on to Gabriel's Beach as the tide comes in
2018 – 2019
Visions, Strategies and Masterplans
The Case for a River Thames Cultural Vision, 2019
Greater London Authority (GLA), Port of London Authority (PLA)
The Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Port of London Authority (PLA) commissioned Publica with BOP Consulting to undertake a study – including fieldwork, research and stakeholder engagement – to explore the case for a future River Thames Cultural Vision and to provide an expansive definition of culture for all.
The Case for a River Thames Cultural Vision illustrates a coordinated approach that aligns and strengthens existing policies. For the GLA the river has a central role in the cultural regeneration out to the east, and its Cultural Infrastructure Plan – along with the draft new London plan – is building culture into the fabric of the city. The PLA’s 20-year Vision for the Tidal Thames sets targets for economic, environmental and social engagement. A joined-up cultural vision for the Thames would play a vital role for these visions while connecting more people with the river, deepening the appreciation of its rich cultural heritage, and creating a year-round destination both during the day and at night.
The report forms the first phase of a multi-stage process and partnership for delivering a world-class vision, supported by Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman, Port of London Authority; and was launched on the 24 September 2019 as part of the Totally Thames festival.
A journey along the Thames
London is the way it is because of the River Thames. It has shaped the city – geographically, culturally and economically – dividing the north and south, defining the picturesque western reaches to the industrial east.
Today it is the only river in the world to connect four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it transports millions of passengers each year, and is home to seals, seahorses and 125 species of fish. However, its significant potential for enriching cultural life in the capital remains relatively untapped – could the river that made the city transform its cultural life once again?
Our team undertook an intensive three-month period of fieldwork to document the full length of the river in London, underpinned by robust research and analysis to uncover some of the existing assets, challenges and opportunities offered by the Thames. Publica facilitated workshops with 98 individuals from 69 organisations to identify the potential of a cultural vision for the Thames, exploring themes including communities, culture, development, environment, transport, history and night-life. There was overwhelming support from stakeholders for a joined-up and long-term cultural vision.
Publica’s research shows that despite its international profile, the Thames is far from reaching its full potential. This is particularly striking when compared with other river cities internationally, such as Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. In these cities the rivers have been embraced as an integral part of cultural life and have become key destinations offering urban beaches and riverside culture throughout the year.
In the report, Publica has identified ten key opportunities that could utilise the river’s full potential as part of a River Thames Cultural Vision. If realised, these opportunities could drive significant economic, environmental and social change, support London’s cultural tourism offer, enrich its evening and night-time life, improve public transport, connect its diverse communities with each other and the river – and place the Thames back at the heart of London’s cultural life.
DOWNLOAD THE CASE FOR A RIVER THAMES CULTURAL VISION