Safety first as world famous South Kensington cultural quarter prepares to reopen

Tuesday 14 July 2020

A statement has been published by the Exhibition Road Cultural Group (ERCG), leaders of the area’s museums and institutions, outlining the importance of their survival and plans to make visiting easier and safer.

Members of the ERCG along with officers from Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster have created a working group to tackle the challenges of Covid-19. Outlined in the statement, the councils and the ERCG have committed to working collaboratively to build trust and encourage people back to one of the world’s most famous cultural quarters.

This initiative is part of Kensington and Chelsea’s plans for recovery, working to boost the local economy and get local businesses back on their feet. The borough’s visitor and tourism income is vital to its survival and the Council is working to ensure it is a safe place to come and enjoy some of the best that London has to offer.

Cllr Catherine Faulks, Lead Member for Economy, Employment and Innovation, said:

We are so proud to be home to such an amazing group of museums and cultural institutions and it’s vital we do our bit to make sure they are able to recover after a long period of closure.

“Supporting the ERCG is really key, not only ensuring that they are ready to welcome visitors but also to make sure that those who work there have their jobs to come back to. Working together has never been more important and we are absolutely committed to doing all we can to get our borough moving again.

Read the full statement from the ERCG below.


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 (RBKC), 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 the 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 here, in 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 provisions for cyclists and pedestrians, 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 and Chelsea