After the BETT show ended in London today, I randomly picked a train station to stop at in search of a coffee shop to catch up on some work. One of my favorite things to do while traveling abroad is to actually NOT have a map or a plan and trust I will find a unique place to people watch, have a coffee, and – of course – connect to wifi. And, as predicted, I found a fabulous landing pad: the Southbank Centre – a warm and vibrant community space for the arts.
London Southbank Centre: Being present in the present
This community center is absolutely fascinating – something I wish we could replicate all over the US. I found myself in a multi-level open space of tables, couches, dance floors, cafes, bars, and theaters… not to mention fabulous views of the Thames. People of all ages were practicing dance moves, writing, working on laptops, sipping beers or coffee with friends, reading, laughing, mingling… you name it. It’s like a library, but you can chat and drink and dance. Or like a school, but for any age group and we learn from each other in a setting that promotes comfort and collaboration. Or like a Golf Clubhouse, but not exclusive and expensive.
Obviously a physical space to build, maintain and scale from an economic/business standpoint is a challenge. However, I wish just a small portion – and a small portion would be enough – of the millions of venture funding going to silly apps like SnapChat could go towards funding a network of real spaces to engage and enjoy each other’s physical presence – not online profile. The tickets that are sold for performances in the various connected theaters could provide the revenue – combined with donation support – so after an initial capital investment, I wouldn’t think it would be hard to create a self-sustaining space to drive us away from the addictive social network screen time and into real life social time.
Perhaps this can be iCreate’s next move! I think what attracts me to this idea so much is that there is very little stimuli in the space — no arcade games, no screens, no pressure of spending money in stores or restaurants — it’s a relaxed atmosphere that is totally reliant on the creativity of the people.