Ideas for London

Following a competition where the public were asked to submit "ground-breaking ideas for the transformation of the capital", these twelve ideas won their creators a night onboard A Room for London during 2012.

No Home to Waste

Katharine Hibbert won her night on board the Room with an ingenious idea for making use of London's huge quantity of empty housing. She was resident in A Room for London on 26 January 2012.

Interview with Katherine Hibbert
11 January 2012

Artangel: What's your big idea?

‚ÄčKatherine Hibbert: I felt so lucky to get to spend the night aboard A Room for London. I arrived just before sunset, so I got to watch the sky changing across the amazing panoramic view. There’s a funny mixture of sounds – buskers, skateboarders, revellers, traffic. But somehow you feel quite separate from the buzz of central London.

London has almost 40,000 long-term empty homes - each one of those is a problem for the owner, a blight on the neighbourhood and a real waste at a time of housing shortage. My idea is to place people who do great voluntary work in empty homes on a temporary basis, as property guardians. This will offer flexible, cost-effective security to the owners and cheap accommodation for the guardians - allowing them to devote even more time to work which benefits local communities.

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

KH: At the beginning of the financial crisis I wrote a book - Free: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society - about the squatters and scavengers who use society's waste to get by under difficult circumstances. I was horrified by the scale of waste I saw during the project - particularly the empty homes. Many were sitting empty for years because they were in limbo - waiting for demolition, renovation or sale. I wanted to find a way to allow those houses to be used on a temporary basis, which would benefit everyone - owners, residents and the wider community. This idea - which I'm setting up under the name Dot Dot Dot is my solution.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

KH: I'm really looking forward to meeting Campbell Robb, who does outstanding work at the housing charity Shelter, and Alan Benson who is head of housing at the GLA. It will also be great to be able to invite along some of the fantastic people who have already been helpful in the development of the idea.

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

KH: I need to prove to property owners that letting my organisation place guardians in their houses is far better than simply boarding them up and leaving them to rot - I hope that the guests will have some great ideas for how to do that!

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

KH: I'm a Londoner - I can't imagine living anywhere else. The city has its problems, no one could deny that, but it also has so many things going for it - not least the number people who are determined to make things happen, and to change things for the better, for everyone.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

KH: I can't wait. I love how, in a big city, whatever time you look out of a window there's someone going about their business. I can't imagine a better place to sit and watch the world go by.

Katherine was joined by several housing experts to discuss her ideas at a dinner on board.

I loved the attention to detail which had gone into making it a really lovely place to spend time – the selection of books about London on all the bookshelves, the huge ship’s logbook in place of an ordinary guest book, and the excellent fresh coffee.

The dinner which was organised to celebrate my win was fantastic – it was a huge privilege to meet people like Campbell Robb, the Chief Executive of Shelter, and Shaun Bailey, who advises David Cameron on the “Big Society” agenda, and to have the chance to discuss my plans for No home to waste with them. 

We talked about the problems faced by those who struggle to pay London rents – and who therefore end up sleeping on sofas or even in garages and sheds despite working full time for low wages. We also discussed the problems faced by owners of empty homes – particularly in the current economic climate, where funds to complete planned renovations or rebuilds are hard to come by, meaning that some empty homes are likely to sit empty for even longer as planned projects are delayed, creating costs and risks for their owners and a blight on the neighbourhoods where they are located.

The guests had some great suggestions for making sure that my idea for dealing with both those problems is a success – particularly around making sure that we get the scale right – so the organisation doesn’t get so big that it loses what makes it special, but isn’t so small that it can’t sustain itself.

It was a shame to leave and get back into the ordinary hustle of the city the next morning - but the whole experience left me feeling very buoyed up for the next stage of developing No home to waste, which is to do a brilliant job of looking after flats for the two east London housing associations which have agreed to use us. — Katharine Hibbert, January 2012

Katharine's dinner was attended by:

Shaun Bailey, Managing Director and co-founder of My Generation
Alan Benson, Head of Housing and Homelessness at Greater London Authority
Philip Colligan, NESTA, Executive Director of Public Service Lab
David Ireland, Empty Homes
Emily Perkin, Management Consultant and Dot Dot Dot Director
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter

Read the Evening Standard's report on the night

Image: Roi Des Belges on a table during A Room for London, 2012. Photograph: Charles Hosea

Year Here

Jack Graham won a night on board the Room with an idea that challenges bright, ambitious and socially-conscious school leavers to a year of tackling social issues in their own backyard. He was resident in A Room for London on 20 February 2012.

Interview with Jack
12 January 2012

Artangel: What's your big idea?

Jack Graham: This country desperately needs talented young people to come up with solutions to the problems we face – from our Victorian levels of social inequality to our crisis-ridden care system. My idea is for a new type of gap year based right here in London. I'm calling it Year Here, and thinking of it as a kind of rite of passage for bright, ambitious young Londoners to spend a year tackling social issues in the capital.

A; When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

JG: In the first part of my career, I worked around the world helping people living in poverty, with disabilities and with AIDS. Then I started a job working in East London, and suddenly realised that I had never tried to tackle social problems in my own backyard. Britain’s faces huge and complex social problems and I want to help create a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators who have the humility to really understand these and the confidence to design ambitious solutions to tackle them.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in a room for london to help develop the idea?

JG: I’m drafting the list at the moment! I’d love to invite David Cohen, who set up the Evening Standard's Dispossessed campaign, Brett Wigdortz, who set up Teach First, and Jude Kelly who runs the Southbank Centre.

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

JG: I want to tuck up in the on-board bed after dinner knowing that Year Here now has seven firm advocates who I can trust to help me push the idea forward.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

JG: Like a lot of graduates, I came to London in search of adventure and opportunity and was shocked to discover so much inequality. I serendipitously stumbled upon the whole idea of social entrepreneurship and that's put the fire in my belly to create opportunities for other young people to make a difference.

A; How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

JG: It’s a brilliant opportunity to reflect on rite of passage that I hope to create for young Londoners. The fact that it’s a boat feels nicely symbolic – I’m incredibly excited about the journey I'm embarking on.

 Jack was joined by a diverse range of guests to discuss ideas relating to leadership for social change, at a dinner on board.

My time on the boat - on a cold but clear night in February - was magical. With no buildings directly surrounding the vessel, the feeling of being at sea is pretty real. And as if the view wasn't distinctively London enough, the boat is filled with literature relating to the capital - from maps to political memoirs to photography.

For my idea, Year Here, a gap year at home for ambitious and entrepreneurial young people, I wanted to invite guests who could help me build up a detailed picture of leadership for social change in Britain. I chose a diverse range of guests - from Jude Kelly, who directs the Southbank Centre, to Dawn Austwick, who heads the UK's largest independent grant-making foundation, and David Cohen, who led the Evening Standard's Dispossessed campaign.

We reflected on the number of bright, ambitious and idealistic young people that head off overseas during their gap year and agreed that capturing that energy to tackle issues in their own country would be great for them and for our society. Learning about tackling social issues in a home country context could plug young people in to a pathway of rich opportunities for learning about social change - during their gap year, throughout university and beyond. We discussed the country's and the capital's leaders and wondered how different the leadership of David Cameron, Nick Clegg or Boris Johnson might be if they had spent a Year Here. We also recognised that there were many potential leaders who didn't come from the same kind of privilege as David, Nick and Boris - and that Year Here should ensure that these young people are given equal opportunity to take part.

We had a really helpful conversation about when youth volunteering works best. Guests discouraged from setting up a series of contrived volunteering opportunities, urging that Year Here found ways to ensure that participants were really adding value in their placements. I hope to follow up with the guests and maintain a connection to them as we build Year Here up from scratch.

The night finished with a few glasses of wine, taking in the view from the front deck and reflecting on a wonderful evening. I managed to wake up before dawn to watch the sun rising over St Paul's Cathedral before rushing off for another packed day of meetings to get Year Here off the ground. —  Jack Graham, February 2012 

Jack's dinner was attended by:

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
David Cohen, Chief Feature Writer at the London Evening Standard and editor of the Dispossessed Campaign
Jon Huggett, Strategy Consultant and Year Here advisor
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre
Charlie Leadbeater, Author
Nick Stanhope, Chief Executive of We Are What We Do

Image: The interior and view to the north bank from A Room for London, 2012. Photograph: Charles Hosea

The Bird House

Amanda Lwin won a night on board the Room with an idea for a walk-in aviary on one of East London's old railway terraces. She was resident in A Room for London on 22 March 2012.

Interview with Amanda
January 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

Amanda Lwin: The Bird House is a walk-in aviary in the form of the phantom of a terraced house, nestled into one of London's many late-Victorian railway terraces. It tells the story of Londoners' relationship with domestic, agricultural and wild birds.

At first glance, it's a surreal and whimsical intervention - something romantic and extraordinary in the midst of the everyday - but it's also many other things. It's an educational space dealing with human interaction with birds, it's a hobbyist's den, it's an architectural dissection, and it's an experiment in integrating nature into the way we design and build our cities.

A; When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

AL: I'd been working on another project idea, the Museum of Migration - a museum which itself migrates - where each new iteration dealt with a different aspect of human and animal migration. I imagined one exhibition about the migration of birds, taking place within a pet shop, with birds flying around the cafe/exhibition space. With that project on hold, the avian concept gradually coalesced with my interests in urban ecosystems and suburban landscapes, and this idea was the outcome.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

AL: A medley of influential characters: critics, facilitators, twitchers, breeders. It's a project that touches on many different fields - architecture, art, aviculture, regeneration, ecology, etc - and I'm hoping for an interesting symphony of voices.

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

AL: Convincing seven important people that this strange and charming project is ambitious and feasible and I'm the right person to make it happen.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

AL: Beckton, E6, where my parents still live, is an odd place to grow up - there's a curious absence of history, yet I remember thinking of it as the centre of the world (it's the centre of the Eastenders opening sequence anyway). As a teenager I resented it, but on reflection I think that it's given me a very particular (and perhaps a bit peculiar) sense of the relationship between the landscape and the built environment.

A; How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

AL: The Roi des Belges is a fanciful and fantastical project and I'll be up into the early hours reading books and watching the colour of the Thames change through the night. Also, I like objects and I'm looking forward to appreciating the doubtlessly exquisite craftsmanship on board.

Image: Black and white mixed media illustration of The Bird House by Amanda Lwin


Air London

Ed Gillespie won a night on board the Room with an idea for a website showing Londoners how to travel the world without leaving the capital. He was resident in A Room for London on 30 April 2012.

Interview with Ed
April 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

Ed Gillespie: Air London will be an interactive, online crowd-sourced listings site that celebrates the city’s extraordinary global diversity. The site will create bespoke country-specific ideas and ‘holiday’ itineraries that allow Londoners to experience the joys of world travel adventures without ever leaving their hometown.

Imagine spending a day in Kingston, Jamaica. A deep immersive experience packed full of bustling Caribbean markets, eating spicy jerk chicken, taking in an art exhibition and ending the evening sipping cold Red Stripe and skanking your best moves to a live band in a reggae club. All without ever leaving London…

Visualise doing the same for Rio de Janeiro with samba, rodizio and Brahma beer. Or Mumbai with Bollywood, bhangra and curry. Or Lagos to an afrobeat soundtrack with Guinness and jollof rice. Escapist days of linguistic, cultural, culinary and musical adventure that transport you from your doorstep into a rich world of sights, sounds, smells and flavours from across the globe. That’s what ‘Air London’ will be all about!

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

EG: It was when I returned to London from travelling around the world without flying ( in 2007/8. I was struck by just how much of humanity is represented in the capital and how many wonderful experiences, connections and adventures are possible in the 600 or so square miles of the city. In a world of climate change and carbon constraints the idea of a global ‘staycation’ in London seemed both essential and potentially very attractive. I then ‘tested’ the notion with some friends who couldn’t afford a summer holiday abroad, so they opted for a week in London, focusing on a different country and culture everyday. They absolutely loved it!

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

EG: The diversity of activities and attractions I want to include on the site requires a cross-section of cultural commentators from food critics to tourism specialists to help weave the compelling content together. Plus I’ve invited folk with experience of developing innovative online platforms and business models. I’m hoping the collective energy in the room, while hopefully not over-enthusiastic enough to dislodge the Roi des Belges from its rooftop mooring, will be suitably vigorous and generate the endorsement, support and momentum to make ‘Air London’ fly (it’ll be the only way it does involved flying!).

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

EG: Wholehearted enthusiasm for the potentially complex idea itself from some or ideally all of the high-achieving ‘big-thinkers’ present would be bloody marvelous… I then want to sign them up as overt patrons, business partners or funders! (But one step at a time – I’ll be cock-a-hoop if they all disembark grinning and excited at the end of the evening as hopefully loud and loquacious advocates).

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

EG: As one that has completely flipped during my life. When I first moved to London in 1997 I was a marine biologist coming rather reluctantly to the Big Smoke in order to study for a Masters Course. I had up to that point always envisaged a life by the sea. But the capital has inveigled its way into my heart and under my skin to the extent that whilst the ocean still tugs at my soul, London is very much my home. I just have to be content with the Thames Estuary as a briny substitute!

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

EG: Like an over-stimulated schoolboy! I very much doubt there will be much in the way of sleep to be had in order to ruminate in slumber on the idea. I suspect the dynamism of the dinner and discourse will probably leave me in a state of delighted discombobulation. It is a rare privilege that I will make every effort to savour every second of. I intend to people watch from my nautical eyrie, count stars from the roof-deck and pretend I’m navigating the vessel through uncharted waters. 


Ed was joined by a diverse range of guests to discuss ideas at a dinner on board.


It was people watching as a rather marvellous pre-Olympic sport as the ebb and flow of humanity along the concrete embankment echoed the murky movement of the Thames beyond. The current of pedestrians across Waterloo Bridge intensified as Big Ben struck five like a slowly turning diurnal tide.

Later the conditions completely shifted. A weather warning was delivered to the Roi, the wind picked up creating a monstrous spectral moaning and groaning around the ship, a sound alien to my London ears that are usually attuned to the low grumble of traffic punctuated by shrill sirens or brusque horns. Rain hammer-tapped on the windows and roof and my eyes feasted on the glut of glistening wet cityscape across the river as the low, heavy cloud fluoresced frequently with the sharp brilliant crack of flash-bulb-like lightning.

And if there’s a communications insight to this blog, as well there should be, it is this: Never underestimate the value of distance, a change of perspective and a little time to help you cogitate and ultimately create. We may not all be able to Captain the Roi des Belges for a night, but we can all find time, space and a fresh angle on knotty problems to help unleash our talents. — Ed Gillespie, May 2012 

Ed’s dinner was attended by:

Paul Birch, Founder of ‘House Bites’
Steve Moore, The Big Society
Julia Groves, Online, digital entrepreneur
Gordon Innes, CEO Visit London
Patrick Clayton-Malone, Canteen
Felix Barrett, Punchdrunk

Image: Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Europe's first traditional Hindu temple, is in Neasden, North London, January 2008. Photograph: Sharf Tonse 


Big Data in the LondonScape

Eleanor Ford and Cassie Robinson won a night on board the Room with an idea for a prominent modern-day totem pole revealing live data about the collective state of London. They were residents in A Room for London on Thursday 24 May 2012.

Interview with Eleanor and Cassie
May 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

Big Data in the LondonScape is a prominent, digital modern-day totem pole, aggregating and displaying Londoner’s data, revealing the collective state of London.

Imagine as you travel in to work in the morning, looking over at the South Bank or another similar public space in the city, and seeing in real-time how Londoners are feeling that day. The digital totem pole will show four faces of London: of mood, of people’s pathways, of people’s connections and of consumption.

Our mood can be captured through existing apps like Mappiness and Moodscope; our pathways can be captured through Oyster check-ins; our connections could look at phone data; and our consumption could be captured via energy partnerships.

The potential social impact of this will be a City full of data literate, digitally savvy and collectively aware Londoners, willing to acknowledge our interconnectedness as citizens and the collective impact we have both as consumers and as people contributing to the mood of our cityscape. Data will no longer be something to dismiss or be afraid of but a powerful tool, accessible for all, to play with, to hack and to draw meaning from. We’ll be aware of how we are each contributing to the community of London and see how we are part of something much bigger.

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

We believe the second decade of the 21st century is epitomised by Big Data. From the status updates, friendship connections and preferences generated by Facebook and Twitter to search strings on Google, locations on mobile phones and purchasing history on store cards.

The systems used to make sense of the information are starting to make sophisticated connections and learn patterns, forming a vast web of the collective state. Advocates and enthusiasts of Big Data view this as an opportunity to observe behaviours in real time, draw real-time conclusions and affect real-time change. However, in the same way that Race On Line has worked hard to make access to the Web a civil right, in the next Decade, not being data literate has the potential to also create social disadvantage and disempowerment.

Creating a very visible, beautiful, public display of Londoners' collective data is a way of creating greater awareness - engaging the public, as generators of their own data, with how to interpret it and see the potential meaning (and manufacturing potential) in it.

A;Who have you invited to dinner in a room for london to help develop the idea?

We’ve invited:

Tassos Stevens, a Co-director of Coney - an agency of adventure making live interactive crossplatform play, and a community of artists and makers through play. He's also an award-winning theatre director and maker, writer and game-designer with a doctorate in psychology. We’re hoping Tassos can help us think about how people will engage, play and interact with the idea.

Aleks Krotoski is s an academic and journalist who writes about and studies technology and interactivity. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Digital Human science series and The Guardian’s Tech Weekly Podcast. We’re hoping Aleks can connect what we’re designing in to the wider cultural context and inform us of the leading thinking and tech in this space.

Matt Jones is a Principal at BERG and has been delivering digital products and services since 1995. He studied architecture and has written on interaction design, robots and technology. Berg are specialists at merging the digital world with the physical world. We’re hoping Matt can bring some of the Berg magic to help us develop the concept in to a working and inventive prototype.

Oliver O’Brien is a researcher and software developer at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), an interdisciplinary research group at UCL in London. He is part of the GENeSIS team, investigating and implementing new ways to visualise spatial data. He also created City Dashboard which we came across after we’d submitted our idea. We’re hoping that Oliver would like to partner with us in some way as he’s already built relationships with data sources and knows a huge amount more than we do!

Paul Bennun is CEO of Somethin Else. Somethin' Else is the UK's leading content design and creation company. Confident across many platforms and reaching millions of people every day with its games, radio, TV and interactive entertainment, it works with the largest brands and broadcasters solving problems with content. We’re hoping Paul will bring his vast wealth of experience in pubic engagement and broadcast to our design proposition.

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

We’d like to leave the boat the next morning with a really clear blueprint of what next.
This blueprint will guide us to make the idea happen – so we will have collectively designed the experience, the brief for the technology, the brief for the structure/product, the brief for the data streams, thought about the political and social context & agenda, have a list of partners and people to approach, considered funding possibilities and feel hugely inspired about how it will look, interact, and have an impact!

A; How would you describe your relationship to London?

London is like a playground, a university and a sacred site. It’s a vibrant place full of adventure and possibility, a place rich for learning and it also has it vulnerabilities that need care. We want to contribute to the city and connect people to it, as much as we want to connect people to one another.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

Who would not feel incredibly excited? A Room for London is an example of everything that is great about this city: its creativity, tenacity and beauty. The ability to be in a unique building, which stands like a panoptican tower over the city is the best place to imagine a collective London, to bring all of its variety together, to dream a sense of the collective and how that might be best displayed. It’s a perfect place to develop the vision.

 Image: A visualisation of the proposed prominent modern-day totem pole revealing live data about the collective state of London, 2012. Photograph: Eleanor Ford and Cassie Robinson

Big Experiences for Little Londoners

Claire Lawson won a night aboard A Room for London in June 2012 with an idea for giving primary children in London a richer experience of the city in which they live.

Interview with Claire
June 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

Claire Lawson: My idea is to give London primary school children the opportunity to really experience the city that they live in. Once a month a child will be offered a unique experience for free. They will recount their experience using an online scrapbook with pictures, photos and a write up of what they got up to. The idea is quite simple - I want to share my love of London with the little Londoners!

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

CL: I am a primary school teacher in central London and I was shocked by the limited experiences that many of the children have. I wanted to think of a way to share London with them and provide free experiences that would inspire them. I grew up in London and I know that many of my early experiences in the city have shaped my view of it now.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

CL: I am inviting people that can help me to make some tough decisions on how best to get this idea off the ground. I would love to find some people to support me with this idea going forward as being a primary school teacher, it's a steep learning curve!

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

CL: To make this work, I am going to need some great business contacts - people that can donate experiences or money. I'd love to meet someone that could either point me in the right direction or be in a position to help me themselves.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

CL: I'm a Londoner born and bred and at this point in my life, there's nowhere else I'd rather be! I love discovering new places and I know that there's even more out there in this great city for myself and others to experience.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

CL: I can't wait! I am really lucky to win in June because hopefully I'll get to watch the sun set from the upper deck on a balmy summer evening. I've always fancied a riverside residence and this is most likely the closest I'll ever get to it!

Image: The view of Southbank and St Pauls from A Room for London, 2012. Photograph: Charles Hosea


Conversation Olympics

Ted Hunt won a night aboard A Room for London in July 2012 with an idea for giving London commuters the Conversation Olympics: an alternative to trying to travel during the particularly congested peak times caused by the Olympics.

Interview with Ted
July 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

Ted Hunt: The Conversation Olympics would be set up to create a fortnight of 'conversations of strangers' in London parks post work during the Olympic fortnight. They would allow for a small, non-commercially associated and free place where Londoners and visitors can constructively fill their time whilst waiting for public transport to calm down a bit, and chat to a diverse range of people they wouldn't normally get to talk to.

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

TH: When I helped celebrate Theodore Zeldin's birthday in Regents Park back in 2007, with his own conversation of strangers. It was then furthered by the realisation that there will probably be quite a few people in central London with after work time on their hands during the Olympics, given the sheer demand for public transport in the evening rush hour. And an ambition to use that time both constructively and non commercially.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

TH: Theodore Zeldin the author of The Art of Conversation and an inspiring chap in general. Nick Stanhope from We Are What We Do. Some nice folks from the Royal Parks and Cultural Oympiad to help work out the logistics. David Plant for good conversation and sideways thinking and Jez Paxman for his grass roots event organising expertise.

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

TH: To gain an understanding of the potential logistics involved, and how to get around some of the larger challenges without significant resources.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

TH: In a word, home.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

TH: I live on a canal boat on Regents Canal so I'm used to life on board. I've never been on a boat that has been craned onto a roof 50 foot in the air in the centre of a city though, so that will be very novel.

Image: Image: Two colour illustration depicting the Conversation Olympics, inclding free blankets for participants by Ted Hunt

London Gang Rehabilitation

Karl Lokko, who describes himself as a reformed gang member, won a night in A Room for London in August 2012 with an idea for helping people leave the lifestyle of gangsterism.

Interview with Karl
August 2012

Artangel: What’s your idea?

KL: My idea is a therapeutic community gang rehabilitation centre to be built in inner city London in order to help tackle the fast growing gang culture that is affecting so many communities within the capital. Those who undergo the treatment will have their negative behaviour challenged and changed through counselling and tailored workshops. The culture within the centre will be instilled in the residents through their everyday lives, a culture which promotes and esteems being an asset to society and not a liability.

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

KL: The first seeds of this idea were sown when I myself had been successfully rehabilitated. A woman that was the pastor of a local church in my area had a true concern for the youth directly affected by the gang culture and began to reach out to us. She opened her home and by creating an environment of love, order and hope began freeing our minds from the captivity of gangsterism. All who changed under her care were and still are living proof that there is hope. And at that moment I had a vision which will be a burden until manifestation, to make this treatment accessible to others on a larger scale.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

KL: Rev Mimi Asher, Pastor of Word of Grace Ministry and Founder, Youth in Action
David Utting, Commission Secretary of the Commission on Youth Crime
John Adlam, Consultant Adult Forensic Psychotherapist, South London and Maudsley Foundation NHS Trust
John Sutherland, Chief Superintendent and Acting Borough Commander for Camden
Christian Guy, Managing Director, Centre for Social Justice
Dr Charlie Alcock, CEO and Founder, MAC UK

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

KL: I would like to get all that attend the meeting to see the true worth of such a treatment, enabling them to see those that are entangled in the gang culture as individuals addicted to a negative lifestyle thus needing to be rehabilitated. And hopefully once they have acknowledged this they will desire to take a supportive stance, offering their time, advice and connections.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

KL: I describe my relationship to London as very intimate. I’ve always loved being identified as a Londoner but my love never really went past my direct community and the area I lived in. But as I’ve grown on my journey I’ve fallen in love with all of London! I truly believe, or should I say I know, it’s one of the best capitals in the world! But there’s no such thing as perfection and even the King’s robe has its creases. But I have faith that this great city has what it takes to iron a lot of them out! I love London.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

KL: I’m excited, truly looking forward to the whole experience and I’m already buzzing from its potential to spark a great change. I’m honoured to have been presented this opportunity and no matter the outcome, it's one I will savour forever.

Creative Care Home Communities

Chris Gage won a night onboard A Room for London with his idea to develop care homes as creative hubs to integrate them into their local communities. He was resident in the Room on Tuesday 25 September 2012.

What's your idea?

That by establishing care homes as creative community hubs they can become vibrant, connected places that are a pleasure to live and work in. We will create structures, training and support that enable care settings to use creativity in all its forms as a way for people to come together, connect as equals, and make a contribution irrespective of age, frailty, illness or impairment. We expect, from the body of evidence into the positive health and social impact of the arts and creativity, to improve people's health and their wellbeing, to build communities, and make the local care homes a place that you want to go to.

When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

The first seeds we're sown 13 years ago when I ran my first project creating theatre with people living in residential care. The idea was nurtured through the time when my grandmother was living in a care home with undiagnosed dementia, and I became really aware of how isolated and miserable she was, and also of her capacity for joy, laughter and a quality life, it was just a question of the environment created around her. The work has really flourished since I started running Ladder to the Moon, and established our mission to build wellbeing for everybody that makes up the care community through creativity, management and staff development.

Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?


What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

The thing I'd most like to happen is for the people around the table to become passionate about the idea, and committed to lend their support to grow the project. The idea is already off the ground thanks to pilot funding from the Baring Foundation and we are currently developing the first version of this programme at a home in Barnet run by Jewish Care.

How would you describe your relationship to London?

I was born in London, and we moved when I was five, and have been back and forth ever since. I love walking through London, whether it’s in the suburbs of west London on my way to see my grandparents, or up from Camden on my way to the office, or across the Thames, it's always inspiring, and often surprising, and most of all I love the creativity and diversity of the people I meet.

How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

I can't wait. It's a unique opportunity both to be with inspiring people and to be in an amazing space. I just hope that my wife doesn't go into labour. Our first child is due three weeks after the night ...


Ian Drysdale and Ivo Gormley won a night on board A Room for London with his idea for a new, meaningful way to exercise. Ian was resident in the Room on Thursday 25 October 2012.

Interview with Ian and Ivo
October 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

GoodGym is about meaningful ways to exercise. We’re a group of runners who get fit by doing physical tasks which benefit the community. We can do anything from shifting rubble and planting gardens to making deliveries and friendly visits to lonely older people.

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

GoodGym arose out of a frustration with normal gyms being a waste of energy and human potential. On the one hand, across the capital, thousands of people are sweating away in gyms, running on treadmills that do nothing useful at all with their energy! On the other, we know that there are many neglected tasks and people in our communities that need this energy. GoodGym was developed as a way to use the wasted resource and to give a purpose to exercise.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

We’ve invited a group of interesting people to the dinner who we think can help get GoodGym established across London. Specifically, we’re keen to explore how it fits within the future of social care, public health and fitness in the capital.

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

GoodGym is now open to everyone in East London and we have a diverse group of runners and older people. We are now looking for the right partners to take the project across the whole of the city. We want to rival the success of gyms, getting people all over London off the treadmills and into their communities. On the evening, we hope to meet an interesting group of people that share our vision and will be able to offer their advice, contacts and support to make this a reality.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

We absolutely love it, there’s always something exciting happening and people to catch up with. However, we also recognise this isn’t the case for everyone and have witnessed how cities can be pretty lonely places for isolated older people and can promote a pretty unfit lifestyle. If we get GoodGym right we can do something massive; actually creating a new part of the infrastructure of cities and helping to tackle obesity and isolation.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

Intrigued and excited to have the chance to spend the evening in such a unique space in London.


The London College of Fixing

Saya Smith won a night on board A Room for London with her idea to show people how to fix, adapt and upcycle the everyday objects in their lives. Saya was resident in the Room on Wednesday 28 November 2012.

Interview with Saya
November 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

Saya Smith: My idea is "The London College of Fixing" (LCF). The project aims to reconnect people to their possessions through practical workshops and inspiring lectures which show people how to fix, adapt and upcycle the everyday objects in their lives. Teachers at LCF include retired skilled workers and house wives as well as innovative designers / design students and entrepreneurs as guest lecturers. The LCF premises makes use of empty high street shops, which provide space for the college fixing programme, as well as a shop in which fixed items can be sold. The college shops also provide a service for people who want to re-use objects but do not want to fix things themselves, to bring goods to be fixed by the students. In locating the Fixing College on the high street, it promotes a culture of fixing as an alternative to the convenience-lead disposable world.

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

SS: I am from Japan. After I finished my studies in Tokyo I moved to the UK to learn how to live with old things. When I was studying architecture in Tokyo, I was one of many students who wanted to design new buildings like Sanaa or Toyo Ito. During my masters I went to study in Vienna for one year as an exchange student. My work there made me realise the importance of working with old buildings which nobody had taught me in Japan. The London College of Fixing is an extension of these thoughts, a place to fix and improve old things.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in A Room for London to help develop the idea?

SS: A range of people including entrepreneurs who I hope will help me get my idea off the ground.

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

SS: I would like to make this dinner an amazing opportunity for all of us to discuss how to make a better world. I proposed London College of Fixing as an example of a new way of sustainable living. From this starting point I would like to explore wider opportunities with my guests. I hope there are lots more ideas that come out of our discussions.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

SS: I love London. I'm only a three-year-old Londoner so there is still lots to explore. I live here because it inspires me, it makes me feel I belong here and it makes me think that anything is possible.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

SS: I love being on top of roofs. I’m looking forward to reading a lot of books there, as I'm sure I will be so excited after the dinner that I won’t be able to go to sleep very easily.  

Image: Tools neatly arranged on a wooden table, as would be used for the London College of Fixing, 2012. Photograph: Saya Smith



Phillip Kerry won a night on board A Room for London with his idea for a restaurant and social enterprise run by unemployed refugees. Phillip was resident in the Room on Monday 3 December 2012.

Interview with Philip
December 2012

Artangel: What's your idea?

Phillip Kerry: Home is a restaurant and social enterprise showcasing food from exotic and different regions of the world and run entirely by unemployed refugees now residing in London. The menu changes to reflect a different region every six months and the staff from that region, with employability skills under their belt, with it. A percentage of the profits will go back into employability programmes for refugees.

A: When were the first seeds of the idea sown?

PK: There isn't a single instance I can point to, rather a series of experiences that have all played a part. Like most people my age I’ve seen my share of the world and have come to love it and its diverse people. I worked in Eritrea for two years through VSO and mentored an Eritrean refugee on my return to London so I have first hand experience of just how difficult their employability issues can be.

Since living here I've loved exploring London's dining scene. London is host to most nationalities of the world, but not all of them have restaurants here, particularly the countries from which most refugees come. London has a vibrant dining scene but as far as I am aware there isn’t a restaurant like this. It isn’t so much pop-up as popping-up -a restaurant that keeps redefining itself and has an entirely new menu and staff every six months. You could visit one month and sample from the horn of Africa and come back another and eat from Iraq or Afghanistan.

So much of life for refugees is about fitting in with British life and given this platform to showcase what they love about the countries from which they came, it can help them to feel proud of their roots and, at the same time, at ‘home’.

A: Who have you invited to dinner in a room for London to help develop the idea?

PK: A restauranteur, a food critic, a social entrepreneur, a representative from a refugee charity, an investment manager. So we'll see!

A: What single thing would you like to happen that evening to help your idea get off the ground?

PK: I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while now and on the night, having come from a dinner with some pretty amazing people - all of whom could help get Home off the ground, if I went to sleep feeling like there was a general agreement that this is a workable idea that would be enough for me.

A: How would you describe your relationship to London?

PK: I grew up in the Midlands and naively thought I wouldn’t like London and that it would be too busy and big for me. I ended up moving after two years of living in a small village in Eritrea and although the contrast couldn’t have been bigger it instantly felt right. It’s hard to imagine anywhere with such diversity of people and opportunity. It’s even harder to now imagine myself leaving.

A: How are you feeling about spending the night on board?

PK: Incredibly excited and just a little bit nervous. I feel very honoured to get to stay in the room and as far as platforms go, it is hard to imagine a better opportunity to get some feedback on a business idea. I still haven’t quite got my head around discussing a restaurant idea with some of the people who will be around the table for dinner.

I’m really looking forward to some time to think and reflect too. Time is the thing most of us struggle to find and a city like London, great as it is, is adept at stealing it from you. Having come from dinner, looking out across London from the boat and with time to reflect I imagine I will have everything I need to commit to making Home happen. 

Image: A pap of the world created out of various spicesshaped into the continents, 2012. Photograph: Phillip Kerry