House of Illustration have been granted planning permission from Islington Council for their £12m project to transform one of London’s most significant, yet forgotten, historic sites into the UK’s only public arts space dedicated to illustration.
Situated in Clerkenwell, Islington, the New River Head takes its name from the reservoir at the head of the New River and was key to the creation of London’s clean water supply during the 17th century. Largely unchanged for nearly 400 years, the site includes the atmospheric remains of one of very few surviving windmills in London and a spectacular 19th-century engine house.
The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration will be housed in four 18th- and 19th-century industrial buildings, including two Grade II-listed structures. Half an acre of land will be converted into exhibition galleries, a learning studio, public gardens, a shop, and a café. The venue will also provide a permanent home for the donated archive of Sir Quentin Blake, House of Illustration’s founder.
Once restored, this historic site will become House of Illustration's new base, from which they can continue to empower and encourage people of all ages to tell their stories through images. Further, building on the public arts organisation's work in connecting communities through illustration and graphics, the new centre’s main aim will be to engage with a wide variety of groups, from older people and young parents at risk of isolation, to school children.
In 2020, the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) awarded House of Illustration with a £1m Heritage Impact Fund loan to cover working capital costs in the project's first development phase. The AHF has also been supporting the organisation with RePlan, its post-investment support programme.
This exciting new milestone brings House of Illustration one step closer to making their dream venue a reality. With planning permission now secured, development work can begin this year. The organisation also continues fundraising to complete the project – it is hoped that the site will be ready to open by the end of 2023, where it will become a unique destination for art-lovers, illustrators, families, schools, and colleges to gain inspiration and joy from the art of illustration and graphics.
For more information, visit https://www.houseofillustration.org.uk/about/about-the-quentin-blake-centre-for-illustration-356