We love sharing the stories of those who make up our dynamic City. Our next interview is with The Director of The City Centre, Benjamin O'Connor.
What’s your daily routine like? The truth is I don’t really have a routine which is part of the fun of my job! One day I might be meeting with an architect, artist or designer to talk about potential exhibitions and the next I could be giving a presentation around our city model. Largely I spend my time promoting all of the amazing activities that happen in the City by way of its built environment.
What artists are you listening to at the moment? My go to playlist features a lot of Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones with a bit of Dragonette thrown in… but in all honesty I listen to everything… I really like Laura Mvula at the moment too!
Are there any London exhibitions you are dying to see? I haven’t seen the Vulgar exhibition at the Barbican yet so I am itching to go and take a look at that but I recently went to the Infinite Mix exhibition on the Strand which was a collaboration between The Stores and the Hayward gallery whilst it is being renovated. Probably the best show I’ve seen this year, Jeremy Deller’s Bom Bom’s Dream is absolutely insane and incredible viewing! Unfortunately it just closed.
Why do you like working in the City? The City is such an amazing and diverse place to work and I think the misperception that there is ‘nothing to do’ in the City in some ways works in its favour. I love coming into the City at the weekend to go shopping or go for a drink because it’s not crowded and you can really appreciate how beautiful the place is. It has world class architecture both historic and contemporary as well a fascinating and dynamic history that pervades every street. I think the City is beginning to reinvent a community that was lost some time ago and this is being driven by the young workforce. 55% of the City’s workforce is aged 25 – 39, this is 20% higher than the London average. The City is young, the City is vibrant and we need to celebrate that.
What is your favourite place to visit in the Square Mile? My favourite places in general to visit are the green spaces. The City has over 200 pocket parks, many of which are repurposed churchyards that suffered damage in the fire and the blitz, some even faced demolition in the 50s but thankfully the City decided to give them over to the public. Two in particular stand out for me and they straddle history in a way that only City spaces can, first is St Dunstan’s in the East.
This is quite a famous churchyard that is truly stunning, it was patched up after the fire which is when Sir Christopher Wren added a tower. It was then heavily bombed in the blitz leaving a beautiful shell of a church, remarkably the tower remained fully intact and you can actually see scorch marks from the bombs. The second is Beech Gardens at the Barbican, this was designed by the internationally renowned landscape designer Nigel Dunnett who designed the Olympic Park scheme. This garden is stunning all year round and follows Nigel’s naturalistic principles that promote biodiversity. Where else but the City can you find this level of quality and design in the public realm?
What do you like to do in your spare time? I spend most of my time in galleries and museums or cycling. I like to go to talks and panel discussions too, any opportunity to learn something new!
What’s your favourite music venue in London? This is an easy one, ever since I saw the White Stripes there in 2002, it has to be the O2 Brixton Academy.
Find out more about The City Centre via
-Interview by Deborah Ajia