Open City Covid-19 Statement

24/03/20

Friends,

We are facing a profound challenge to civic life. Everyday liberties we took for granted just days ago seem to be rapidly disappearing as society takes bold steps to contain, slow and ultimately defeat the COVID-19 virus.

During this time, it is deeply inspiring to see so many taking collective action to protect and support others, from neighbourhood mutual aid groups, to co-ordinated scientific collaboration across borders. Open City has always believed in the power of people to accomplish more through co-operation than they ever could alone, and though the months ahead will be hard, it is clear that the severity of the crisis is surpassed many times over by the energy and generosity of those fighting against it.

Many organisations in London and elsewhere are understandably responding to the situation by winding down their activities for the duration of the pandemic, going into hibernation for weeks and potentially months. We are taking a different approach — here’s why.

For three decades, Open City has thrown wide the doors of thousands of buildings, and empowered citizens to take a greater role in the making of their city. We have done so because we believe that cities only truly flourish when they are open, not to a privileged few, but to all. Now, at a time of lockdowns and closure there has never been a greater need for that mission. Throughout this pandemic, finding ways for meaningful openness to continue to thrive and grow in a city that is physically closed is now a critical part of our agenda. We will not shrink from this challenge but meet it head on.

We are now reinventing our programme for every eventuality, creating new strands of work, adventurously rethinking existing projects and forming creative contingency plans. Much of our programme will change in format for the duration of the pandemic but its spirit and purpose are steadfast — championing ethical urbanism, exceptional architecture and social value in city-making. If public gatherings can return by September, the Open House weekend will take place, more buoyant and vigorous than ever, bursting open the doors of London in celebration. If social distancing is still a necessity, new digital projects, physical publications and a raft of other initiatives will bring new dimensions to the festival. It is impossible to know exactly how civic life will change in the coming months, but when it does we will be ready for it, and our work will be more ambitious than ever.

Huge thanks to all our volunteers, benefactors, friends and collaborators who have stood with us through thick and thin in the past. This year more than ever, your support will make the difference. The road ahead will be long and challenging but our small staff team and many volunteers are ready to rise to that challenge, with your help, together we can ensure that even when London is locking down, it remains a truly open city.

Thank you.

The Open City team

Can you help?

Our staff and volunteers are already testing ideas and developing new programmes that can continue Open City’s work throughout London’s fight with COVID-19. If you would like to support our work or volunteer with us, please get in touch. hello@open-city.org.uk