Historic London waterworks to become the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration


Arts charity Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration is awarded a £3.75 million grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore the derelict New River Head buildings.
The heritage site in Clerkenwell will be opened up as a permanent public space, offering new galleries, learning areas and gardens. The grant brings the total funding secured to acquire and develop the site to £11.5 million, with work due to begin this autumn.

Made possible by National Lottery players, philanthropists, charitable foundations and local partners, the project will create four galleries, a project base, a learning studio, gardens and play space, a café and a shop. It realises Quentin Blake’s long-held vision for a permanent national centre for illustration: exploring the heritage of art that is used every day, all over the world, to tell stories, capture discoveries, inform and persuade.
The project will enable:
· Exhibitions, tours and events, shining a light on illustrators and their impact on our lives through time.

· Creative projects, empowering people to share their own stories, heritage and ideas, expanding the charity’s work with schools, families, community centres and practicing illustrators.

· Supported employment, volunteering and local partnerships, opening up new possibilities in an area that has longstanding challenges in relation to employment, wellbeing and access to green space.

The project will also secure a permanent home for Blake’s archive of over 40,000 works, created over seven decades. The largest and most comprehensive to document the work of a single British illustrator, the archive offers unique insights into 20th and 21st illustration, storytelling and publishing.

The location for the Centre, the New River Head heritage site in Clerkenwell (London Borough of Islington), played an essential role in supplying Londoners with clean water from the early 1600s onwards. The atmospheric Grade II listed engine house, windmill base (the oldest remaining example in London) and cobbled courtyards are currently derelict, locked behind iron gates. The works to sensitively restore and repurpose them will begin later this year, led by Tim Ronald Architects, a Clerkenwell-based practice that has won awards for projects including Wilton’s Music Hall, Ironmonger Row Baths, The Landmark Ilfracombe and Hackney Empire.
In the meantime, Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration has been working with illustrators, researchers and community groups to explore New River Head’s fascinating history ahead of opening. Installations and information panels around the Centre will use illustration to tell the stories of New River Head and its connections to more than 400 years of urban development and social change.
The Quentin Blake Centre is asking heritage, illustration and Quentin Blake fans to ‘mark their mark’ with a donation. To find out more go to qbcentre.org.uk/support. With less than 15% of their campaign target to go they aim to raise £1m by the end of 2024.