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Roald Dahl and Michael Rosen illustrator to create ‘landmark’ gallery in Clerkenwell

Developers publish plans for New River Head

28 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Current New River Head site in Clerkenwell 

THOUSANDS of illustrations from the artist who created iconic childhood images like Roald Dahl’s BFG are set to be displayed in the “world’s largest public” space dedicated to the art form.

Plans for an £8million redevelopment of the historic New River Head site in Clerkenwell have been published by House of Illustration, the UK’s only “gallery and education space dedicated to illustration and graphics”.

Developers want to “repurpose” four 18th and 19th-century industrial buildings and a half-acre of surrounding land on the grade II listed site converting them into a gallery, an education centre and events spaces as well as “retail and catering facilities”.

Artist’s impression of the new centre 

A spokeswoman for the developers said: “The renamed Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration will be a new cultural landmark for London and the UK that will establish illustration as an art form to be reckoned with.”

Sir Quentin Blake is a renowned illustrator best known for collaborating with authors Roald Dahl and Michael Rosen.

The centre in Clerkenwell will house more than 40,000 original works by Sir Quentin on permanent display.

He said: “I am enormously proud to have my name associated with this international home for an art which I know and love, and for artists who speak in a myriad of visual languages, but are understood by all. It is going to be amazing.”

Work is scheduled to begin in June 2021 with an opening date of autumn 2022 on the cards.

New River Head has remained largely unchanged for 400 years when it became the terminus of an artificial watercourse supplying London with clean water. It became the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water Board and then Thames Water.

After Thames Water relocated a majority of its operational and administrative workforce, developers have flooded in to snap up the prime real-estate, a stones-throw away from Sadler’s Wells Theatre, with large areas converted into housing.

David Gibson, chairman of the Islington Society, said: “We think the House of Illustration is such a good use of the site and they are really welcome. As far we can tell they intend to do the right thing so we are pleased with this.”

House of Illustrations’ (HI) current site is in Granary Square, Kings Cross.

It has been closed since March due to coronavirus and will “not reopen, in order to focus resources on the development of the Quentin Blake Centre”, an HI spokeswoman said.

HI is aiming to raise £8million to pay for the new site. It has already raised £3million which includes a £1million donation from the Architectural Heritage Fund.

The rest of the money is to be raised through individual donations, grants from trusts, foundations and a public fundraising campaign.

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