‘Very exciting’: Plans for Quentin Blake illustration centre win unanimous approval from councillors

Sir Quentin Blake’s illustration of the new centre. Image: Quentin Blake / House of Illustration

A run-down compound in Islington will become the world’s largest space dedicated to illustration and home to the works of much-loved artist Sir Quentin Blake.

The House of Illustration can finally wipe its plans off the drawing board and put them into practice – creating an archive for the one of the UK’s best-known illustrators, who drew Roald Dahl’s BFG and Matilda.

The scheme will see a group of Grade II-listed buildings at New River Head converted into space for exhibitions, workshops, a cafe and a shop.

It featured in a recent BBC film celebrating Sir Quentin’s 70-year career.

The location off Amwell Street is named after the New River, which was created between 1604 and 1613 to supply London with clean drinking water.

It includes the remains of one of the last remaining windmills in London.

The industrial buildings have been inaccessible to the public for 70 years and there have been probems with anti-social behaviour.

There will be a path linking Amwell Street to Myddelton Passage which will be open during the daytime.

The House of Illustration hopes to open the new centre at the end of 2023 and needs to raise 60 per cent of its £12m target to get started.

Director Lindsey Glen told Islington’s planning committee: “Illustration helps us to understand, to learn and share stories, examine the past, imagine the future. In Islington, I think we’ll see illustration at work.”

She added: “This is a proposal that brings substantial benefits to the borough, including bringing the curriculum to life, signposting young people to creative careers, giving a voice to some of the most marginalised in our community, and uncovering the stories of a place that has been hidden for over 70 years.”

Visitors will be able to explore the new centre and grounds for free and learn more about the buildings’ history through interactive information boards.

Two nearby residents voiced concerns about the impact of light from the foyer and noise from events and toilets.

One of them said they work from home and want to ensure there will be no disturbance for people visiting.

Architect Tim Ronalds gave assurances that blinds can be fitted to prevent light leaking out from the foyer.

He said thick walls and sound insulation will stop residents hearing the flushing from a toilet nearby.

Cllr Dave Poyser said: “I think it is a very, very exciting application for Islington’s future.”

The planning committee approved the scheme unanimously.