Category Archives: Cultural

The Cultural Heart of London – Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is one of the most culturally-rich areas of central London and a hive of activity for central London estate agents. Bloomsbury Theatre is well known for its relaxed atmosphere and dedication to performance arts. Bloomsbury Square is just one of several that make this area particularly suited to family living. Other keen selling points for Bloomsbury estate agents are the Bloomsbury museums, which include the world famous British Museum.

Few other areas of London offer the diversity that Bloomsbury residents take for granted. For instance, in addition to being within walking distance of the greatest museums in the world, Bloomsbury dwellers are also in a hub of educational excellence with such notable institutions as The Royal Veterinary College, University College London and the School of Pharmacy to name a few. Then there is the easy access to the best medical centres in the UK, such as the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, University College Hospital and Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.

If you prefer to spend your time outdoors, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the number of parks and squares in Bloomsbury. The most obvious example is Bloomsbury Square. It was one of the first squares to appear in London and was developed in the late 17th century by the 4th Earl of Southampton (it started life as the Southampton Square before its name was changed to reflect its location). Bloomsbury Square was immortalised by J.M. Barrie when he chose it to House the Darling family, whose children flew to Never Land with Peter Pan. Russell Square, near the British Museum in Bloomsbury, is a focus of tourist attention because of its memorial to the people who lost their lives in the July 2005 bombings. Mecklenburgh Square has a strong floral focus with lawns, ornamental trees and a garden dedicated specifically to flora from New Zealand.

Kids will love Coram’s Fields, where 7 acres have designed with children in mind. More of a park than a square, Coram’s Fields has been given over to the children of Bloomsbury with a playground, four half-sized football pitches, a pet’s corner, duck pond, basketball court and nursery; adults, i.e. anyone over 16 years old, are only allowed if they are accompanied by children, i.e. anyone younger than 16.

The Royal Academy of Dramatic ART (RADA) is one of the oldest drama schools in the UK, and joins the Bloomsbury Theatre in revving up Bloomsbury’s cultural vibe. The Academy enjoys the patronage of some of the finest actors of stage and screen that the UK has even produced. Lord Attenborough is President of the Academy and Alan Rickman is one of the Vice-Chairmen. And it doesn’t end there; associate members include Sir Michael Gambon, Kenneth Branagh, Ralph Fiennes (thus contributing hugely to the cast of Harry Potter), Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Roger Moore.

The British Museum is joined by the Dickens Museum, Petrie Museum and the Grant Museum of Zoology, all of which put Bloomsbury firmly on London’s famous Museum Mile. Culture enthusiasts can also bask in Bloomsbury’s rich literary heritage. The Bloomsbury Group, composed of some of the most noted and forward-thinking writers and artists of the 20th century lived in Bloomsbury. Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell (Woolf’s sister and a famous artist in her own right), E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes met regularly to discuss their views on feminism, literature, art and sexuality, which was still considered risqué and taboo.

Those embedded in modern pop culture may be interested to know that Ricky Gervais (of The Office) once called Bloomsbury home, and makes semi-regular appearances at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Charles Darwin was also a Bloomsbury resident and would no doubt make excellent use of the Bloomsbury museums of today. Even Bob Marley briefly called Bloomsbury Square home. What other reasons do you need to need to stop by Bloomsbury to see the sights for yourself?

Training Mojo – Developing a Culture of Training

When the training department is up and running and your courses are being delivered regularly, does that translate into your firm having a training culture? Without buy-in from stakeholders and training staff, you don’t. Here are some ways to create the culture by involving stakeholders and your staff.

Your department’s stakeholders are often subject-matter-experts in the field – they could be the company’s executives, department managers, and even high performers. Far too often, training programs are developed and delivered without any input from this important group. To avoid that mistake, involve your stakeholders from the beginning, with the development of your training. Ask them what material should be covered in your courses. Obtain step-by-step procedures from the subject-matter-experts and stakeholders. Gain approval from the executives with a simple but clear explanation of what is going to be covered in a training course and program. Your benefit is twofold: first, you’re getting stakeholder buy-in. Second, you’re getting the most accurate, field-worthy information to include in your training.

Now that you have stakeholders involved in development, don’t leave them at the door of the classroom. Involve them in the evaluation of your training programs. Let’s say you conduct an application survey of training participants at 30 or 45 days after class. Invite your stakeholders to analyze the results with you – that group may be able to provide a perspective that the training department simply doesn’t have. Invite your stakeholder group to make suggestions about the content or the suitability of the instructors. When stakeholders are constantly involved in training development and evaluation, you can maintain buy-in and create an effective working relationship.

Identified stakeholders are an important group, but what about field managers and supervisors? Many people in these roles have great ideas for training programs and development, but do not want to make a career move because they like being in the field. Just as you involve stakeholders in development and evaluation, it’s a great idea to involve middle managers and supervisors, as well. Invite them to help you determine content for new courses and suggestions that might be made to existing program and materials.

Have them explain how they came to answer your application surveys – what criteria did they use to judge an employee’s success or lack of success? Again, you’ve created, identified and communicated with a group of managers and supervisors that have a stake in training and development.

What about the training staff themselves? Training managers make the mistake of “pigeon-holing” staff, that is, they see a good niche for an instructor or developer, and they leave him or her there. When the staff burns out, you lose their buy-in. Do not assume that they’re happy just because they consistently receive excellent evaluations. To create and maintain buy-in from your staff, be sure to accurately determine what their area of expertise is. An instructor may do a good job delivering certain courses, but is the course his or her true area of expertise? After you determine expertise, find out the staff’s area of aspiration – where does each staff member want to go with his or her training career? Some may be perfectly happy doing what they currently do, but some may want to design courses, manage functions, or move on to other areas. Don’t be afraid to sit down and have this conversation annually with each staff member. By showing your interest, you’ll maintain a training culture – and the all-important buy-in of all of the training staff.

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to obtain buy-in with the key stakeholder, they are the money holders. Financial officers are sometimes the hardest to convince, especially if you can’t show metric analysis -supporting a return-on-investment for every program of training you offer. Obtain buy-in on the front end by showing what you plan to accomplish. Don’t simply say you’re going to develop 10 new courses in 2008. Tell the financial officer, as well as all stakeholders, exactly what courses you are going to develop, who the target audience will be, and how these program are expected to impact the bottom line, increases in production, decrease in turnover, or increase in customer satisfaction.

This tactic may not win every time, but you are still going to create a more functional working relationship with these stakeholders who ultimately control your budget.

By taking addressing these areas early and often, you can create and maintain a training culture with your stakeholders, managers, training staff, and financial staff.