The Museum of Futures

The Museum of Futures – launched in 2015 with funding from the GLA through the Mayor’s High Street Fund, and support from the Surbiton Business Community and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames – aims to harness the energy of everyone in the community to help realise a future we have worked together to imagine.  We want to encourage involvement with community acivity, and help develop a vision for the kind of town that everyone will celebrate with pride.

Our annual community survey reveals that anyone who actively joins in with local events and activity has a far more positive attitude to the area and a real sense that they can influence their environment and their future prospects. 

These surveys provide a baseline for all future work and show the main barriers to getting involved are inflexible work schedules (51%) and too many existing commitments (35%). We also learned that downtime between events can leave people isolated, and a lack of a focal community space leaves many not knowing how to get involved, contribute and dream of making a difference.  

The Museum of Futures actively responds to this community desire for a place allowing new ideas a home to thrive and existing groups a base to develop from. We hope it will much reduce the 40% thinking they have only minimal impact on making their community a better place.

It provides a supportive and creative environment for expanding engagement and collaboration, where local people can explore personal hopes and ambitions with minimal risk. It encourages experimentation and research, and opens up access to specialist support and guidance. It has encouraged new business to start and businesses to grow and introduced people to new experiences and skills.

A significant feature of the Museum is the Community Kitchen. Crowdfunded with a contribution from GLA, it is designed to enable local start-up or home-based food businesses with the opportunity many have been seeking to explore the potential for a sustainable business future in cooking and catering.

We believe that before long every town will have a Museum of Futures, albeit named something else – we want everyone to help imagine the exciting new futures that can be designed and delivered through collaborating creatively with others.

‘The Museum of Futures will generate considerable opportunities for further projects that will build on its success.’ (Dr Helen Wickstead, Kingston University)

The Museum of Futures, 117 Brighton Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 5NJ

The Community Brain

The Community Brain exists to work with communities to develop their cohesion and resilience using the widest range of the arts, education and local history and heritage. Utilising people’s natural talents and energies to create more inclusive, sustainable communities that enjoy stronger social networks and more fruitful commercial relationships. It is about giving place and people renewed importance and pride.

We work where places face distinctive challenges to ongoing growth with their mix of commuting, resident and working communities that may feel isolated, separated and unable to engage.

Our projects harness the natural brilliance of the individuals that already exist within those communities to help them overcome these obstacles together. Helping them create stories and events to celebrate their community and start to deliver the future they’ve always imagined for themselves and their local streets, public spaces and businesses.

Our community surveying reveals those who actively join in with local events have a far more positive attitude to the area and a real sense they can influence their environment and prospects. More than 70% of those we’ve surveyed report feeling better about their community since we began, and the only people who don’t rate or feel a sense of community in the place where they live, and of which they are neither proud nor optimistic, either don’t live in Surbiton or, if they do, they don’t actively participate in our activities.

We believe that when people understand and appreciate their local heritage – the history of their built and natural environment and the stories of communities that have lived there or visited – they gain a greater sense of value of place and their role within it. 

‘Just thank you. You have already changed my life. Thank you. Thank you xxx.’ (Community Survey)

Our established and growing network of on-the-ground and online communities, partners and volunteers have already devised and delivered many one-off projects and a busy calendar of now annual community events to build engagement and participation in the communities of Surbiton and  Tolworth in Kingston upon Thames. Projects over the last eleven years have grown a substantial sense of ‘pride of place’ in the area that has manifest itself in a more engaged, interested, resilient and sustainable community.

‘Key people in the community have created a space that started with made up legends and stories but has developed into a real community of hope, fellowship and support.’ (Community Survey)

Our informal, participant-led approach has engaged thousands, raised over £90,000 for charity, and many have built the confidence to create their own projects and businesses. Our work has won the national Britain Has Spirit award, a London Planning Award for community engagement and Time & Leisure’s ‘Most Innovative Arts/Community Project’ in South West London.

‘My community saved my life. I don’t know where I’d be without them. Thank you.’ (Community Survey)