A cup of tea with…Ruth Duston

Headline Date 25-10-2016

Welcome to “A cup of tea with…” where each month we sit down and chat with people who live and work in our area and have a passion for Victoria.

This month, we talk with Ruth Duston, Chief Executive of the Victoria BID, who has been involved in the area for the past 12 years.

What is your favourite spot in Victoria?

I think I have to go for the Cathedral Piazza. I think it is quite an understated area, it’s very serene. We have done a lot of work on the Piazza over the last 10 years ensuring that it is a public space which can be enjoyed by all, especially in the summer when our chairs and tables are out there. I think it is just such a spectacular space with the backdrop of Westminster Cathedral and love how the architecture sits amongst the new buildings surrounding it.

What is your favourite lunchtime spot?

I couldn’t say that I had one favourite spot, I would have to say everywhere in Victoria. I like to pop down to Jamie’s Italian or pop across to the St Ermin’s Hotel, where they have a wonderful terrace where you can overlook London. I think it’s really nice to sample all of the different aspects Victoria has to offer so I try to change my lunchtime spot regularly.

What was the biggest change you have experienced in Victoria?

Everything. 12 years ago when I was first involved in developing a business partnership in Victoria, it was a very different place. Obviously, a lot of the buildings that were here then are no longer here. I have seen the area transform not only physically but socially and economically as well. It’s become a much more vibrant interesting location.

Twelve years ago there was a very limited offer in Victoria as it was a gateway to London and an area that people just passed through. Now people are spending much more time here because there is a much stronger food and beverage offer, a bigger retail offer and we have a lot more residents coming into the local area as well. Navigating your way around Victoria has become a lot easier and the work of the BID has been fantastic as the improvement in safety and cleanliness of the area has really helped to promote Victoria as a destination.

If you could change one thing in Victoria, what would it be?

Terminus Place, because it’s a chaotic spot. It’s your first arrival point when you come out of Victoria station. When you first arrive in London it’s very hard to navigate your way around the station, the buses are coming through and it’s not laid out as it could be. It’s not a space that is fit for purpose and it could be so much more. When you look at the investment that’s been made into Victoria, Terminus Place is an important part of it but until it’s addressed I don’t feel we have really achieved what we should be delivering as a location.

What is your favourite story about Victoria?

Well, lots of things really. I can’t say there is one thing. It’s been a collection of different aspects. I think redevelopment in Victoria is both challenging and very exciting. I think some of the new businesses that have moved into the area have been phenomenal. We have some really great organisations here now, Burberry are here, obviously, Channel 4 has always been based here, Jimmy Choo…it’s great to see so many creative organisations now located in the area.

How we have engaged with the business community has made working here very interesting. Building collective partnerships and having the opportunity to get into the brain of Victoria so as to be able to make changes and make a difference to the area has been the most exciting part of being involved into Victoria and is my personal favourite story.

What is your message for the people out there in Victoria?

Enjoy what Victoria has to offer and tell everybody about it. Spend time exploring the hidden gems, as we have a lot. It is such a unique and interesting area and it is well on its way to becoming one of London’s best destinations.

What is the biggest issues/ challenge Victoria is facing in the future?

Competitiveness I think is a challenge for all central London locations. We have a great offer here now in terms of retail, hospitality, office locations, fantastic residential locations, brilliant transport infrastructure, it’s very easy to move around and we also have a nice cultural offer as well.

I think going forward the big challenges will be the environment, sustainability and infrastructure. I think the traffic management needs to be reviewed as this will obviously have a huge impact on air quality, another big issue which needs to be addressed.

Another challenge is that of destination branding. People are becoming more selective about where they spend time and where they want to go. I think ensuring that what we offer is a unique experience not just in terms of retail, food and drink and hotelier offerings, but also in relation to our environmental offer is crucial. Having green spaces makes the experience of moving through Victoria a pleasant one and makes it a place where you want to spend time.

Our next Cup of Tea with….will be with Mark Field, MP for Cities of London and Westminster and be out next month. To stay up to date with everything going on in Victoria follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or sign up to our newsletter here.

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