Cup of Tea with…Paresha Raj-Burnett, Director at Luminaire Arts

Headline Date 03-04-2018

A cup of tea with… where we sit down and chat with those who make Victoria what it is. People with a passion for Victoria, people who live here, work here, know the area, its history and its future better than anyone else.

This month, we were invited by Paresha Raj-Burnett, Director at Luminaire Arts, the all-in-one ‘trade only’ art platform – for interior designers, architects & corporate clients.

How long have you worked in Victoria?

I think we’ve been here for nearly two years, but it’s gone really quickly. Before that we had a pop-up office space in Brixton.

Why did you move to Victoria?

We were looking for a space where we could put up art and where artists could showcase their work. Before that we’d take clients to artists’ studios, or we’d arrange a viewing at their offices. At that point there was a lot going around in vans too. Then one of the directors, Ivan, connected with Sarah, who manages the space here. They had a space and they were looking for a creative company to come in with a product to work alongside some of the Italian brands. This has worked well for us, as in our space upstairs we have the Belgravia Interior Boutique, as part of the furniture we do. We were at a hotel fair with some of our pieces, when Sarah saw that there was going to be a trade fair. She loved some of the work there, and that brings us to now.

When we moved in we just had one small corridor. Now, we’ve grown downstairs, so we’ve got an extra corridor. We’ve just opened up another part of the gallery, it’s been really good for us. It’s a great location to be in because we work with a lot of interior designers and architects, and they’re always around this area. A lot of their clients meet at hotels in Victoria, so it’s a convenient location, much easier than Chelsea Harbour or even Clerkenwell.. Victoria’s quite traditional, it’s got a very authentic London feel. People relax when they come in, probably because there’s a feeling of grandeur. This building used to be the old Midland Bank, it’s a beautiful building, downstairs there’s open brickwork, but we fell in love with the space before even seeing that. We could see it would be perfect for a gallery. We didn’t have to do too much, and we kept the original stone floors as they are. Interestingly, outside this tunnel there’s a two-tunnel kind of alcove, we always joked that if you kept digging, you’d get to Buckingham Palace.

What was the biggest change you’ve experienced in Victoria since you have been here?

The area has changed a lot since we came here. Nova, Cardinal Place Entrance and all of that development area has opened up. There are a lot of new businesses and new people visiting Victoria. Victoria’s also become a little bit of a place where you can meet for a drink, or go for a decent meal and socialise, which is really nice. It’s been nice to see people coming into this area.

What’s your favourite spot in Victoria?

I’ve got a couple. I really like St. James’ Park to go and hang out, I love the lake there. I also really like Westminster Cathedral. I think it’s just really beautiful, and it’s a great place to see something traditional. When Lumiere London happened it was beautifully lit up. Then you’ve got the new buildings of Nova and that area, which you can see as well. On a personal note, I sometimes bring my toddler into the gallery, so the Cardinal Place Entrance with lifts is brilliant, I recommend that to everyone, as it’s so accessible.
I like Lower Grosvenor Gardens and Upper Grosvenor Gardens to walk through. In the summer, there are always people hanging out there, it’s just a nice spot. I also like the sculpture in Upper Grosvenor Gardens, which I recommend people come and see.

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

Grosvenor Gardens House, it’s opposite Lower Grosvenor. It’s been empty for about seven or eight years. It’s been through a very dramatic mafia-esque stories with its ownership.

Now it’s owned by an investment group. But they really should do something with it whilst it sits empty. They could let us have some of the empty shop space for a pop-up, so artists can come and visit. When there’s so much going on in Victoria, I don’t think there should be empty buildings here. I think there’s a lot more scope to have art around Victoria, as well as more scope to have artists from across London use Victoria as a creative space, because that in itself will bring more people to Victoria. Events like Lumiere London are brilliant. We’d love to do an artist pop-up, or an artist surgery to get more artists in Victoria.

And what’s your favourite story?

I like that Victoria is a bit of an entrance point into the city. You’ve got the train station and coach station, where you have so many people coming in and out. The coaches come in here from Europe and go out all over the UK. Whenever I pick my mum up from the coach station, she’s there having made a new friend, she always makes a new friend on her way. You’ve got a range of people from everywhere, it’s nice to see a little bit of the real cosmopolitan London and its real people as well.

What’s your message for the people out there in Victoria?

Keep using it, with all the developments that are going on it is still such a busy and bustling area. I’d like for people to bring their friends to Victoria, eat in Victoria, shop local and stay local. I think things like the Victoria Privilege Card are brilliant to get people to utilise the area. There are lots of hidden gems, so I think it’s a great place to be.

What’s the biggest issue, challenge Victoria may face in the future?

We need to look at having businesses or projects going into empty spaces in Victoria. That’s partially due to prices as well. I think the council, the BID and local businesses need to make sure there is space and scope for creativity, whether it’s small businesses, or enterprises, I think there needs to be much more in that area of development in Victoria to make it lively and keep it lively.

What’s your favourite lunchtime spot?

I’ve got a soft spot for Sourced Market coffee shop. They have very good pasta, delicious dishes, and great coffee. Franco Manco in Victoria is also great, you can usually get a table and the staff are really nice.

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