Skip to navigationSkip to content

A big thank you

by Lindsey Glen, Director

Today we’ve announced some exciting news: a £3.75 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The funding will support us to restore New River Head, an extraordinary 18th and 19th century waterworks – hidden from public view for over 70 years – and reopen it as a permanent national centre for illustration.

An illustration of a large brick building, surrounded by cobbled paths. People are sitting, walking and moving around the site. Some are drawing and reading. There are plants in the foreground and landscaped gardens. There is a round building on the left hand side and a one floor story building at the back of the image.
Illustrator impression of the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration © Nora Walter

Once open, the new Quentin Blake Centre will be a vibrant and welcoming place to explore and celebrate illustration. New galleries in the distinctive Engine House and Coal Stores will shine a light on illustrators and explore their impact on our world. Studio and project spaces will welcome schools, families and community groups, and illustrators.

Surrounding the newly-restored buildings will be cobbled yards, trees and planting, offering opportunities to draw, play, learn and reflect. There will be a café, with a beautifully terrace overlooking the greenery, and a shop, stocking prints, books, art materials and gifts.

“New River Head will be the most extraordinary home for the art of illustration; the building could not be more appropriate ifwe’d designed it specially, and it’s setting is especially charming and sympathetic. One day it will show some of my archive of several thousand original drawings but, much more importantly, it will be an international centre for the display, discussion and celebration of the extraordinary wealth of illustration.”

- Quentin Blake

We’re already using illustration to uncover New River Head’s fascinating history which dates back to 1602. You can find out more on our research pages or visit the Viewing Platform on Myddelton Passage (Thursday to Sunday).

We want the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration to be a place where everyone feels welcome, everything is accessible and everyone’s ideas and stories matter– a place that reflects the joy, imagination, kindness and curiosity we find in Quentin’s artworks. We’ve been working with schools, community organisations, families and local residents to develop and test exciting plans for exhibitions, festivals, projects and the site.

Two adults and two children outside, sitting around a table creating illustrations with flowers. There is a vase of flowers on the table.
© Valentina Zunino

Now we need your support. We’re launching an appeal to raise £1 million by the end of the year, inviting fans of illustration, Quentin Blake and industrial heritage to ‘make your mark’ with a gift. Click here to donate. 

“Illustration often marks many people's first experience with art, influencing and inspiring from an early age. We're deeply grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for helping us open the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, a unique venue where history and creativity meet and all can explore.”

- Marion Deuchars, illustrator and Quentin Blake Centre Trustee
Photo of seven people standing in front of a large brick building holding a National Lottery Heritage Fund logo sign and a large illustration of a person holding a thank you sign.