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First speakers announced for Festival of Place 2020

Inspiring line-up includes 24 leaders, thinkers and shapers who will come together on 7 July to discuss how to make places worth living in and property development with positive social and environmental impact. Book by 28 February to save on your Festival pass

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Festival of Place 2020 speakers
Festival of Place 2020 speakers

Today the Festival of Place announces the initial 24 speakers confirmed for this summer’s Festival of Place – The Developer’s flagship one-day event, which will take place on on 7 July 2020 – unveiling the leaders, shapers and thinkers who will address the 500-strong audience.


The line-up includes global inclusive cities expert Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities; Danna Walker, founder of Built By Us; Stefano Boeri, the architect behind Italy’s vertical forest towers; Louise Wyman, director of design and development at the West Midlands Combined Authority; and James Raynor, chief executive of Grosvenor.


The Festival of Place, which takes place at Tobacco Dock in east London, aims to break down silos and connect developers, local authorities, government, investors, placemakers, designers and architects committed to making socially and environmentally responsible property developments.


The ambition is to promote collaboration, hands-on learning and conversations about how to make places that thrive in a fast-changing context and the climate emergency.


Book by 28 February to save on your Festival of Place pass


With six stages of simultaneous content featuring a range of stimulating talks and ‘placehack’ workshops and a thriving market square, the Festival of Place was described last year by attendees as “consistently interesting”, “genuinely vibrant” and “thought provoking”.


The speakers will tackle major issues facing towns and cities with topics such as urban greening, health and well-being, the future of town centres, sustainable masterplanning, the retail apocalypse, climate resilience, risk-taking and child-friendliness, the fostering of the arts, and diversity and inclusion by design.


Speakers include:


Stefano Boeri is the world-famous architect of Milan’s vertical forest towers, Bosco Verticale – two residential towers of 80m and 112m planted with almost 17,000 trees, shrubs and plants, providing an equivalent of 20,000 sq m of forest and undergrowth. Boeri has offices in Milan, Tirana and Shanghai, and recently presented his vertical forest concept to the COP21 climate conference in Paris.


Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities and ambassador of World Urban Parks, has inspired and advised decision-makers in more than 350 cities worldwide on how to create vibrant cities with healthier citizens, where all people can live happier, regardless of age, gender, ability or socio-economic or ethnic status. His focus is on the design and use of parks, streets and pavements as great public places, as well as sustainable mobility: walking, riding bicycles, taking public transport, and new uses for cars. Penalosa highlights the benefits to public health, environment, mobility and economic development.


Danna Walker is founder of Built By Us, an award-winning social enterprise with a mission to connect diverse talent to construction businesses, championing greater diversity and inclusion in the construction sector. Walker started out as a shop floor electrician, later became an architect, and is now board member of Public Practice and elected board member of the Architects Registration Board.

Stefano Boeri, architect of Bosco Verticale, will speak at the Festival of Place 2020
Stefano Boeri, architect of Bosco Verticale, will speak at the Festival of Place 2020

Louise Wyman is director of design and development at the West Midlands Combined Authority and a member of the National Infrastructure Commission’s Design Group. As a planning committee member for the London Legacy Development Corporation and a former executive director at the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, Wyman leads teams that deliver projects of national significance. She set up the garden towns and villages programme across government in 2016 and has overseen the delivery of the Oxford-Cambridge arc since 2017. Wyman set up Homes England’s market engagement and strategic growth functions and led on future design ambition.


James Raynor, chief executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, has overall responsibility for the Grosvenor Britain & Ireland business, which owns and manages the London estate in Mayfair and Belgravia as well as having development projects elsewhere in London and the UK. He was appointed chief executive in January 2020. Raynor was appointed chief executive of Grosvenor Europe in 2013. Before Grosvenor, he was senior director of European real estate at Royal Bank of Scotland in Paris and a non-executive director of Nordisk Renting in Sweden. He is a board member of INREV and chair of the INREV Fund Manager Advisory Council. He was previously a member of the French council of the Urban Land Institute.


Danny Michael Ball is a blind neuroscientist at University College London who investigates how people navigate their environment without sight. Using cutting-edge neuroscientific techniques and theory, the aim is to investigate how the brain adapts after the loss of vision, which information is optimal for wayfinding, and how these findings can be applied practically to urban spaces such as train stations, so they are safe for blind people to use independently.


Alex Fefegha, head creative technologist at Comuzi Lab, is the co-founder and head of making at a studio that works at the intersection of emerging technology and humans. Comuzi’s clients include Nike, Asos, Uber, BBC, University of the Arts London, Waltham Forest Council and the NHS. Fefegha has been recognised for his work investigating the ethical implications of AI.


The Festival of Place brings together professionals to discuss what makes places that thrive
The Festival of Place brings together professionals to discuss what makes places that thrive
The day-long event includes hands-on workshops which will be announced in the coming weeks
The day-long event includes hands-on workshops which will be announced in the coming weeks

Hala El Akl Questa, director at architecture practice PLP, co-led the concept masterplan for N+ Fashion City in Ningbo, China – a new urban genre that creates a city for fashion. In the Qatar City masterplan, she led the design of the training and education zone. She completed a residential-led masterplan in Lebanon, currently under construction, and she has developed guidelines and architectural typologies for the residential district of the Arzanah masterplan in Abu Dhabi. Other work includes the redesign, as part of an invited competition, of the Tour Montparnasse in Paris, a mixed-use development for Le Linéa at La Défense (also in Paris) and masterplans for the University of Montpellier in France and for Nieuw Zuid in Antwerp, Belgium.


Natascha McIntyre Hall is assistant director of strategic developments at Portsmouth City Council, where she is driving a multibillion-pound transformation agenda. A former director of Gleeds and AECOM, with more than 15 years of experience working in the private sector, McIntyre-Hall’s long-standing commitment to the sustainability agenda has earned her a reputation as one of the UK’s foremost programme managers. She is currently working to bring thousands of sustainable homes, jobs and opportunities to the people of Portsmouth.


Sophie White is director of infrastructure grant at Homes England, the £5.5bn available to local authorities for infrastructure to unlock housing. It will help unlock up to 650,000 new homes by part-funding much-needed infrastructure in areas of greatest housing need. White is a chartered surveyor with extensive experience in development finance, valuation, development and consultancy.


Chris Thompson is founder of Citu, the sustainable property developer founded in 2004 with the goal of helping develop sustainable cities for the 21st century. Combining his professional background in construction with a passion for architecture and cities, Thompson set out to massively increase productivity, investing in building a state of the art manufacturing facility in Leeds South Bank, named Citu Works. This will create the zero emission houses and apartments that make up the Climate Innovation District, Citu’s largest project which will feature more than 800 low carbon homes alongside manufacturing, office, leisure facilities, primary school, care home and climate resilient public realm, and is the biggest urban sustainable development in the UK


Catherine Webster, executive director of strategy and investment at Quintain, leads on business strategy, financing and investment initiatives for not only Quintain’s existing site at Wembley Park but also new sites for mixed-use developments with a build-to-rent focus. She has 25 years of real estate investment and finance experience and has held several senior roles as an investor or a lender in a wide array of companies including private equity, fund management and investment banking at Hudson Advisors (Lone Star Funds), TIAA and Lehman Brothers Global Real Estate. Her experience is pan-European, across residential and commercial sectors and as an owner, joint venture partner, fund investor, and a mezzanine and senior lender.

Edward Dixon, head of ESG – real assets at Aviva Investors, is responsible for the environmental, social and governance (ESG) programme for Aviva Investors’ £45bn real assets platform, encompassing real estate, infrastructure and private debt. With colleagues and the global responsible investment team, he leads the firm’s ESG strategy in real assets across investment, development and asset management.


Patricia Brown is director of Central, a niche consultancy largely centred on the dynamics of cities and the process of achieving change. Central advises business and civic leaders on partnerships, developments and projects to create thriving places, economies and businesses. Brown was a commissioner on Centre for London’s Commission on the Future of London’s Roads and Streets. A significant element of her current and past work is building a shared vision and ambition to create a better outcome for all, building alliances between the public and private sectors.

Jonny Anstead from Marmalade Lane co-housing developer TOWN is speaking
Jonny Anstead from Marmalade Lane co-housing developer TOWN is speaking
Speakers include Webster who heads up Strategy and Investment at Quintain, developer of Wembley Park
Speakers include Webster who heads up Strategy and Investment at Quintain, developer of Wembley Park

Pam Alexander OBE is non-executive director of the London Legacy Development Corporation and the Connected Places Catapult, and chair of digital agency Commonplace Digital. Until recently she was chair of the Covent Garden Market Authority, a trustee of the Design Council and chair of Design Council CABE. She was chief executive of the South East England Development Agency from 2004 to 2011, and of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (English Heritage) from 1997 to 2001. She was made OBE in 2012 for her services to urban regeneration in the South East.


Rachel Fisher, Deputy Director for Regeneration and Investment in the Cities and Local Growth Unit at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government/BEIS. In addition to overall responsibility for regeneration policy, she led the development of the £3.6bn Towns Fund, and now oversees the development of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Prior to this she has held a variety of roles in policy and public affairs across the built environment industry. In 2012 she co-founded Urbanistas an international network whose mission is to amplify the voices of women to make cities better for everyone. She is an associate member of the RTPI and a Fellow of the RSA


Roger Madelin CBE, joint head of the Canada Water Development, joined British Land in February 2016 and jointly leads the development of Canada Water, a 53-acre development project in London. Previous to British Land, Madelin worked at Argent where he was responsible for delivering the 67-acre King’s Cross development, as well as all Argent’s other developments including Green Park and Thames Valley Park in Reading, Brindleyplace in Birmingham, Piccadilly in Manchester and office buildings in the City of London. He became chief executive of Argent in 1997.


Tom Hawley, managing director of THE Consultancy, is a consultant for real estate projects that bring together hospitality and live entertainment around the world. He is currently working with Yoo Capital on its plans to make Olympia London into a cultural district.


Araceli Camargo is a cognitive neuroscientist and director and co-founder of Centric Lab, a consultancy that works with developers and government to identify health risks to current and future inhabitants to improve regeneration schemes. Camargo is currently focusing on understanding how the built environment presents a risk for certain health issues such as depression, anxiety, obesity and PTSD. Camargo holds an MSc in cognitive neuroscience from King’s College London, where she focused on autism.


Kelly Alvarez Doran, senior principal of MASS Design Group, leads the global innovative architecture practice’s London office and oversees work in Europe, West Africa and global business development. He joined MASS in 2014 to lead the firm’s Kigali office, and led the design and implementation of several of MASS’ projects across East Africa, notably the award-winning Munini District Hospital and Rwanda Ministry of Health’s Typical Hospital Plans; headquarters for both One Acre Fund and Andela in Kenya; and the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture.


Nicole Badstuber is a researcher in urban transport and infrastructure with a focus on transport policy, governance and regulation, including academic research projects on driverless cars, smart cities, governance of urban transport introducing innovation on the London Underground, and applying ethics to transport policy.


Jonny Anstead, founding director of TOWN, co-founded the developer in 2014 with Neil Murphy and jointly oversees the business. Over 18 years of working in the built environment, Anstead’s experience spans land assembly, commercial appraisal, urban design, masterplanning and delivery. He is a passionate advocate for community-led housing and he is a trustee of Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust.


Alexandra Notay is build-to-rent fund director at PfP Capital and co-chair at Creative Land Trust. At PfP Capital, Notay oversees the UK-wide residential strategy for the fund and asset management arm of Places for People. An expert in build-to-rent, placemaking and sustainable urban development, Notay has 15 years’ strategic advisory experience with government, private sector and third sector organisations. She is a TEDx speaker and published author and editor of more than 30 books, and reports on real estate. She is vice-chair of ULI UK Residential Council and on the ULI UK Executive Committee, serves on the British Property Federation’s build-to-rent committee, and is an associate member of CREFC Europe. She is also a non-executive director of Sound Diplomacy, South West board member for LandAid and trustee of the SunScreenIT Foundation.

Tim Gill is a global expert on children’s outdoor play and mobility. The New York Times described his 2007 book No Fear: Growing up in a risk-averse society as “a handbook for the movement for freer, riskier play.” A 2017 Churchill Fellow, he is writing a book for the Royal Institute of British Architects on child-friendly urban planning.


Tickets to the Festival of Place are on sale now, with an early bird discount and organisation passes available for group entry.


Book now at


The Festival of Place takes place on 7 July 2020 at Tobacco Dock, east London

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