I have always felt that White City has the potential to be a rather special place in London. It all started way back in 1908 with the White City Exhibition (a form of Expo) accompanied by the Summer Olympics. Then in more recent times the arrival of the BBC added a creative buzz followed by the huge impact of the Westfield shopping mall. With a new look Television Centre on the cards and John Lewis joining an expanded Westfield there is no doubt that this area is entering a new and exciting chapter. It is showing all the signs of becoming a really smart part of 21st-century London. The recent opening of Kidzania is yet another indicator that this vision is becoming reality.
To be truly successful regeneration of the scale envisaged for White City needs a broad mix of complimentary activities. This is where the Kidzania proposition scores highly in that it is a really smart idea. Firstly, it is novel as it is the first experience of its kind in the UK. It is a simple concept designed to change the way children engage with education and entertainment. Is based on a scaled-down model of the city which allows 4 to 14-year-olds the opportunity to role play with over 60 real-life jobs such as bankers, firemen, doctors and shopkeepers. Children get to engage with the variety of major brands such as H&M, Unilever and Renault in an authentic and true to life experience, which starts when visitors board a cut down version of a BA Airbus 319 on the journey to Kidzania.
I first came across Kidzania about five years ago when developing the sales strategy for the BBC’s television centre. We wanted to find potential users that aligned with the BBC’s creative legacy. Based in Mexico this remarkable business has 19 Kidzanias across the world. They see the Westfield White City site as their European flagship. Having visited their locations in Dubai and Lisbon I got a feel for the potential of this proposition. It is not just a children’s entertainment concept it is much more it’s about learning by doing. It really helps children get to grips with the realities of life – the importance of training, how to handle and spend money and how to work together. Kidzania has its own currency, ATMs, and banks and children get the opportunity to try out how adults deal with cash. All of these activities can be explored in a safe and fun environment. Thereby allowing parents time to shop in the neighbouring Westfield shopping mall.
As children get the chance to fulfil their dreams of becoming a chef, firefighter, actor, photographer or surgeon they can spend many hours enjoying and engaging with a variety of activities in the 75,000 square-foot Kidzania, which is located on the roof of Westfield. With its vast parking and ancillary facilities this is the ideal setting as upwards of 750,000 visitors are expected in the year ahead. This figure is not surprising given that Kidzania cities have seen over 42 million visitors worldwide. It is regarded by some commentators as a global phenomenon and one of the world’s fastest-growing educational entertainment brands.
Walking around White City Kidzania at the recent opening reminded me just how authentic and true to life this mini city can be. Apart from the fun factor it struck me that the educational dimension is enormous. It has the potential to empower children and to give them the confidence to challenge themselves to try things out. Whilst inspiring them to explore new ideas using role play crafted activities. This ranges from changing tires in a Formula One race to nursing babies in the maternity unit to acting as a newsreader for Global Radio. According to Kidzania London Chairman Joel Cadbury, he believes “Kidzania will alter the way the UK views, education and entertainment by opening the eyes of future generations to a myriad of possibilities that they may have otherwise never known existed” Now that for me marked Kidzania White City out as a truly smart place.