City Matters: The City doesn’t exist in a vacuum – its cultural connections span the globe

Fiona Woolf
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The Bowler Hat venue in the City's Paternoster Square
Throughout the past month, visitors to the City’s Paternoster Square might have been surprised by the sight of a giant bowler hat sitting proudly in place.
This eye-catching venue has played host to a huge range of world class music – from cabaret to ballet to a performance by the Electric Swing Circus – during the course of the City of London Festival. The bowler hat has helped to increase the visibility of the City’s cultural milieu. But now that it heads on its way into history, we should continue to celebrate this aspect of life in the Square Mile.
Too often, the City is associated only with the financial and professional services community.
And while the Square Mile will always be first and foremost a business centre, no business centre is complete, or “liveable”, without a cultural offering. It would be a shallow view of the City that ignores its rich cultural heritage and institutions: the Museum of London, the Barbican, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama are among some of the Square Mile’s most internationally recognised assets. And it is my belief that this cultural offering helps form one of the key ties between the City and its wider audience – the rest of London, the rest of the UK, and the rest of the world.
For the City does not exist in a vacuum; just as we have financial, professional and legal ties with all the world’s major cities, so do we have cultural ties. And these two things go hand in hand: one of the highlights of the City of London Festival this year was a programme of events called “Seoul in the City”, which celebrated the cultural ties between the City of London and South Korea, and the many vibrant cultural offerings which are unique to Seoul. An event like this helps to increase the cultural understanding between our two cities at a time in which it is more important than ever to build global ties.
This also applies closer to home. When I visited Cardiff in February, as part of my programme of regional engagement during my mayoral year, one of the most significant topics I discussed with Welsh Assembly economy minister Edwina Hart was the importance of culture as a liveability factor in today’s cities – the Welsh National Opera being a great example. The Commonwealth Games, soon to start in Glasgow, are a different example: an event which draws a city and a global community together. And the City of London Festival’s concert last Monday was organised in partnership with the cultural arm of the Commonwealth Games – tying Glasgow and London together through the international language of culture.
The City of London Festival will be back next year with an entirely new programme of cultural treasures, and with new cultural links across the globe. Between now and then, City residents and workers should be on the lookout for the many cultural opportunities to enrich their lives on a daily basis both in the City of London and outside.

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