Curtain up on a global drama of a different kind

IT&rsquo;S August and the streets of the Square Mile feel different. Many (especially those with families) are on holiday or thinking about it, the pace of news from Westminster and Whitehall is subdued and London is filled with foreign tourists marching across the City&rsquo;s Millennium Bridge or up Ludgate Hill to enjoy our history and architecture. <br /><br />August is the month, too, for those who enjoy a night at the opera or theatre to get ahead and book their special nights out for the autumn season and beyond. It is time to visit the Barbican website and secure a few events in its autumn/winter season. I say that not just because the City of London Corporation created the Barbican arts centre and supports it to the tune of about &pound;30m a year. It&rsquo;s because the Square Mile is nothing if not an international business district and the Barbican is one of the UK&rsquo;s premier gateways to top-flight global culture.<br /><br />Flying to Mumbai, Shanghai or San Paulo may be part of your day job, but engaging with global culture in the UK can open the mind too. It also demonstrates to business contacts that you are interested in more than their share price. Unfortunately my diary is not really my own and I am often out of London visiting fast-developing markets abroad and key partners in the UK: just as we are following up on recent visits to South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Leeds, we are now engrossed in the detail of impending City delegations to the Ukraine, Russia, USA, Canada and India. But friends and colleagues tell me what I am missing this year &ndash; and might miss in 2010 if I don&rsquo;t get ahead with bookings now. <br /><br />It&rsquo;s not just the quality, it&rsquo;s the sheer variety, especially in the Barbican&rsquo;s international festival &ldquo;Bite 09&rdquo;. In early October, for example, one of the world&rsquo;s most innovative dance companies, the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, performs the UK premiere of &ldquo;Wind Shadow&rdquo; while in contrast &ndash; but at a equally high level &ndash; in February, Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the LSO (with pianist Maria Joao Pires) in an evening of Beethoven. Of course there are hundreds of events in between &ndash; and it&rsquo;s always worth taking a risk on any of the Barbican&rsquo;s average annual tally of 270 music events, 40 theatre shows, 2,500 film screenings, four major exhibitions in Gallery and four site-specific commissions in the Curve space.<br /><br />Of course my injunction to dive deep into the cultural offerings of London is not limited to the Barbican: those doing business in India will want to try and see the British Museum&rsquo;s Royal Paintings of&nbsp; Jodhpur &ldquo;Garden &amp; Cosmos&rdquo; exhibition &ndash; a European first, &ndash; just to pick an example that illustrates why London is such an attractive place as a global base &ndash; for living as well as business.<br /><br />Ian Luder is Lord Mayor of London