The City’s reopening is building up to a crescendo with the return of visitors and audiences to some of the Square Mile’s iconic cultural institutions.
One of the things that I – like many others – have missed the most during lockdown has been the opportunity to enjoy world-class art and culture in person rather than via a screen.
I was fortunate, therefore, to join a socially-distanced audience for a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra led by Sir Simon Rattle at the Barbican last week. This was one of the LSO’s first performances at the venue since March 2020 and it was an uplifting experience, even if attending such events has changed slightly in that time due to necessary safety measures.
Many City workers, visitors and residents will celebrate the fact that the Barbican – together with the Museum of London, Tower Bridge and many other institutions – can now reopen their doors in line with Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap.
Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the capital’s cultural sector. As the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK, the City of London Corporation is committed to supporting the creative sector so that it can play a leading role in our recovery.
This ambition was at the heart of our Recovery Taskforce’s recent report, which set out to ensure the Square Mile is the world’s most innovative, inclusive and sustainable business ecosystem as well as an attractive place to work, live, learn and visit. Key to this is ensuring the Square Mile is home to a vibrant offer that engages people and gives them a reason to come back beyond just simply returning to the office.
One recommendation from the Taskforce included exploring opportunities to enable and animate our weekend and night-time offer through bold programming of major events in line with our vision of a 24/7 City. This could, for example, include traffic-free Saturdays or Sundays in summer, or an all-night celebration.
Collaboration between the creative and commercial sectors will also be vital to help us build back better from the pandemic. The Recovery Taskforce outlined how this could potentially include low-cost, long-term lets for creatives in empty and low-use spaces drawing on recommendations from our Culture and Commerce Taskforce, which was chaired by the Lord Mayor and led by the City Corporation and Culture Mile
That is why I am delighted that the Square Mile will play host to a major new development and rehearsal complex which, in a world first, will be made available to artists completely free of charge. Opening in July, NDT Broadgate – a partnership between New Diorama Theatre and British Land in collaboration with the Culture and Commerce Taskforce – will welcome over 80,000 artists to the area across the year, supporting hundreds of new theatre productions.
After more than a year of restrictions and closures, we all have become acutely aware of how important creativity and culture is to our lives and wellbeing. The revival of these sectors will play a vital role in ensuring the City is a vibrant 24/7 ecosystem once again.