Monday 13 January 2020 3:59 am

The City should be proud of its world-class cultural scene

William Russell is Lord Mayor of London.

When I decided the themes for my mayoral year, I was determined to show my support for culture, heritage and the arts, which are at the heart of life in the City and a driving force for the UK’s economic growth.

Our world-leading culture offer encourages us to think differently about ourselves and our lives. It also contributes over £100bn to the UK’s coffers every year. 

For our part, the City of London Corporation prides itself on being the UK’s fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities, investing over £100m every year, and running a wide range of landmark institutions and cultural assets — including the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Keats House, and Tower Bridge. 

During my Gresham Lecture at Guildhall last week, I referenced a study from Durham University that showed that, as well as improving our creativity, the arts enhance our so-called “fusion skills”, such as empathy, motivation, and an appreciation of difference and diversity. These skills are vital and for modern business.

Our major financial and emotional investment in culture, heritage and the arts also helps to position the capital as an open and vibrant city, so it’s not surprising that so many people want to live, work and visit here. Businesses seek to relocate to London because it is seen as an attractive place to be. This in turn drives economic growth and generates new opportunities for creativity and learning.

And there is so much to celebrate, and to be proud of. The widely anticipated plans to relocate the Museum of London to West Smithfield will see the story of this great city being told in a stunning set of historic market buildings. 

And this time last year, we unveiled the concept designs for the proposed Centre for Music on the existing site of the Museum of London, which would be a world-class venue for performance and education across all musical genres, at the gateway to Culture Mile.

This north-west corner of the Square Mile, stretching from Farringdon to Moorgate, is undergoing its own transformation into a major destination for culture and learning, led by the City of London Corporation and its partners.

So, having sung the praises of our cultural offer, what else have we planned for 2020? 

Over the next couple of months, we can look forward to unveiling (quite literally) two major projects. 

First, Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata, one of the most admired paintings at Guildhall Art Gallery, has been restored, thanks to a generous grant from Bank of America. 

Second, the photographer Hannah Starkey, appointed last year as Guildhall artist in residence, will reveal her work on the theme of “celebrating City women”. 

Looking ahead to the summer, the intriguing combination of faith, freedom and football will come together for our Believe! programme in June, which celebrates tolerance, freedom of thought, diversity, and worship. The 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage will feature, as will the Euro 2020 championships, as we animate the City’s streets with three months of free activities and events.

With so much to look forward to, I am proud that the Square Mile is continuing its rich history of offering a world-class cultural scene.

Main image credit: Getty

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