This Festival Shows A Different Side To London's Financial District

London's Square Mile is the world’s leading financial and business centre, but there’s a lot more to it than shares and stockbrokers, as the City of London Festival is setting out to prove

The City of London is traditionally more associated with finance and business than music and performance, but all that is flipped on its head when the annual City of London Festival comes to town. Now in its 53rd year, this wide-ranging extravaganza of concerts, comedy gigs, walks and talks takes place at venues all over the district known as the Square Mile (22 Jun-10 Jul).  

Hundreds of events, many of them free, are taking place at major venues such as the Barbican and St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as more niche locations such as City livery halls. These spaces – not usually open to the public – are home to the City of London’s historic guilds, associations of tradesmen that date back many hundreds of years. This year’s event sees the Danish String Quartet perform at the beautiful Plaisterers’ Hall (22 Jun) and Ian Bostridge and Andreas Haefliger sing at Mansion House, the home and office of the Lord Mayor of the City of London (30 Jun), among other exciting gigs.


City Of London Festival, London, UK
The bowler hat is symbolic of the City of London - suitable venue for the festival (©COLF)

Returning this year is the Bowler Hat, an inflatable pop-up performance space in the shape of that classic example of English business headwear. The 210-seat venue can be found outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, playing host to cabaret star Barb Jungr (23 & 26 Jun) and cricket commentator Henry Blofeld (27 Jun).

Elsewhere, there are debates on power and money at the Old Bailey, the UK’s most famous criminal law court (23 Jun), concerts celebrating Singaporean independence, and the Wren Choral Marathon, a day of music performed in the churches of Sir Christopher Wren (27 Jun). And look out for guitars dotted around that can be played by whoever feels inspired to do so.

'We are busting the myth that the Square Mile simply serves the financial services,' says Alan Yarrow, Lord Mayor of London.

So even if you don’t own a bowler hat and briefcase, you will be very welcome.

COLF concert in Mansion House, London, UK
Unusual venues are used during the festival, such as Mansion House (©COLF)

For details and listings, visit the City Of London website