City of London Corporation puts culture at the heart of recovery

    The City of London Corporation has reinforced its commitment to embedding culture at the centre of the Square Mile’s post-Covid recovery with a series of commitments to the sector.

    • Major renewal of the Barbican Centre announced
    • London Symphony Orchestra funding renewed
    • City of London Corporation confirms commitment to developing Culture Mile
    • Centre for Music will not be progressed

    A phased approach to a major renewal of the City’s leading cultural destination, the Barbican Centre, has been approved today by its Policy and Resources Committee.

    Elected Members backed plans to reimagine and upgrade the 40-year-old complex to serve the changing needs of modern audiences, visitors, performers, and artists.

    The internationally famous Barbican Centre will respond to the climate change agenda, increasing sustainability, creating new civic spaces and expanding the digital offer, whilst respecting its Grade-II listing status.

    Audiences and visitors will benefit from upgraded facilities, including enhanced spaces for community and creative learning programmes, events across the art-forms, with accessibility and inclusivity embedded across all of its activities.

    A competitive selection process to find a world-class architect-led team to take this project forward will be launched later this year.

    A further grant for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) has also been confirmed. The pioneering and internationally renowned orchestra was founded in 1904 and has been resident at the Barbican Centre since its opening in March 1982.

    The City Corporation has committed further funding for two years for Culture Mile, the City Corporation’s initiative to create a new destination for creativity, innovation, and learning in the north-west corner of the Square Mile, in partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and Museum of London. The funding will enable Culture Mile to continue its transition to a sustainable business model. These commitments, alongside the new Museum of London in West Smithfield, will form a central part of the City’s wider cultural regeneration plans and play an important role in London’s/the City’s post-Covid recovery.

    The City Corporation has also confirmed that, given the current unprecedented circumstances, its ambitious plans for a Centre for Music will not be progressed. Alternative proposals for the site – currently occupied by the Museum of London - will be brought forward over the coming months. Investment in the City Corporation’s existing assets will maintain and enhance its commitment to creativity and culture.

    City of London Corporation Policy Chair, Catherine McGuinness said:

    “Support for culture and the arts has never been more important, and we recognise that this sector will play a vital role in the post-Covid recovery of the City, the capital, and the UK. The Barbican is the jewel in the City’s cultural crown and as it looks to celebrate its 40th birthday next year, it is the right time to explore how best to safeguard its heritage and its unrivalled position on the international arts and culture scene.

    “Our continuing support for the LSO, the City’s flagship performing arts company and a great ambassador for the City at home and overseas, and the development of Culture Mile announced today demonstrate our commitment to integrating arts and culture into the Square Mile’s world-leading offer. We will continue to support our globally-renowned arts venues, and the exciting plans for the new Museum of London as they progress, enhancing London’s economic growth and reaffirming the capital’s creative sector as a major player in the economic recovery from the pandemic.”

    Chair of the Barbican Centre Board, Tom Sleigh, said:

    “Today’s decision sets in motion a raft of ambitious plans that will have a transformative effect upon the Barbican Centre – the cultural gem of the Square Mile.

    “Hugely admired and respected by audiences and artists at home and abroad, this cultural powerhouse in the heart of the City of London will be transformed to ensure that it continues to delight audiences for the next 40 years. And, as the nation emerges from the pandemic, the Board is determined that the Barbican will play a leading role in the cultural recovery of the capital and the nation.”

    Managing Director of the Barbican Centre, Sir Nicholas Kenyon, added:

    “New times need new solutions. As we reimagine the City in a time of recovery, we are delighted that a major project to renew the Barbican will be launched in 2022, its 40th anniversary, updating our iconic venue in line with sustainability, climate action, and the ever-changing needs of audiences, communities, and our many performers, including our superb resident orchestra, the LSOThis will make the Barbican the creative home for the next generation.”

    Managing Director of the LSO, Kathryn McDowell, commented:

    “During these challenging times, we are grateful to the City of London Corporation for sustaining their investment in culture and for this future commitment to the LSO, as we rebuild our activity. The LSO remains steadfast in its mission to serve the people of London and beyond with dynamic music making, both live and digitally, including a wide-ranging, inclusive and diverse music education and community programme.” 

    Principal of Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Lynne Williams, said:

    “We’re grateful for the City of London’s sustained support for Guildhall School, as a world-leading arts training institution and the number one conservatoire in the UK, and we look forward to continue working with the City to further develop our teaching and learning environment and the experience of our students and audiences.” 

    The City of London Corporation is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year.

    Last week, the City’s Culture and Commerce Taskforce unveiled a blueprint for tackling the “cultural catastrophe” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

    It made three key recommendations to help secure the capital’s creative future, providing a roadmap for stronger collaboration between the culture and business sectors, and boosting London’s economic growth as the UK recovers from coronavirus.


    Notes to Editors

    Media enquiries:Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Arts and Culture), City of London Corporation, Tel: 07795 333060

    For out-of-hours media enquiries, please call 07864 962044.

    About the City of London Corporation

    The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. 

    About the Barbican Centre

    A world-class arts and learning organisation, the Barbican pushes the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. Its creative learning programme further underpins everything it does. Over a million people attend events annually, hundreds of artists and performers are featured, and more than 300 staff work onsite. The architecturally renowned centre opened in 1982 and comprises the Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre, The Pit, Cinemas 1, 2 and 3, Barbican Art Gallery, a second gallery The Curve, public spaces, a library, the Lakeside Terrace, a glasshouse conservatory, conference facilities and three restaurants. The City of London Corporation is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre.

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    About Guildhall School

    Guildhall School is a vibrant, international community of young musicians, actors and production artists in the heart of the City of London. Ranked as one of the top ten performing arts institutions in the world (QS World University Rankings 2020) and the highest-ranked UK conservatoire in the 2021 Guardian University Guide music and drama league tables, the School is a global leader of creative and professional practice which promotes innovation, experiment and research, with over 1,000 students in higher education, drawn from nearly 60 countries around the world. The School is also the UK’s leading provider of specialist music training at the under-18 level with nearly 2,500 students in Junior Guildhall and the Centre for Young Musicians.

    About LSO

    The LSO was established in 1904 and has a unique ethos. As a musical collective, it is built on artistic ownership and partnership. With an inimitable signature sound, the LSO’s mission is to bring the greatest music to the greatest number of people. The LSO has been the only Resident Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in the City of London since it opened in 1982, giving 70 symphonic concerts there every year. Through LSO Discovery, it is a pioneer of music education, offering musical experiences to 60,000 people every year. With the formation of its own record label LSO Live in 1999 the LSO pioneered a revolution in recording live orchestral music. The LSO strives to embrace new digital technologies – having successfully moved into digital film, Blu-Ray Audio, downloads, streaming and virtual reality – and it continues to innovate with platforms such as LSO Play, a web-based video player that allows people to observe the Orchestra from different angles. The LSO is also a highly successful creative enterprise, with 80% of all funding

    About Culture Mile

    Culture Mile is the City of London’s new cultural district, stretching from Farringdon to Moorgate. Led by the City of London Corporation, with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London, the five partners are together creating a vibrant, creative area in the north-west corner of the Square Mile. Alongside animating the whole district with imaginative collaborations and events, delivering major enhancements to the streets and improving wayfinding, Culture will be working with organisations from across the City to build a world-class hub of creativity, innovation and learning that delivers economic growth and social mobility for London.

    About the new Museum of London

    The Museum of London tells the ever-changing story of this great world city and its people, from 450,000 BC to the present day. Our galleries, exhibitions, displays and activities seek to inspire a passion for London and provide a sense of the vibrancy that makes the city such a unique place.

    The Museum of London is on the move. We want to tell the extraordinary story of London and Londoners in a new museum in West Smithfield, which itself is a deeply fascinating and historic area. We want to engage Londoners with their city and its history and display many more objects from our rich collection. Further information about the move and plans so far: