Bringing a modern twist to a festival which dates back to the 12th Century, the City of London’s revival of Bartholomew Fair is the latest pitch in its Destination City campaign to capture a share of the growing number of visitors now returning, post-pandemic, to the capital.
Originally a three-day gathering for trading cloth and other goods which coincided with the 24 August feast of St Bartholomew, the event grew to become London’s preeminent leisure fair, lasting for a couple of weeks and attracting visitors and acts from across the country.
An eclectic mix of the traditional and the modern is at the heart of this year’s revival. It will run each Thursday to Saturday during the period from 31 August to the 16 September and aim to drive significantly increased footfall and visitor numbers to different parts of the City.
The evening before the first of main festivities – flood-lit performances on the façade of St Paul’s by leading vertical dance company BANDALOOP – Bartholomew Fair 2023 will officially open with a nod to tradition in the form of a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public disputation in West Smithfield at the church of St Bartholomew the Great
Ribbon-cutting, now commonplace, was begun at the original cloth fair by the then Lord Mayor of London. Encapsulating both the fair’s historic origins and its new beginnings, artist Damien Hirst has designed a special ribbon for the current Lord Mayor.
The first disputations took place at the church in the Middle Ages and were the forerunner of parliamentary debates. The motion for this year is: “This house believes that the love of money is the root of the nation’s evils.” There will be high-profile speakers from the City, politics and the church. The Bishop of London will chair.
Destination City uses the strapline “where it happened; where it’s happening” to convey how, by fusing the old with the new, the City of London Corporation intends to shift public perceptions of the Square Mile, so that it is seen as a place to enjoy culture and leisure time as well as the home of financial services.
John Griffiths is a City of London Common Councillor for the Ward of Castle Baynard and a member of the City’s culture, heritage and libraries committee. Tickets to the 30 August event are available from the church website and Eventbrite. If you value On London and its writers, become a supporter or a paid subscriber to publisher and editor Dave Hill’s Substack. Thanks.