Destination City is the strapline the City of London Corporation is using to reboot and re-position the Square Mile as it looks to recover from the ravages of the pandemic. The Chairman of Policy and Resources, and de facto leader of the City’s Council, Chris Hayward, describes this £2.5 million per annum flagship initiative as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine the City and enhance its leisure offer”. Like some of the street artists performing at Saturday’s all-day launch event, he is engaging in a high-wire act while facing some tricky, prevailing headwinds.
Critical to the promotion of Destination City is the delivery of an annual programme of large-scale events designed to have mass appeal and become a regular fixture in London’s cultural calendar. Spectacle is something the City is extremely good at. However, its recent pitch-perfect commemoration of the late Queen has also delayed and set back the launch preparations.
Other countervailing pressures threaten to undermine Destination City and should compel the corporation to tread carefully. The optics of launching what could be regarded simply as more “bread and circuses” against a backdrop of a growing cost of living crisis need consideration, as does their environmental impact at a time when the City is also promoting its climate action strategy and many European cities are turning their lights off.
The City is determined to press ahead, having recruited a new Destination team headed by a former New West End Company associate director of marketing. This Saturday’s launch attraction, The Golden Key, curated by BAFTA award-winning producers Coney, promises to be an “immersive take-over event”, featuring a range of theatre, games, and performances across the City’s iconic venues and outdoor spaces.
Whether it proves to be the key to more than just an evening of fun and entertainment by kick starting an enduring repositioning of the City of London is what is really at stake.
John Griffiths is a City of London Common Councillor for the Ward of Castle Baynard.
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