How the City is emerging creatively from the pandemic

Credit: Laura Chouette/Unsplash
Credit: Laura Chouette/Unsplash

The City of London – Clerkenwell’s close neighbour – had a tough time in Covid. It’s only just coming back now, with its half-a-million plus workforce returning in dribs and drabs. But as the Square Mile slowly fills up again, there’s been a change of emphasis as culture is being placed at its heart. 

The final report of the Culture & Commerce Taskforce – called A Year of Fuelling Creative Renewal: it ran for a year from October 2020 – has proposed that culture and commerce could work together more fruitfully. 

For example, one aspect shortly to be convened is a new Culture Mile Business Improvement District, which will take the recommendations of the Taskforce further.

“The Taskforce was part of a recognition by the City of the value of the creative sector.” says Sian Bird, head of Partnerships and Strategic Projects with Culture Mile. 

“The organisation Culture Mile, which launched in 2017, had developed that idea and now the need for recovery after Covid is bringing it forward.” This does not just mean that the City will promote its institutions such as the Barbican Centre and the Museum of London, says Bird – more that it will do more to promote and integrate ‘creative’ industries. 

“We’ve got almost 600 creative firms registered in Culture Mile area that employ over 7000 people,” says Bird. “Within that category there’s a lot of different clusters, from media and design to performance and visual arts, but the point is that the City is trying to understand how it can maximise the potential of this incredible creative sector to help reshape it following the twin effects of Covid and Brexit.” 

In an area previously known almost exclusively for financial industries, there’s another factor afoot, which Bird calls “an appetite between the creative and the commercial sectors to work together better.”

This could be done by harnessing creativity and innovation – which obviously spans all sectors – so as to accelerating the recovery from the pandemic. “Creativity and innovation is now a big thing in the financial sector,” says Bird. 

“There’s an interesting crossover point between creativity and commercial sectors.” Not only could this new approach attract new talent, she says, it would also help the City become a place with more leisure, “where there’s lots for families to do at the weekend and a strong cultural offer.” 

As part of this approach, she adds, the City has an interesting opportunity to think about what people want from a business district. “It could become more animated as a visitor destination, with inspiring workplaces that feel alive and inspiring. Culture and the creative industries can play a role in those kinds of places.” 

As an example, Bird cites investment company Helical, one of whose retail units was recently empty. 

“We put in an exhibition Hidden City that we commissioned with photographer called Emile Holba and we’re looking for more sites for where we could do what we’ve done there – showing creative works ground-floor space spaces, and identifying workspace for creative businesses.”