The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Kathryn McDowell
Kathryn McDowell
the Corporation of London
The governance of London is divided between 32 districts and the City. The governing body for the City of London is called the Corporation of London. Like the district offices of the other regional governments, the Corporation of London provides the usual services with its own police, fire, sanitation and other departments but, due to the extremely small resident population in comparison to the City’s size, the city council and the mayor are not chosen traditionally through the usual type of elections based on party politics. Instead they are appointed posts. And, the primary role of the Corporation of London is said to be the promotion of the City as an international financial center and upholding its traditions. Making use of the large corporate tax revenue, the Corporation of London is able to give large-scale support to institutions like the Barbican Centre and various programs in the arts and culture.

*Cutting-edge contemporary architecture
Recent years have seen a construction rush that has brought many new buildings to the City. Especially noteworthy is the new building of the re-insurance company Swiss RE designed by Sir Norman Foster and completed in 2004. This skyscraper has acquired the nickname “Gherkin” because of the way its shape resembles a pickles cucumber. Meanwhile, other buildings like the Lloyds of London building by Richard Rogers, built in the 1980s with state-of-the-art technology stands among old churches and other historic buildings.
An Overview
Presenter Interview
The City of London Festival is an arts festival that has taken route in the international financial center of the City  
The area of London known as “the City” is a vibrant mix of historic buildings like old churches standing alongside the contemporary buildings of the world-leading financial district. In this interview, the City of London Festival’s Director, Kathryn McDowell talks about how the festival has shaped itself to fit the environment of the City, in ways such as using its historic buildings as performance venues, and how the festival is run with tie-ups to the City’s corporations.
(Interview by Mariko Inaba)
*This interview was taken on May 31st, 2005, about a month before the London Bombings.

Tell us about the history of the City of London Festival.
The City of London Festival is one of the oldest arts festivals in Britain, along with Edinburgh and Brighton, and it was started in the early 60s.
The City is the oldest and the original part of London. It has its own mayor and local government which is called the Corporation of London. In the area of only one square mile with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the centre, there exist 40 to 50 old churches, as well as some very modern architecture used in office buildings. The number of residents in the City is only 5,000, but its daytime population rises up to 500,000. It has always been the financial sector and trading hub of London, where a lot of global, multinational businesses, including Japanese are based. But only a few miles away from the City lies an area of London which is very much socially deprived.
The festival began with the Mayor, who thought it would be a good idea to have cultural activities in the City alongside business initiatives, as otherwise it could become a busy, serious and austere place. Since its inception the Lord Mayor has been the honorary president of the festival, and the Dean of St Paul the vice president, which is a good mix. The Lord Mayor changes every year — a successful business person of that year eventually takes up the post — but they have always been aware of the importance of culture in the City. The Barbican Centre, for example, which was built in late 70’s, is now one of the main venues for performing arts not only in the City but in the whole of London.
The festival is held for three weeks, normally from late June into July, when people are all ready to be off for their summer holidays. We try to create festive atmosphere, making good use of all the interesting buildings and spaces in the City that we can have access to at this particular period. The bell ringing at St Mary-le-Bow indicates the start of the festival. We always try to attract varied audiences and visitors to the festival — from the people who are working or living in the City, to those who are interested in the history of London or contemporary architecture here. I became the director of the festival in 2001.

What features of your festival, make it different from other festivals in Britain?
We take the full advantage of the uniqueness of the community of the City. As the buildings here show, it is a place where old traditions and the forefront of new ones co-exist, so our programme reflects this aspect. It started mainly as a festival of music, but now it covers wider areas, such as performance and visual arts. For theatre, we closely work with the Barbican, as they run a big theatre event called BITE.
The strength of our festival is that we have so many interesting venues. Rather than putting events in one main place, we put on performances of the highest quality in a number of unusual spaces that are unique to the City. We know that only a few miles away from the City there are such prestigious theatres as Sadler’s Wells or the South Bank, so we do not need to have things in our festival that can already be experienced in these places. The largest venue we have is St. Paul’s, but we also use private halls called guildhalls, which are owned by the guilds of goldsmith, carpenters, skinners, etc., for their meeting places. Although they are all beautiful historic buildings they are normally not open to the public, but during the festival we are able to go inside them and use them as concert halls. Likewise, concerts are held in the buildings of Lloyd’s of London and The Gherkin. For instance, this year a famous pianist Joanna MacGregor will play works by American contemporary composers on the 4th of July, American Independence Day, in the atrium of the Lloyd’s just by the shipping bells that toll at every hour when a ship leaves the port. On the top storey of Swiss Re called ‘ Gherkin’ by Norman Foster, Stockhausen’s ‘ Stimmung’ will be performed. Stimmung itself is an amazing, iconic piece of Stockhausen from the seventies, and to play it in equally striking surroundings, with the backdrop of a 360 degree panorama of the City, will be very special. We also put on concerts in smaller churches in the City, which Christopher Wren designed before he worked on St Paul’s, after the Great Fire of London. So by listening to music in these churches and going to a big concert later on at St Paul’s, you can also trace the path of this great architect.
What I find fascinating in the programming is that big artists don’t necessarily always want to play in conventional concert halls. I remember, when I asked the renowned violinist Viktoria Mullova what she wanted to do, she had the idea of doing an experimental concert with her own band in a tiny club space in the City. As interesting venues can attract artists, we have been able to present performances the quality of which is as high as some other prestigious arts festivals. While booking established, world-class artists, we also emphasize the introduction of younger, new talents, too. So this year, for instance, artists will appear ranging from Evelyn Glennie, who is the queen of percussion, to a wonderful singer called Anna Dennis who made her debut just last year.
There are also free events such as lunchtime concerts throughout the festival, held at various places outside buildings.
Visual arts can be enjoyed in our festival, too. This year we have commissioned some artists to create site-specific pieces that respond to City churches. And we do not necessarily have to curate exhibitions by ourselves. Many of the companies in the City - ING Barings, Deutsche Bank and UBS Warburg — they all own impressive collections of arts and paintings. They are normally not shown in public for security reasons, but during the festival we offer tours of these corporate collections. It is an exciting programme for arts lovers, and is greatly appreciated by the companies, too, as it is a good opportunity for them to promote themselves.
We organise various other events, like guided tours to historical sites in the City, or a debate called ‘ Ancient & Postmodern’, about the installation of contemporary art works in churches, so you can enjoy all aspects of the city through the festival.
As for programming, we have regular meetings of the British Arts Festivals Association (, where we exchange information and ideas about what we do, which is a useful forum. There we coordinate on which project we can collaborate with, or do it separately. Each festival after all wants to have its own uniqueness.
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