Central London facing ‘cultural catastrophe’ due to COVID-19

Oscar Williams-Grut·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UKTue, 9 February 2021, 9:18 am

A jogger runs across the Millennium Bridge across the River Thames with St Paul's Cathedral in the background in London on December 31, 2020 on the day that the Brexit transition period ends and Britain leaves the EU single market and customs union four-and-a-half years after voting to leave the bloc. - Brexit becomes a reality on on December 31 as Britain leaves Europe's customs union and single market, ending nearly half a century of often turbulent ties with its closest neighbours. The UK's tortuous departure from the European Union takes full effect when Big Ben strikes 11:00 pm (2300 GMT) in central London, just as most of the European mainland ushers in 2021 at midnight. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
A jogger runs across the Millennium Bridge across the River Thames with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background in London on December 31, 2020. Photo: NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images

The City of London Corporation has published a blueprint for how to save central London from what it calls a “cultural catastrophe” sparked by COVID-19.

The City of London Corporation, the municipality which controls central London’s business district, on Tuesday published a 62-page report by its Culture and Commerce Taskforce. The report makes several recommendations on how to revive central London’s cultural sector as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact upon the capital’s cultural and creative sectors, and we make no apology for describing the situation as a ‘cultural catastrophe,’” Lord Mayor William Russell said in a statement.

“But this blueprint for a deeper relationship between the creative and commercial sectors will help boost London’s economic growth and places the capital’s powerhouse creative sector as a leading force in the economic recovery from coronavirus.”

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The report says creative activations — such as live events, pop-ups, or art installations — could help to bring people back to the City of London as soon as restrictions start to ease.

'To let' signs outside offices on Ludgate Hill, near St Paul's Cathedral, in central London, during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. Under increased measures people can no longer leave their home without a reasonable excuse and schools must shut for most pupils. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
‘To let’ signs outside offices on Ludgate Hill, near St Paul’s Cathedral, in central London, during England’s third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

The push to get people back into central London as quickly as possible comes amid concerns about the viability of many businesses that rely on a busy city — everything from sandwich shops and hairdressers to galleries and clothing shops.

“Where we have a particular short-term challenge is that while the big financial and professional services firms, or even the small ones, are doing perfectly well working remotely, it’s the supporting businesses that really rely on footfall that are going to be struggling,” Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, told Yahoo Finance UK in a recent interview.

“While we’re doing what we can to support them, I’ve very worried about the challenges that many of them face.”

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Tuesday’s report calls for the creation of “creative enterprise hubs” to help artists and creatives collaborate and share knowledge in the recovery phase of the crisis. The report also urges business leaders to collaborate with artists to help both groups learn from each other.

“It is critical for culture and commerce to work together and harness London’s creative energy to retain its position as the best city in the world in which to live, work, learn, and invest,” the Lord Mayor said.

“I call upon culture, civic, and commercial organisations across London to consider what the Taskforce is proposing, with a view to implementing as many recommendations as they are able to, in order to help accelerate the recovery.”