Chris Hayward: City begins to thrive post-pandemic


‘Summertime, and the livin’ is easy’ – so the song goes – and here in the Square Mile, summer is well underway.

Just last week, Guildhall Yard was busy with the Beerfest, people were watching Wimbledon in Paternoster Square, and many more have been enjoying the sunshine across the City.

But, as we all know, the livin’ is hardly easy right now; rising inflation, the cost of living crisis, and the pandemic are all having an impact on the lives of City residents and workers.

The ongoing pandemic means that the City has profoundly changed over the last two years.

Worker footfall hovers around two-thirds of pre-pandemic activity and retail footfall is even lower.

For our small and medium enterprises that depend on this activity, two-thirds of a recovery is self-evidently not a full recovery.

As Policy Chairman, I have made post-pandemic renewal a core priority.

We must use this unique moment as a generational opportunity to diversify the Square Mile’s economy so that it is more resilient, more robust, and more resolute in the future.

But we cannot achieve this transition alone. We need the support of our residents and businesses to make change happen.

To see our streets bustling, our shops buzzing, and our City busy, we have to improve our pull factors so that people want to be here.

Our solution is to create an exceptional leisure offer anchored to the City’s identity.

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Destination City will transform the Square Mile’s leisure offer, creating a leading destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.

We are fully committed to this flagship policy with a £2.5million annual investment to deliver an outstanding events programme for everyone.

Within the City’s historic settings and hidden spaces, there will be events including outdoor festivals featuring music, art, education, sport, and wellness.

By placing greater emphasis on our leisure offer, we are boosting the Square Mile’s appeal. And that must be good for our businesses, our residents, and our workers.

This paradigm shift will ensure that the City is important for tourism and tourism is important for the City.

Whilst recognising that the Square Mile cannot transform overnight, we are making excellent progress in laying the foundations for our recovery.

The City Corporation and the Square Mile will benefit immensely from the energy, expertise, and excellence of Luciana Magliocco – our new Destination City Director – when she joins us from the New West End Company in September.

One of Luciana’s first missions will be leading our spectacular launch event this Autumn.

Drawing in crowds through immersive theatre, audiences will journey through 2,000 years of history, before looking towards the greener, cleaner, and more sustainable Square Mile of tomorrow.

What better way to protect the present, than by telling tales of our past and our future?

So, as we enjoy this good weather, I’m reminded not just of George Gershwin’s Summertime, but a lyric from another modern cultural phenomenon, Hamilton.

‘There’s nothin’ like summer in the city’ quips Aaron Burr; if we get Destination City right, the Square Mile will be delivering cultural marvels not just in summer, but year-round.

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