Chris Hayward: Setting sights on creating a seven-day-a-week destination

Chris Hayward: Setting sights on creating a seven-day-a-week destination
credit Unsplash

As I look out on to Guildhall Yard, I can see the City’s skyline and just below, is Guildhall Art Gallery standing proudly on the site of London’s Roman amphitheatre.

Behind the gallery’s doors, the team is currently making final preparations for a new exhibition, which opens on Friday.

‘The Big City’ is neither a reference to the size of London or the City which, despite being a “financial powerhouse”, isn’t very big – at just over 1.3 sq km. In this case, the ‘big’ refers to the artworks.

Described as “the most extensive collection of large-scale London paintings in the world”, the exhibition will put on display a range of super-sized works by 19 artists.

Some of them rarely seen on public display, they will need to be seen to be believed, perhaps, even, seeming to envelop the viewer in the landscape in front of them.

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Art galleries often find it very challenging to display so many huge paintings in one space at the same time – but we will meet that challenge and do so successfully.

Indeed, how many other challenges have we faced up to in the City over the last few years?

Three years ago, we started to hear the first mentions of coronavirus and within a few weeks, most of us were working from home. A novelty for some, a chore for others, we watched – with mounting disbelief – the scenes on the news and social media of deserted towns and cities up and down the country.

Skip to the present day and with a greater understanding of the, admittedly, ever-present virus and a hugely successful vaccination rollout, we are in a much better place. Although far from unscathed by COVID, the City of London has proved as resilient as ever.

My colleagues have worked extremely hard to focus on our recovery from the pandemic – and not a superficial recovery, but a solid and well-resourced one.

And at the heart of these efforts is Destination City.

Many of you will have read about the City of London Corporation’s major flagship policy and you may have been among the 30,000+ people who enjoyed the launch event, ‘The Golden Key’ in October last year, the spectacular finale of which took place in Guildhall Yard.

However, impressive as the events may be, Destination City is more than an events programme: it is about transforming the Square Mile by celebrating its attractiveness as a global destination, unrivalled heritage and history, and world-class arts and culture offer, in which Guildhall Art Gallery plays a key role.

Destination City is setting its sights on creating a seven-day-a-week destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy. Streets will be revitalised and businesses reinvigorated.

Big claims for a not-so-big City? Yes, and we stand by them. Watch this space.

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