The ultimate guide to Play the Mile’s series of events


The Culture Mile is getting a proper workout this summer, playing host to 100 days of free music, art and experiential events within and around London landmarks.

Spanning the distance between Farringdon and Moorgate, Culture Mile is slowly but surely becoming a major arts and culture precinct. There have been smaller installations and events organised over the past few years, but Play the Mile is set to be their biggest venture yet – and is a sign of what’s yet to come.

Tim Jones, Culture Mile manager, notes: “Culture Mile is at the start of its journey and it will take time to fully realise. Play the Mile is an exciting next step as it is our first season of extended activity.

“The breadth of activity on offer during the Play the Mile season means there really is something for everyone – and it is all free.”

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Bodies in Urban Spaces will make you see the City streets very differently

Prepare for the creation of two new outdoor installations which will be accessible to everyone, everyday throughout the summer, as well as 10 site-specific music commissions which will bring the unique architecture and history of the City to life. A whopping 25 unique indoor venues and outdoor spaces will be taking part in the series of events, too.

Between 18 May and 25 August, the north-west sector of the City of London will welcome 50 free regular performances and activities and over 100 free short concerts during lunchtimes, after work and during the weekend. It’s going to be huge.

Sound Unbound

18 & 19 May
Play the Mile begins with an epic weekend-long festival celebrating classical music from the Medieval era right up until the present day. And everything included is totally free. It is programmed by the Barbican, but spans the entirety of the Culture Mile, celebrating fantastic music alongside the history and heritage of the area.

Over the two days, 100 different short concerts will feature artists for whom the boundaries between classical music and contemporary, experimental music and jazz have been blurred – or never even existed in the first place. They are unbound by convention. Kick back to the music of Steve Reich on the Barbican Lakeside; soak up ambient sounds in Farringdon’s underground club Fabric; embark on a musical walking trail around the historic backstreets of Smithfield; and let the soothing sounds of Gregorian chant wash over you in the intimate chapel of The Charterhouse. Everyone is spoilt for choice.

Pleasure Garden

25 May until 14 June
In Pleasure Garden, music and environmental sounds combine to create a listening garden – a gently interactive instrument. Elegant audio design transforms the garden into a place of musical play, of repose and delight. Visitors are invited into the music and natural architecture, to play the garden, to stroll or recline with friends and strangers. The garden responds to movement – different layers of the composition are triggered by visitors’ presence, and move subtly across the space as people explore it. Alternatively, sit a while and listen.

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Experience some sound installations this summer while you have picnic

Bodies in Urban Spaces

13 & 14 June
Bodies in Urban Spaces is a choreographed trail tour by a group of dancers which will take place throughout the streets of the Culture Mile. Performers lead the audience through public and hidden spaces, squeezing themselves into small spaces and imitating everyday objects such as stairs and bollards. They are set up quickly and only exist temporarily, allowing the viewer to perceive the same space or place in a new and different way. This runs in conjunction with the City of London Corporation’s series of events, Fantastic Feats: the Building of London.

Play Sessions

Every Friday from 24 May until 26 July
A programme of free playful activities invites local workers to meet, make, and celebrate the benefits of creativity. City folk are being called upon to ditch the desk and take part in activities and performances across the City – from choirs to yoga, drawing to dance, planting to live art. Play Sessions offer new ways of experiencing familiar spaces in Culture Mile.

And every weekend, when the workers flee the Square Mile, the family fun takes over. This includes the Barbican Family Film Club, the LSO Family Day and Inside Out programmes, the Outdoor Kids’ Club outdoor walking adventures, and the highly anticipated kids’ street parties.

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There are plenty of kid friendly events taking place throughout the festival too

A Beastly Street Party

25 August
Play the Mile ends with another festival – this time run by the Museum of London. The area in and around Smithfield Market (where the museum will soon be based) will become home to a huge kid-friendly party. Inspired by the original Bartholomew’s Fair, London’s animals will take over the Smithfield Rotunda for an unruly street party full of music, games and performances.

Culture Mile Explorers

25 May until 25 August
Designed by award-winning digital production studio Fish in a Bottle and inspired by the Museum of London’s Beasts of London experience, the Beastly Family Challenge is an exciting digital treasure hunt. It connects some of the Culture Mile’s best family-friendly outdoor spaces, with challenges, games and clues to help families explore a new route through the City while supporting some friendly competition.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation, said: “Our ambition is to redefine the Square Mile – already established as a leading global financial centre – as a world-class destination for culture, creativity and learning.

“Play the Mile takes us a step closer to realising this with the first major season of activity presented by Culture Mile across the area. I really look forward to experiencing it.”

Play the Mile runs across the Culture Mile from 18 May until 25 August

Lead Image by Enrico Policardo