City of London Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, but far from nursing a mid-centenary celebration hangover, it is back with full gusto between 23 June and 26 July. This year, the busy programme is rooted in three main themes: city walls, conflict and resolution, and trees. With a plethora of music, dance, art, film and family events, most of which are free, the festival is an annual reminder that it is possible to breathe some much-needed life into London’s ancient, beautiful but often reticent Square Mile.
The festival focuses on classical and contemporary music performances, and showcases the City’s lovely but underused churches as many of the concerts take place in these intimate surroundings. Choose from Handel at Temple Church, Shostakovich at St Botolph, or Bach at St Mary-le-Bow.
And the big dogs are coming out to play, too. St Paul’s Cathedral will host a series of high-profile concerts, including Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the choristers of St Paul’s. Guildhall and many of London’s Livery Halls will open their doors to recitals and performances too.
Lectures also feature in the festival’s programme. Worlds of Collision is a two-day conference at Mansion House exploring the healing power of music in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders resulting from conflict. While all eyes are turned on the City itself in a discussion about whether it has the right trees.
If you want to get out and about, then the outdoor spaces of the City and beyond are being brought to life with more than 100 free events programmed across a wide range of art forms. You can see dance and street art at the base of the Gherkin every lunchtime during the festival, while Devonshire Square welcomes in a circus on Wednesdays, and Guildhall Yard hosts a week of live music between 1 and 5 July.
City of London Festival takes place between 23 June and 26 July. Visit the festival website to discover the multitude of music, circus, dance, and physical activity events are taking place every day (plus loads of great things that we can’t fit in this post like the City Beerfest, Honey Feast, Mobile Orchard and the Children’s Parade).