The Bartholomew Fair — a historic party that last took place in 1855 — returns to London this summer, for a three-week-long blowout.
A charter was first granted for the fair in 1133, which took place around Smithfield. Initially, the fair was primarily for the selling of cloth, which explains why there's a street in Smithfield called Cloth Fair, and a nearby pub called The Hand & Shears — although the diversity of entertainment (and amount of street boozing) continued to swell.
By Victorian times, the partying had become a little too fervent for the authorities' liking, and following a particularly rowdy fair in 1855, it was banned outright — never to be seen in London again.
Until now, that is. The City of London has announced the Bartholomew Fair will return in an updated — and elongated — form. Running from 31 August-16 September 2023 (yes, that's three weeks), the new — and presumably less vice-steeped — Bartholomew Fair will be a free, family-friendly spectacular taking place in the City environs. Among events are:
- Funny Business - Clown and all-round funny man Fraser Hooper navigates the City, with various silly and side-splitting performances. (31 August-1 September)
- RESURGAM - a performance by US based vertical dance company BANDALOOP (and a co-production with Greenwich + Docklands International Festival), who'll perform an aerial dance spectacular on St Paul's Cathedral. (31 August-2 September)
- The Midnight Run - an after dark adventure, in which you're invited to embark on a cultural journey through the City's hidden nooks and crannies. (31 August-2 September)
- Waiters - waistcoated characters mingle with the crowds for immersive hijinks. (31 August-2 September)
- Bartholomew Fair Marketplace - the hustle and bustle of the original Cloth Fair is recreated, with a modern twist. (31 August-16 September)
- The Flycycle and The Submercycle - two crackpot contraptions are aired in Paternoster Square... looks like adventurous fun for young 'uns. (2 Septenber)
- Follow Me Into - a series of projection installations by digital performance company imitating the dog, which will explore streets and alleyways of the City, and be projected onto some of its well-known buildings between 8pm-10pm. (7 and 16 September)
You can check out the full line-up on the official Bartholomew Fair website.
Bartholomew Fair, City of London, 31 August-16 September, free.