Bartholomew Fair: Formerly Banned Blowout Last Held In 1855 Returns To London

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago
Bartholomew Fair: Formerly Banned Blowout Last Held In 1855 Returns To London
St Paul's cathedral with a rainbow over it
St Paul's Cathedral will be the setting for a spectacular aerial display from BANDALOOP. Image: Tomas Sereda.

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.

A watercolour of the fair in action
The fair in 1808, as depicted by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Charles Pugin. Image: public domain

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.

A man in a vest that says 'know you out' being punched with a red boxing glove
Image: Fraser Hooper

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)
A person walking up the size of a skyscraper in NYC
BANDALOOP at NYC Edge in 2020. Imagine this but on St Paul's Cathedral. Image: James Adamson

You can check out the full line-up on the official Bartholomew Fair website.

Bartholomew Fair, City of London, 31 August-16 September, free.

Last Updated 09 August 2023

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