I am sure that in retrospect our individual and collective actions will all seem to have been following an expected pattern. That is of compliance and stoicism through fear and fretting to frustration and wanting to break free. Across the City businesses activities are frustratingly partially open but not quite there and largely still without many walk-in customers. The City is keeping many activities alive online and with some limited physical presence. Two physical ceremonies saw flags being raised over the Guildhall to celebrate (separately) Pride and Armed Forces. Elsewhere Hampstead Heath is a growing magnet for people whilst the arts are still anxious and premises closed. There are those always ready to make a killing in any situation. I don’t mean lawyers but the criminals who prey on the vulnerable at this time.
Online Fraudsters Steal £17m during COVID19 Lockdown
The City of London Police are the National Lead Force for Economic Crime and run the national Action Fraud reporting call centre and dissemination. Sad to say that nearly £17m has been lost to online fraud over the COVID-19 lockdown period with younger shoppers most affected, according to Action Fraud. Online scams have snared 16,352 victims with online shopping and auction fraud since bricks and mortar stores were ordered to close on March 23. That amounts to around £16.6m in losses, with the largest group of victims (24%) aged 18 to 26 and residing in cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham. A spokesperson said “Always be wary of emails, texts and social media posts that offer products for considerably less than their normal price – this is a common tactic used by criminals. Where possible, use a credit card to make online purchases as this will offer you more protection if anything goes wrong.”
Pride in the City
The rainbow flag has been raised over four City landmarks as the City of London Corporation shows its support for the LGBT+ community. The iconic banner was raised with a small ceremony at Guildhall and also flies at Tower Bridge, The Mansion House and the Central Criminal Court, as well as at some of the City Corporation’s schools and open spaces.
In recent years, City Corporation staff and elected Members have taken part in the annual Pride in London parade, but this year’s celebrations have been cancelled due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The Chair of the City’s Establishment Committee said “While we can’t physically come together to celebrate, flying the flag is a sign of our support for London’s LGBT+ community and our diverse City”.
Armed Forces Week
In the following week the flag of the Armed Forces was hoisted over Guildhall on 22nd June and the Lord Mayor was actually present with senior members of the Armed Forces. This was a first event of such kind to be held since lockdown. All the necessary social distancing was observed. In keeping with the new normal the event also included an online element with the Lord Mayor meeting and talking to City Reservists from the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry who celebrated Reserves Day on 24th June.
The City of London Corporation runs Hampstead Heath as part of its 11,000 acres of open spaces around London. A particular pleasure associated with the Heath is the open swimming ponds available all year round to allow swimming in fresh water. These had been closed but the City is now setting out a plan to reopen these facilities. The situation is under constant review and will reopen as soon as it is safe for visitors and staff, in consultation with Swimming Associations. Meanwhile the rest of the Heath is open and proving very popular with walkers cyclists and dogs.
Arts and culture
Sadly London’s major theatres and arts venues are in dire straits. Only so much can be performed online when, after all the thrill of the theatre, concerts, dance and opera is that they are live and you are present. Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican described the crisis as a triple whammy: it’s an economic crisis of devastating proportions, affecting all sectors of the arts; it’s an artistic crisis, destroying the work and earning power of individuals; and it is a philosophical crisis, causing us to question many of our ways of operating and working.
He added “We have a long history of delivering art and learning activities with schools and communities in east London and beyond, while the Culture Mile initiative brings us together with a wide network of partners large and small. It’s vital to us that the arts as a whole thrive, because the sector is a delicately balanced ecology of developing talent, creative innovation and income generation. As we look to re-opening, we will be back — but we may not be quite the same.”
Plans approved for create a New Museum for London
As Plaisterers heard at the recent Zoom event the Museum was keeping its fingers crossed to get planning permission for the new site. The City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee approved the plans on 23rd June. The new Museum of London will create a new, world-class cultural destination within a series of historic buildings in West Smithfield
The project will redefine what a museum can be in the 21st century. It will tell the story of London and Londoners in new and innovative ways, and create an unmissable experience for its visitors. It holds 7 million objects and will continue to reach every school child as well as the many adults criss-crossing the location at the hub of the transport network of London. The approved plans mean a secure, sustainable future for the historic market buildings that make up the site, most of which date back to the Victorian Era and have fallen into significant disrepair. Much of the historic fabric of the buildings will be preserved to create cavernous and atmospheric spaces both above and below ground, capable of hosting a broader range of displays, exhibitions, learning activity and events.
It seems that the excitement of the new Museum site might be liable to mask the underlying issues around the Arts in general, as Nick Kenyon sets out. The City of London thrives as an international destination because of the richness of the cultural offering as well as the business cluster and liveability of the City. We would be a poorer and less dynamic place if these were not able to revive and flourish.