A closing statement from a once-great festival

A closing statement from a once-great festival


norman lebrecht

April 11, 2016

We have received official confirmation of the closure of the City of London Festival, effective immediately:

A statement from the City of London Festival:

“In 2014 a new direction was sought for the Festival which saw new initiatives, introduced new audiences and raised the profile. This was received with great acclaim; however, over the years the fundraising landscape has become ever more competitive and despite achieving support from a range of valued sponsors and supporters it has become increasingly difficult to attract the level of funding required to stage the annual Festival.

After consultation with the Corporation of London (the Festival’s single largest donor) it is with great sadness that we have had to take the very difficult decision to close the Festival.

The Corporation of London has undertaken to assist with all aspects of the closure.

 We would like to thank all the brilliant artists and performers that have taken part in the Festival, our generous supporters, the wonderful City venues, not to mention our loyal volunteers and audience members who have supported the Festival for so long. This support for the Festival has been appreciated enormously. Most importantly we are extremely grateful to all the Festival staff that have contributed during the 53 year period to creating such a positive impact and animating the City with arts and culture each year.”

 city of london festival


  • Eric Shanes says:

    This is very sad. The City of London is one of the most affluent centres of wealth on the planet and yet it cannot be bothered to support a short, annual arts festival. It should be ashamed of itself, yet again.

  • pooroperaman says:

    Something fishy here. The previous director managed very well for many years. His successor throws in the towel after just one. It seems to me that the problem lies there, not in the willingness or otherwise of corporate sponsors.

    • MWnyc says:

      Yes, it does look odd for the statement to say “In 2014 a new direction was sought”, followed by “over the years”. What, over the one-and-a-half of them?

    • Eddie Mars says:

      Or maybe the previous director just saw the writing on the wall more intuitively than his over-optimistic successor?

      As we see here on Slipped Disc, sadly – the average intellect is gliding ever further round the u-bend. Government, corporations and organisations see little benefit or merit in supporting cultural events. The audience for a City Of London Festival event is no longer seen as a chance for sponsors or advertisers to reach core high-disposable-income individuals. It’s all part of the overall dumbing-down of Britain. Bread and circuses are always in fashion in the UK.

      It’s the main reason I emigrated 18 years ago. Probably those who still live there all the time don’t notice the continuous slide into crud? On my (very rare – once in maybe 2/3 years) visits to the UK, I’m stunned by the wall-to-wall dross I see in high streets – pound shops, salary-advance loan shops, slot-machine arcades, betting shops… all in what used to be upright and prosperous middle-class strongholds. I get back on my plane home at Heathrow with a sense of relief, and no regret whatsoever.

      The past really *is* another country.

  • Alexander says:

    I felt that the City of London Festival seemed to be running down somewhat last year. The quantity and quality of classical music events seemed to have reduced compared with the level of previous years. There was also a rather alarming emphasis on promoting the cultural achievements of Singapore, which surely had more to do with the City’s commercial interests in a regime which has an appalling record on human rights than it had to do with the integrity of the festival’s artistic direction. I also felt that the festival had begun to diversify too broadly across too wide a range of different types of events. I understood that the COLF was intended to be a classical music festival, but it seemed in recent years that classical music was just a small part of a festival in which film, lectures, walking tours, comedy, circus, and jazz were all considered equally important. That is not to say that these things are not equally important, but I am not sure whether they can all be served adequately by a single festival. If you take the Prague Spring, on the other hand, it is a classical music festival. This year there’s a flamenco performance, a Chinese opera, and a few jazz concerts, but other than that it’s all western classical music.

    I also think that an important thing which the COLF lacked was a proper venue. It was always nice to hear concerts in interesting and unusual locations, especially the halls of various livery companies, but the acoustical qualities of these venues were often poor and in some cases just too bad to be used for un-amplified sound. The festival also depended upon St Paul’s Cathedral as a venue for large-scale orchestral and choral performances, which was a mistake. Again, the acoustical qualities of the cathedral are such that it is not a fit venue for any serious classical music performances. Indeed, it has been explained to me that the rather strange sound produced by its choir results from the fact that they have had to learn how to perform in a venue which has such a poor acoustic. The Barbican Hall may be poor by international standards, but I have heard the same work performed by the same orchestra in the Barbican and St Paul’s, and the performance at St Paul’s was really a disgrace, from an acoustical point of view.

    Perhaps there is a way forward for a classical music festival for the City of London, but it would have to be more narrowly focused on western art music, less confused with the commercial interests of its sponsors, and held in more carefully selected venues with acoustics better suited for serious performances of classical music.

  • Michelle Castelletti says:

    This is indeed sad. I had recently looked into this festival, and its current situation; and did wonder. I do think that one must never throw a towel in, and that when there is the will, passion and enthusiasm, you look and look and look until you find a way. Having said that, I am quite certain the Chair was very much wanting the festival to survive.