Highlights from the City of London Festival

Booking details for the annual City of London Festival have been announced, and while predominantly a music festival, there are some other things worth keeping an eye out for.

The Bank of England is open for tours twice (I’ve been before), which is a good way to avoid the worst of the crowds on London Open House Weekend, while the City’s only floating Livery Hall will be open for tours over a later weekend.

In addition, there will be a New Zealand Maori war canoe racing up the Thames to watch from the shore, and seeing the views from the 30th floor of the Clifford Chance building in Docklands with a glass of wine in hand is quite tempting.

My personal pick of the Festival highlights is below, and the full list is on their website.

Tour: Deutsche Bank Art – Tuesday 28th June at 6pm

One of the largest and most significant corporate art collections in the world, housed within the City offices of Deutsche Bank, the collection features works by Anish Kapoor, Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst.

£10 (a glass of wine is included in the price of a ticket)

Tour of Charterhouse – Thursday 30th June at 2:15pm

This is a rare opportunity to visit Charterhouse as it celebrates its 400th anniversary. With a rich, varied history and beautiful secluded gardens, the site has been a burial ground for victims of the Black Death; a Carthusian Monastery and a Tudor mansion before Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse was founded in 1611 to educate boys and care for elderly gentlemen.


Waka on the Thames – Friday 1st July at 10:30am

An ornate carved Maori war canoe takes to the Thames, crewed by 16 Maoris of New Zealand’s Toi Maori and London’s Ngati Ranana in full traditional dress. Choose a vantage point along the north Riverside walk to witness this powerful presentation of Maori culture or visit Paternoster Square to see the waka alongside the haka in the afternoon. The haka is performed at 1.45pm in Paternoster Square, after which the waka will be on display until 6.00pm.


Festival Procession – Friday 1st July at 12:45pm

Join a thousand young people from across London for this vibrant display of costume, sculpture, music and dance, winding through some of the most beautiful streets of the square mile. Presentations take their inspiration from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, with a centrepiece project that transforms tons of the City’s recyclable materials collected in partnership with the City’s Street Cleansing and Waste Collection Teams.

Route: Guildhall Yard, Cheapside, Paternoster Square and West Steps of St Paul’s (full route details to follow)


Tour: Bank of England Open Day – Saturday 2nd July from 9am (also on Saturday 9th July)

The Bank of England opens its doors to the history and art in parts of the building usually inaccessible to the public. Guided tours lasting 30 minutes run throughout the day (last entry 3.30pm). The Bank’s museum will also be open.

Admission free, advanced booking not required

Origins Family Day – Sunday 3rd July from Midday

A celebration of first nations with special guests from across the South Pacific and lots of activities for the family, including a Powhiri – traditional Maori welcoming ceremony, Maori kite flying, a Hangi feast, didjeridu workshops, Dreamtime story tent, chances to learn a Haka and walk away as an honorary Maori with a Ta Moko tattoo. Music from Ngati Ranana, Lani Singers, William Barton and more.

Admission free, advanced booking not required

Tour: Clifford Chance Art – Wednesday 6th July at 6:30pm

Over twenty years the international law firm Clifford Chance has acquired a significant collection of original limited edition prints. The collection includes works by major artists working in Britain, from Whistler, through Hockney, Hodgkin and Gormley to etchings by 2010 Art School graduates. This guided tour will view the art in the public areas of their Canary Wharf tower, finishing with a glass of wine on the 30th floor.

£10 (a glass of wine is included in the price of a ticket)

Honey Harvest – Friday 8th July from 11am

Head to Guildhall Yard to celebrate City bees with a taste of 2011 honey drawn from the eight Festival hives that are cared for by bee loving communities across the City.

Admission free

Tour: HQS Wellington Open Day – Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th July from 10:30am

Home to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, Wellington (named for the New Zealand city) is the City of London’s only floating Livery Hall. The last survivor of the Grimsby Class Sloops which served the nation with such distinction in World War Two, this is a rare opportunity to view a wonderful collection of marine antiques, including many New Zealand artifacts, priceless paintings and model ships, with tours conducted by Master Mariners.

Closes at 4.00pm

Admission free, advanced booking not required

Walk: A Walk on the Wild Side – Saturday 9th July at 2pm

Explore those parts of the City where plants and wildlife flourish in a seemingly hostile environment. This walk will explore remnants of the City Wall and the green spaces and lakes of the Barbican Estate including the Fann Street Wildlife Garden with its meadow and new project to establish a freshwater pond. It will finish at Bunhill Fields, the historic Nonconformist burial ground which was recently awarded Grade 1 listed status by English Heritage. Sturdy footwear is recommended as some paths are uneven and can be muddy.

Francis Pugh is a City of London Guide and member of the Barbican Wildlife Group.


Walk: Hampstead Health Wildfowl – Sunday 10th July at 7am

Hampstead Heath is a unique and important open space, and has been a haven for people and wildlife for centuries. The many ponds on the Heath provide a tranquil environment to spot wildfowl and waterfowl in the middle of busy London. An early start will ensure that walkers beat the crowds and get to see the variety of wildfowl which call Hampstead Heath home. For this special event, an expert will be on hand to help you identify the birds and explore this watery world as it wakes up. Binoculars provided if needed.


Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

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