Bridges light the way as London's cultural map is redrawn

26 March 2014

Mayor of London Boris Johnson publishes update to city’s culture strategy

An artist-led scheme to light London's famous bridges and increased opportunities for arts and culture across the city – from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to Royal Docks, Crystal Palace to the outer boroughs – are all part of Mayor Boris Johnson's vision to redraw London’s cultural map.

Revealing the update to Cultural Metropolis, his strategy first published four years ago, the Mayor wants to build on the unprecedented success of the artistic programme that was staged alongside the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. His ambition is to add to the unparalleled range of museums, galleries, theatres, concert halls and other assets that have helped make London one of the world's greatest cities for culture.

With London's population expected to grow by a million over the next decade, in addition to creating jobs, building new homes and upgrading the capital's transport infrastructure, the Mayor believes it is equally important to invest in culture. A huge earner - eight out of 10 visitors say culture is a major reason for coming here - and in a highly competitive global market, it is part of the USP that also attracts overseas students and international investors.

The Mayor wants to ensure London remains at the forefront of creativity and is continuing to invest in a sector that contributed around £21.4 billion to the economy in 2012. He is committed to supporting artists, cutting through the red tape that can get in the way of them being able to perform and produce work, whether it is busking in high streets and town centres across the capital, or finding affordable workspace. In addition, City Hall has commissioned a new study into the games industry to understand how the capital can reclaim its global position and boost jobs.

The cultural revitalisation of the River Thames is a major new priority. Complementing plans for the new Garden Bridge, a study is underway to look at whether London should have a new lido in the river, The Mayor’s Thames Festival is expanding its reach with a month long celebration and having kick started a regeneration of the South Bank to become the world’s most visited contemporary art gallery, Tate Modern is expanding to accommodate demand with a new building set for completion in 2016.

Another exciting river collaboration will see the Mayor and the Rothschild Foundation lead a coalition of local authorities, cultural and heritage institutions and philanthropists to bring light to London's greatest natural treasure, the Thames. The goal is to light the bridges and commission an artist to make a major site specific light work.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'The river is central to our ambitions for the city. As well as wanting to increase the numbers travelling by boat, the majestic Thames should be seen as a cultural attraction in its own right.

“Following our triumphant 2012 Games, we are entering another exciting phase, with the opening of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and our plans to create Olympicopolis, which will become a must see cultural destination.

'With a 21st century version of the Crystal Palace, new developments at Royal Docks and beyond, from east to west and north to south, London's cultural map is being redrawn.'

The Mayor is investing almost £15 million into culture and creativity including funding the Museum of London, the biggest urban history museum in the world, the flagship Fourth Plinth sculpture prize, New Year’s Eve celebrations, Pride in London and the Feast of St George.

London remains a global powerhouse for the creative industries and the Mayor continues to back London Fashion Week, the London Design Festival and the capital’s film agency – Film London. But the strategy aims to ensure that London doesn’t rest on its laurels and is part of the Mayor continued promotion of the capital’s creative assets around the world – recently launching a new campaign to position London as the home of menswear. A cultural tourism strategy will also be published to continue to keep the story fresh and the visitors coming.

Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, said: 'London has an extraordinary cultural life; possibly the most exciting and diverse of any capital city. Yet we can’t take it for granted. Our job is to make sure the city remains open to artists and that the conditions are there for creativity to flourish. Of course this includes funding, but it’s also about giving artists the chance to use public spaces imaginatively, stripping away unnecessary regulations, nurturing new and emerging talent and finding ways to enable artists to continue to live and work here.’

Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, and Chair of the London Cultural Strategy Group, said: ‘London is a global capital for culture. It’s rich cosmopolitanism and schools of creativity are hotbeds for talent. Our vision is to build on London’s incredible reputation through continued investment to help generate our creative economy. The Whitechapel Gallery is at the heart of the city and central to these developments. Like the Whitechapel Gallery, the model of London in partnership and exchange with the regions and networks across the UK are the key to our success.’

Dennis Hone, Chief Executive, London Legacy Development Corporation, said: ‘Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is set to become one of the capital’s newest and most exciting cultural beacons. It will offer something for everyone with some of the world’s leading museums, universities and theatres set to take up residence to add to the wonderful array of local artists already providing a rich diet of events and activities in and around the Park.’

Gordon Innes, CEO, London & Partners, said: ‘As a city that constantly reinvents itself, with the opening of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park next month, and an outstanding calendar of cultural events showcasing the world-class talent and offering we have, the capital is drawing more international visitors than ever before. Home to some of the most significant landmarks in the world, a rich mix of heritage, world class museums, galleries and royal attractions, it’s not surprising that 78 per cent of visitors to London come to enjoy the arts and culture that give London it’s world class reputation.’

The Mayor is also keen supporter of Big Dance, the biggest participatory dance event in the country, which runs from 5-13 July, and has given his backing to Circulate, an outdoor arts programme that involves six leading arts organisations who will be bringing live performance to the outer boroughs this summer.

The Mayor also funds Gigs – London's annual busking competition and its biggest free music festival. Every summer, hundreds of young people perform live on London Underground and at other high profile locations.. The Mayor wants to make London the busking capital of the world, but too many musicians are giving up on the capital because of myriad rules and regulations. He is looking into a new task force that will cut red tape and harness the power of digital technology to support great live music on London's streets.

With concern about affordable studios and workspace, the Mayor has commissioned a study which will look into the extent of the problem and what measures might be introduced to ensure artists are able to remain in the city.

A vociferous advocate of high quality education, the Mayor is committed to encouraging music and arts in London's schools and has initiated the London Curriculum to help teachers make the most of the capital's world-class cultural resources by drawing on London's people, places, institutions and heritage in their daily teaching. The Mayor has also given backing to plans for the Children's Museum, which will encompass arts and sciences and be a unique cultural space for children and families to imagine, play, experiment, make and perform.

Cultural Metropolis 2014 is available to download from:


Notes to editors

1. For more information about the Mayor’s support of culture go to:

2. The Mayor is committed to ensuring that London can compete with other great world cities for culture, recognising the benefits its brings to the economy as well as quality of life. He initiated the World Cities Culture Forum, which brings together 22 major cities to consider the role of culture in quality of life and their prosperity and how to ensure it is sustainable. London hosted the first World Cities Culture Summit in 2012, Istanbul 2013, with Amsterdam hosting it this year:

3. Gigs 2014, the Mayor's busking competition is now open for entries at: For more details go to:

4. More details about Big Dance 2014 can be found at:

5. For more information about the Mayor’s education policies go to:

6. For more details about what will be happening in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after it open fully on 5 April go to:

7. Reference: £21.4 billion to the economy in 2012, GLA Economic.

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