How Bartholomew Fair might benefit City residents and visitors all year

Update: the Policy and Resource Committee approved plans for the Bartholomew Fair spectacular, with some discussion of wayfinding, maps and media. See note at end.

The promise of an aerial dance display on the facade of St Paul’s Cathedral in September as part of a revived Bartholomew Fair has understandably captured the headlines in the Evening Standard.

However, there’s lots more of interest in the presentation that goes to the City’s Policy and Resources committee on April 20. My earlier post with details here.

One modest element of the plans that particularly interests me is to “Improve wayfinding by increasing awareness that the City is not individual buildings, but a collective of fascinating places to see, spend in and work at”.

That supports the aim to “drive footfall across The City, focusing on clusters of emotive and impactful activity that encourage attendance, discovery, dwell time and spend”.

There’s a map in the presentation which shows some key areas of interest, with markers which may relate to heritage sites and other attractions. Unfortunately there isn’t any explanation.

I think there’s enormous scope for developing a Museum of the Streets – as I’ve written here – bringing together existing tours, maps, self-guided walks and enhancing those through apps available on smartphones and computers.

That was one of the ideas City Councillor Matthew Bell and I put forward last year in the EC1 Echo, when we first proposed re-staging the Fair.

“Wayfinding” rather suggests better signposting – which is needed. However, far more could be achieved if maps and media were developed collaboratively with City guides and residents. That would help develop a shared understanding of the City of value to residents, workers and visitors.

The Bartholomew Fair proposals include Strand 3 – ‘Let’s Get Involved’ performances and workshops open to everyone, with a focus on engaging City resident, workers and local Londoners”.

At the moment it looks as if involvement will be offered during the Fair – but why not start earlier with some participatory mapping workshops to invite contributions both from specialists and any residents who may be interested.

That would help develop interest, allow the Destination City team to explain how things will run on the day, and deal with any concerns about disturbance.

It may be that time is too short to do that this year, throughout the City, while venues are still being finalised.

However, this is going to be an annual event, so we could pilot something in a couple of places, including the original Fairground in Cloth Fair and Smithfield. Further revisions could be made during the rest of the year.

That would build on policy chief Chris Hayward’s commitment to resident involvement, made earlier this year at a City-wide residents meeting, and the Residential Reset and worker Belonging programmes announced in February.

Update: During discussion, Deputy Marianne Fredericks urged the committee to consider ways in which wayfinding, maps and media could reveal to residents and visitors the many layers of history in the City’s streets. She said she would love to see that captured on a website, so that as people walk around they could see the different layers. See video of Marianne’s contribution here.

That certainly chimes with the ideas for re-staging Bartholomew Fair that councillor Matthew Bell and I put forward last year, suggestions in this blog post, and a Museum of the Streets. I’ll follow up with Marianne.

Earlier posts

Originally published on the Connections blog

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