How Bartholomew Fair 2023 developed

These blog posts tell the story of how re-staging Bartholomew Fair in 2023 originated in two articles in the EC1 Echo in 2022, and became a £1.3 million City Spectacular. Posts also cover the development of the City Corporation’s Destination City programme – of which the Fair is the highlight. There are ideas about how walks and other informal activities could complement large scale events, as part of that programme. Posts from 2022 to July 2023 were originally published in the Connections blog by David Wilcox. Blog posts and other pages:

Invitation to first public meeting about Destination City

After Bartholomew Fair, the Destination City are planning developments for the following year. This post first appeared on the Connections blog.

On November 7 the Destination City team will hold their first public meeting with residents to explain how the City Corporation’s programme “aims to transform the Square Mile’s leisure offer, creating a leading destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy”.

The flyer for the meeting adds: “We invite you to hear from the Programme Director and her team about the aims and progress of Destination City and how you can contribute/get involved”.

Councillor Brendan Barns, who is the Resident Representative on the City Envoy Network “will be building a residents panel to input into the Destination City programme.”

The meeting is at St Giles Church from 6.30 – 8.30pm, organised as a Cripplegate Ward meeting. However, all local residents are welcome.

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Bartholomew Fair returns to its roots

This week Bartholomew Fair returned to Cloth Fair and Smithfield, where it started in 1133. I’ve put together some pages about the programme and businesses that committed to being open, with maps. I’ve also pulled together some articles and videos about the area.

On a stroll down Cloth Fair I was greeted by some engaging performers.

I’ve also done a little video to help promote Yvonne Courtney’s excellent pop up shop at 38 Bartholomew Fair EC1A 7HP, just around the corner from Cloth Fair. It is open until 6pm on Saturday 16 September.

Tonight I’m going to hear about Cries of London from The Gentle Author. There’s a taster here on Spitalfields Life with illustrated interviews by Henry Mayhew telling the story of London’s poor 150 years ago. The social media of its day, and more engaging.

Bartholomew Fair re-staged – from 1923 to 2023

While this year’s re-staging of Bartholomew Fair is certainly the most ambitious, it isn’t the first. I’ve been digging around newspaper and other archives, and here’s what I’ve found so far.

The Fair was originally started by St Bartholomew the Great to support what became Barts Hospital, and both are currently celebrating Barts 900.

The hospital staged a substantial re-enactment of the Fair for its Octocentenary celebrations in 1923, over several days. The Sphere provided an illustration, showing a temporary bridge across to the rotunda garden.

The Fair featured stocks …

also recorded by Pathe News

More here about Bartholomew Fair in 1923

Fifty years later the hospital held a one-day event which greatly appealed to Simon Jenkins, writing in the Evening Standard:

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The Fairs have started!

On the evening of 30 August St Bartholomew the Great hosted two events – a traditional ribbon-cutting by the Lord Mayor, and The Great Disputation.

Cloth Fair press release

“CLOTH FAIR”: Provocation, Inspiration and Reinvention
A cluster of happenings coinciding with Bartholomew Fair 2023 30 August – 16 September 2023 (dates, various)

Yvonne Courtney provides an introduction to the Cloth Fair programme

Established in Smithfield in 1133 – Bartholomew Fair was a materials trading event/ pleasure fair – hence the origin of the location’s street name: Cloth Fair.

Bartholomew Fair continued until 1855 when it was banned by the City of London Corporation due to disorder and debauchery. Fast forward to 2023 and the City is restoring Bartholomew Fair over three weekends of spectacles and events. Programme here.

Cloth Fair itself runs alongside the St Bartholomew the Great church, and St Bartholomew’s Hospital – both celebrating their 900th anniversary in 2023.

Besides its textiles heritage, the area also has a strong literary tradition – with this in mind, to complement Bartholomew Fair – Cloth Fair’s community are celebrating their locality’s rich heritage with a series of cloth-related and written and spoken word happenings

Read press release below, and programme here

Click/touch X above for full screen, if showing. Alternatively download to view under three dots. 

Contact: yvonne.yca@intermission.london 07951 121614

The story of Bartholomew Fair re-staged

City Councillor Matthew Bell lives in Cloth Fair – the original site of Bartholomew Fair – and spent several years trying to interest people in re-staging the event.

Here he tells the story of how the Destination City programme, aimed at attracting visitors to the Square Mile, provided the context this year for the Corporation to invest £1.3 million in a City-wide Spectacular.

Matthew writes:
When Bartholomew Fair re-opens in the City next week, after a gap of 168 years, there will be two opening ceremonies. One will be a spectacular aerial ballet performed high up on St Paul’s Cathedral, while the other will be a traditional ceremony with the Lord Mayor cutting a ribbon.

This new era of Bartholomew Fair is going to be the biggest ever to have been staged by the City of London, so we are witnessing history over the next few weeks. The Corporation is wanting to get people in to see the rich cultural gems of every age that you trip up over with virtually every step when wandering around the Square Mile. The City was after all, London for the bulk of its history.

Read Matthew’s article here

Bartholomew Fair revival continues Destination City campaign

City Councillor John Griffiths wrote this article for the OnLondon site – original here. Thanks for permission to republish.

The City Corporation is continuing its bid to broaden perceptions of the area and attract more visitors

Bringing a modern twist to a festival which dates back to the 12th Century, the City of London’s revival of Bartholomew Fair is the latest pitch in its Destination City campaign to capture a share of the growing number of visitors now returning, post-pandemic, to the capital.

Originally a three-day gathering for trading cloth and other goods which coincided with the 24 August feast of St Bartholomew, the event grew to become London’s preeminent leisure fair, lasting for a couple of weeks and attracting visitors and acts from across the country.

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Ten Ages of London – a great Square Mile wander from Londonist

The first edition of the Londonist: Time Machine newsletter provides a brilliant example of the delights of wandering about the City of London, which I wrote about yesterday.

Matt Brown offers The Ten Ages of London in One Short Walk starting with Prehistoric London on the banks of the Thames, and walking through Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval, Tudor, Stuart, Georgian, Victorian, 20th century and modern sites.

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First public vision of the Square Mile as Destination City

The City Corporation has now offered the first public vision of its £2.5 million Destination City programme, which aims to attract visitors whose spending will boost a Square Mile economy hit by working from home.

A presentation on the programme shows the City competing for visitors globally with festivals and events in Sydney, New York and Manhattan, and in London with Covent Garden, Kings Cross, Battersea, Canary Wharf and Borough Market.

It has been prepared for the July 17 meeting of Culture, Heritage and Library Committee after members complained that strategy documents alone didn’t tell the story effectively.

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