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A look back on 2023 at the Culture Mile BID

The Culture Mile looks back on its first year as a business improvement district.

As 2023 comes to a close, it marks the end of the first year for the Culture Mile as a fully-fledged business improvement district.

From setting up the team to lighting up the area, much has happened in the time since the formation of the BID in April. Now is a fitting time to look back on the achievements on 2023, and ahead to what’s to come in 2024.

2023 in 5 highlights

  1. Coming through ballot

In April, an overwhelming 85% of local eligible businesses voted to turn the Culture Mile Partnership into a business improvement district.

This new status means that the not-for-profit body will be able to raise more than £9m in levy contribution, which will be directly reinvested in the local area, based on priorities established following a lengthy consultation.

The BID proposal, which acts as its manifesto, sets up core themes and deliverables including supporting the delivery of the City of London Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy, delivering greening and other relevant public realm interventions to enhance the local environment, creating initiatives to develop new connections within the local community, and promoting the footprint as a standout cultural destination locally, nationally and internationally.

  1. Setting up the community fund

The BID launched its first community fund in July 2023. This saw a total of £60,000 allocated to support community groups, registered charities and social enterprises with individual grants of up to £6,500 to deliver projects and schemes benefitting the local area.

More than 30 applications were received and 13 received funding, with grants ranging from £1,000 to £6,500.

The funds will provide support for two community gardens, music lessons, swimming and creative sessions and IT literacy projects for local residents including children, wellbeing sessions for people experiencing loneliness or homelessness, and the development of an interactive local walking map.

  1. Opening up the area…

As part of the BID’s remit to promote the area, the team worked with guides to develop new, free walks to highlight the local history in all its complexity.

In May 2023, to coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee, City Guide David Harry led two tours of the specially devised “1,000 Years of Royalty – the best, the worst and the very horribilus”, bringing to life little-known facts about the local area’s royal history, from London's only outdoor statue to King Henry VIII to Shakespeare's lodgings where he penned King Lear, and the three Queenly ghosts (and ghost hound) who haunt Christchurch Greyfriars ruins.

In October, to celebrate Black History Month, the BID commissioned Tony Warner, Founder of Black History Walks, to create a walk showcasing local Black British history. The tour took in St Bart’s Hospital, the Cloth Fair area and the Old Bailey, and highlighted the unique and varied role Black Londoners play in the Culture Mile footprint, from healthcare to activism, trade and manufacturing to music and the arts.

The tours were promoted on the Culture Mile BID’s and City of London’s social channels and newsletters, as well as those of the guides’, and were attended by a mix of local residents, workers, and visitors.

This year also saw the launch of the BID’s Street Ambassadors programme, easily recognisable by their bowler hats and Culture Mile-branded uniforms, who walk the local area five-days-a-week from 8am to 8pm and provide wayfinding and environmental monitoring to locals, visitors and businesses alike.

  1. … And putting it on the map

As well as developing tours to showcase the area to the local community, Londoners and visitors, the BID also engaged with external partners and stakeholders to grow its profile as a leading culture hub.

In November, the BID partnered with Apple TV+ for a special screening and Q&A ahead of the launch of the third season of the critically acclaimed Slow Horses show. The show, which stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jonathan Pryce and Sophie Okonedo, heavily features the area as the primary location for the plot. The event welcomed key individuals from the UK’s creative industries, London government and the media to the Barbican for a screening of the first episode of the new season followed by a Q&A with Mick Herron, author of the book series the show is based on, and Will Smith, executive producer and writer of the show.

Also in November, the BID’s Chair, Andrew Smith, and CEO, Austin Casey, were delighted to welcome Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts and Heritage at the Department for Culture, Media and Sports for a tour of the area. They discussed the BID’s plan to use culture as the golden thread bringing the area together, and visited St Bartholomew The Great, where they met with Rector, Fr. Marcus Walker.

Both events provided the BID with the opportunity to raise the profile of the area as a key player in the cultural sector.

  1. Christmas

For its first Christmas, the Culture Mile BID wanted to ensure it supported local charitable initiatives, as well as brought festive cheer to the area.

The BID sponsored Hands Up for Syria’s annual “Singing for Syrians” candlelit carol concert. The event, at St Bartholomew The Great, was attended by more than 500 people, including Peter Capaldi,  David Dimbleby, Kholoud Helmi, Onjali Q. Rauf and Talulah Riley.

The team also worked with the British Red Cross to support its Guildhall Christmas Market, a fixture of the local calendar. This was the opportunity to meet and engage with the local community to share the BID’s plans and ambitions.

Finally, the BID delivered its first ever Christmas lights, with a giant bauble popping up in Bartholomew Close and outside Holy Sepulchre, where the BID also supported and promoted the Square Mile Hygiene Bank, which is run from the Church.

Looking ahead

It’s been a busy first year for the BID, but more is to come, with a number of major projects in the pipeline for 2024.

The BID has recently commissioned a Public Realm Study for the Culture Mile footprint, which is being led by urban design consultants AR Urbanism and transport consultants Steer. Drawing on and tying together existing strategies, public realm schemes and developments, this study will provide a collective vision for public realm in the Culture Mile area, guiding future initiatives, and tackling urban realm and movement challenges. Further details of this work will be made available in the coming months, and will include opportunities to feed back on the developing vision.

The team will also be looking to develop a destination strategy to raise the area’s profile to visitors from London, the UK and further afield, as well as launching its new website imminently.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries, contact:

Bettina Gimenez, Senior Marketing & Communications Manager,

About the Culture Mile BID

Launched in April 2023, the Culture Mile BID represents the area stretching from Farringdon in the west to Finsbury Circus in the east. Brimming with cultural creativity, commercial vibrancy and a strong sense of community, the area is home to globally famed institutions such as the Barbican Centre and the future Museum of London (due to reopen in 2026), as well as hidden gems including St Bartholomew The Great, London’s oldest surviving church, and some of the last surviving sections of the 2,000 years old wall that once surrounded the City of London. Through its work, the Culture Mile BID will inject £9m into the local area over the next five years, working in partnership with its levy-paying member businesses as well as the public sector to deliver a range of ambitious projects including major public realm enhancements, agenda-setting green and climate resilience initiatives and high-profile destination marketing campaigns.