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City of London Festival collapses amid ‘sudden’ funding black hole

The Kit Downes Trio play at the Gherkin as part of the City of London Festival in 2014. Photo: City of London Festival The Kit Downes Trio play at the Gherkin as part of the City of London Festival in 2014. Photo: City of London Festival
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An arts festival that has been running in London for 53 years has closed down due to a “sudden and significant” plunge in finances.

The City of London Festival was first held in 1962, and saw buildings in the capital’s Square Mile throw open their doors each summer to theatre, music and spoken word performances, as well as other arts events.

Planning was already under way for the 2016 festival, which was due to run for three weeks in June and July.

But festival organiser the City Arts Trust has now said: “With great sadness, and after a long and vibrant history, the City of London Festival will be closing.”

It went on to say the festival had two years ago sought a “new direction” in order to bring in new audiences and raise its profile.

“However over the years the funding landscape has become ever more competitive and despite achieving support from a range of valued sponsors and supporters it has become increasingly difficult to attract the level of funding necessary to stage the annual festival,” it said.

The Square Mile’s local authority, the City of London Corporation, was the festival’s largest single donor, providing it with an annual £350,000 grant.

A spokesman for the corporation said there had been a “sudden and significant deterioration” in the City Arts Trust’s finances, leading to an appeal for additional funding.

“Given the deterioration of the financial situation, we felt unable to continue our support,” he said, adding: “The City of London Corporation has a duty to use its resources efficiently and effectively which, in turn, protects its investments for future generations.”

The City Arts Trust said it was a “sad time” for everyone involved with the festival, “including all of the festival staff that have contributed during the 53-year period to creating such a positive impact and animating the city with arts and culture each year”.

It concluded: “We would like to thank all the brilliant artists and performers who have taken part in the festival over the years, our generous supporters, the wonderful city venues – not to mention our loyal volunteers and audiences members who have supported the festival for so long. That support has been enormously appreciated.”

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