City workers encouraged to leave their desks at lunchtime during London Festival

Over 150 events across the Capital in June and July, from St Paul’s Cathedral to Hampstead Heath, Southwark to St Pancras International. Many are FREE to attend
Highlights for London workers include 50 Golden Street Pianos, free lunchbreak concerts in City Churches by some of Britain’s top ‘ones to watch’ and a unique programme dedicated to commuters at Liverpool Street Station
City of London Festival runs 24 June – 27 July. For more information and Box Office: www.colf.org; 0845 120 7502

If you are trying to contact a desk in the city at around 1 pm this summer be prepared for a long wait as from the 24th June-27th July the City of London Festival will be in full swing and celebrating its 50th anniversary in style. There are a whole host of events planned including street performances, music recitals and poetry readings, along with many other.

The first festival was held in 1962 with the aim of both inspiring and entertaining the workers, visitors and residents of the capital. The 2012 programme has a world class line up and 50% of the events will take place through the traditional lunch hour so workers don’t miss out on all the fun.

A poll was conducted earlier this year that revealed the average lunch break for a British worker had dropped to only 15 minutes, and that a third admitted to actually eating their lunch at their desks while still working. This years City of London festival is urging the city’s workforce to get out at lunchtime and reclaim their full entitlements, while having some fun at the same time.

The cultural experiences that are on offer are aimed at reducing stress, enhancing quality of life and opening new avenues of creativity. All the performances that take place at lunchtime are free to attend.

‘Reclaim Your Lunchbreak’ highlights include:

23 June-13 July (Tuesdays-Fridays) 1.05pm-1.55pm Tomorrow’s Artists Today – 12 recitals in 12 City churches showcasing some of our most gifted young performers from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Includes ‘A Bouquet of Flower Songs’ (5 July, St Vedast Alias Foster) and ‘The Flowers of Opera’ (11 July, St Margaret Pattens) in homage to the Festival’s 2012 ‘wildflower’ theme (see: http://bit.ly/CoLFWildFlowers)

24 June-13 July 50 Golden Street Pianos – located in the Square Mile and beyond – including for the first time locations such as the Gherkin. The City of London Festival presents the pianos, which are free for anyone to turn up and play at any time, as part of the Play Me, I’m Yours scheme devised by artist Luke Jerram.

In the run-up to the Festival a Golden Street Piano will tour the Capital’s key commuter stations, including St Pancras International, Waterloo and London Bridge. Catch the Sydney Dance Company at the pianos as they present pop-up performances of a dance duet created by Rafael Bonachela especially for the Festival’s 50th anniversary (27-29 June), and look out for several lunchtime concerts from local schoolchildren, who will perform folk, gospel and pop songs from across the world at the pianos.

25 June-27 July c.12pm-c. 2pm – lunchtime outdoor performances throughout the Festival in Broadgate Circle, Paternoster Square, Devonshire Square and Guildhall Yard (see individual location event details at www.colf.org). Highlights include:

–       Euromix Garden line-up – European musicians perform amidst the wildflower garden installed by the Festival in Broadgate Circle (25-29 June)

–       Ku Da Mix Orchestra, led by the inimitable Kuljit Bhamra performing in Guildhall Yard (2 July)

–       Outstanding harpist Lucy Wakeford in Devonshire Square (11 July)

6 July, 12.15-1.15pm Spaceships are Cool – A wonderland of beats, bleeps, guitars, vintage synths, organic alt-pop, cartoon space stations, bubble machines, astronaut marionettes, origami rockets and bright orange spacesuit. Part of the two-day Level Playing Field programme, showcasing collaboration between disabled and non-disabled musicians. (Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street).

13, 20, 27 July, 12.30 – 2pm Barts Summer Series (takes place in the hospital courtyard) – a confluence of cultures with virtuoso dance and music performances from Kosmos, all the sounds and rhythms of Brazil by Sambossa and Australia’s Mal Webb, who employs various vocal techniques, guitar, mbira, slide trumpet, trombone, chromatic harmonica and a loop recording pedal called ‘Derek’.

For those still chained to their desk during the working day there is also a special section of the programme, ‘Commuter Music’ (5, 12, 19, 26 July) dedicated to enlivening the journey of those caught up in the daily grind. From 5.00pm until 7.30pm, commuters travelling through Liverpool Street Station will be entertained by an array of jazz, folk and classical performances. There’s a surprise turn by some of the City’s more acrobatic ‘Roadworkers’ – and even a chance to get ‘hoe down and happennin’ with a barn dance class on 12 July.

For 50 years the City of London Festival has entertained and inspired the City’s workers, residents and visitors with an annual, internationally-acclaimed arts programme which has included countless premières and exciting collaborations – all performed in some of the Square Mile’s most iconic and unique locations.

Highlights of the 2012 celebrations include the epic Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral (25 and 26 June), featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis, who both performed in the first Festival in 1962; the premiére of a new piece by celebrated British composer Tansy Davies, herself a graduate of the Guildhall School, which will be performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Britain’s foremost period instrument orchestra, at Mansion House (28 June). And a pioneering work by Nigel Osborne for Clarence Adoo, an exceptional musician who was paralysed 15 years ago in a road accident, and his specially-designed Headspace instrument.

The Festival also delivers educational programmes for schools and community groups in the City of London and its surrounding boroughs. A highlight for City workers is the phenomenal Festival Procession, which sees 1000 children welcomed into the Square Mile to present art in the streets inspired by ‘Flowers of the World’, followed by a finale concert on the steps of St Paul’s (29 June). Visitors to Cheapside can also enjoy Stories from the Square Mile – a life-affirming array of anecdotes from the City’s older adults presented in an open-air exhibition put together with the creative help of primary school students (24 June – 27 July).

Sustainability remains a core part of the Festival’s programme, with flowers in the spotlight for 2012 (see http://bit.ly/CoLFWildFlowers). The Festival will be promoting and nurturing wildflowers across the Square Mile, providing vital support for the City’s population of pollinators. The public will be invited to feast on City honey taken from the Festival’s roof-top beehives, as well as celebrate urban flowers, at the Festival’s closing event in Paternoster Square (27 July).

The Play Me, I’m Yours initiative, featuring 50 Golden Street Pianos installed in parks, squares and open spaces across London for the public to play will run on 24 June – 13 July 2012. Volunteer or donate for the project and become Street Piano Champion. (To support contact:suzanne.vaneven@colf.org 020 7583 3585). To see a map of the piano locations visit www.streetpianos.co.uk.

For a full overview of the festival see: http://bit.ly/CoLFPress