Great Fire 350: London’s Burning
30 August – 04 September 2016
A festival of arts and ideas, inspired by the Great Fire of London.
London's Burning offered the chance to contemplate the lasting impact the Fire had on the architecture, outlook and infrastructure of the City of London and beyond.
Thousands joined Station House Opera’s Dominoes on Saturday, a giant domino fall of 23,000 breezeblocks following the paths of the Great Fire through the City’s streets and buildings. Manned by 350 volunteers, the fall culminated in three spectacular fiery finales at Paternoster Square, The Gherkin and The Barbican.
At Broadgate, audiences watched individual actors perform in a tank that regularly filled with 3,600 gallons of water. Holoscenes, by US-based Early Morning Opera reminded us that today, it is flooding rather than fire that is the contemporary threat to our cities.
Martin Firrell’s Fires of London saw two new commissions on either side of the River Thames, Fires Ancient lit the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral with fiery projections echoing the catastrophic impact of the Great Fire of London on the Cathedral itself whilst Fires Modern projected onto the fly-tower of the National Theatre, revealed stories of resurgence and change that have shaped the UK’s capital city.
More than 3,000 people visited Of All The People In All The World, by Stan’s Cafe, at the Inner Temple. The installation used two tonnes of rice to visualise statistics, compared historical facts with contemporary moments, offering a different way to experience the impact of these dramatic events each day.
Thousands more enjoyed the spitting, crackling, afterdark Fire Garden by Compagnie Carabosse in front of Tate Modern.
A talks programme, which accompanied the London's Burning artistic programme explored how cities past and present have responded to crisis. It included an exclusive poetry reading by actor Simon Callow at the top of The Monument, and The Great Fire in Three and a Half Pints, a series of three guided walking tours, including a spine-tingling tour of the City’s streets led by psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff, each tour stopping off at an historic Fuller’s pub along the way.
The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London hosted a tea party on Friday 2nd September to recognise the efforts of the numerous towns and boroughs who contributed to the rebuilding of the City and the support of its residents in the days, weeks and months after the Fire. In 1667 a total of £12,794 was raised, equivalent to £1.9 million in today’s money. Guests included over 150 Lords Lieutenants, Lord Mayors, Mayors, and Council Leaders from across the country, and Masters of City Livery Companies.
The festival drew to a close on Sunday evening, as London 1666, a 120-metre-long sculpture of 17th century London was set alight on the River Thames. An audience of tens of thousands watched. In addition, over one million people tuned into the live broadcast commissioned by The Space and hosted by Lauren Laverne on youtube and Facebook and many more watched it streamed through other outlets across the world.
London 1666 was designed by American artist David Best, working in collaboration with Artichoke and involved months of learning and participation work with young people across several boroughs adjacent to the City of London. Hundreds of schoolchildren took part in integrated drawing and history workshops in schools across these boroughs. The project also offered young Londoners not in education, employment or training, a potentially life-changing opportunity to take part in the construction of the piece. All involved received an introduction to the construction and creative industries, and the opportunity to gain a CSCS certificate and further employment qualifications.
The programme was supported by City of London Corporation, an award from Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence programme and further support from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and a raft of sponsors and funders, London's Burning was part of Great Fire 350, a City-wide season of cultural events marking this anniversary.
London's Burning stats
TOTAL AUDIENCE FOR LONDON 1666
TOTAL VIEWING NUMBERS FOR LONDON’S BURNING VIDEO CONTENT
NUMBER OF VOLUNTEERS FOR DOMINOES
NUMBER OF GRAINS OF RICE USED FOR OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN ALL THE WORLD
YOUNG LONDONERS INVOLVED IN LONDON 1666