Where the Wild Flowers are: City of London Arts Festival Brings the Countryside to the City for 50th Anniversary


  • 50 years of the City of London Festival celebrated with major environmental theme across the Square Mile
  • Rooftop beehives and wildflower planting in churchyards combine with specially-commissioned music and poetry, planting ceremonies in historic City locations, wildflower giveaways and a honey feast in Paternoster Square.
  • City of London Festival runs 24 June – 27 July. Many events are FREE. For more information and Box Office: www.colf.org; 0845 120 7502

IMAGES: http://bit.ly/CoLFImageLib

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.

For 2012 the Festival will be celebrating its on-going commitment to environmental sustainability with a special programme bringing the countryside to the City.

Wildflowers will not only fill iconic spaces such as Broadgate Circle with colour and scent but will be permanently re-planted in locations such as historic churchyards where they once thrived. In 2010, recognising the important part bees play in pollinating City plants, the Festival installed eight hives on rooftops across the Square Mile. Two years on and visitors will have a chance to sample the resulting honey – celebrated for its unique complexity thanks to the variety of flowers abounding in London – at a honey feast in Paternoster Square to mark the end of the Festival. And on 1 July Parliament Hill will be the fitting location for a meadow flower giveaway as part of the annual World on the Heath Family Day.

The Golden Jubilee programme reflects the theme of flowers with a number of bee or flower-related performances. Singers from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama present three specially-created flower-themed performances: ‘A Garland of Romantic Flower Songs’, ‘The Flowers of Opera’ and ‘A Bouquet of Comic Flower Songs’ featuring such favourites as Debussy, Britten, Bizet and Puccini. John Williams’ headline event includes the World premiere of Steve Goss’ ‘The Flower of Cities’, inspired by the line from William Dunbar’s poem. And the ceremonial planting of wildflowers in City churches will be accompanied by 15 new pieces of music created for the 15 species of flower being planted, with specially commissioned bee poems to lead the procession from church to church.

Performance highlights for the 2012 City of London Festival sustainability programme
[full list at end of release]:

-        25 – 29 June – Euromix Garden: swathes of poppies, cosmos, nigella, delphiniums, calendula, allysum, coreopsis – all the flowers of an English field – will fill Broadgate Circle for this five-day open air celebration of intra-European music collaborations, reflecting the festival’s biodiversity and environmental focus.

-        30 JuneWhere the Wild Flowers Are: Special promenade performances lead audiences between three of the City’s most beautiful historic churches: St Mary-at-Hill, St Olave Hart Street and St Stephen Walbrook – as wildflowers are planted in each churchyard and specially-commissioned miniatures and poems are performed in each church. 15 species of wildflower, including bindweed, black knapweed, viper's bugloss, yarrow, oxeye daisy, wild mignonette and cornflower, will be planted and 15 new works by young artists as well as established composers will be performed. (Tickets £15).

-        1 July – Wildflowers on the Heath: a walk on Hampstead Heath in search of this ancient landscape’s wildflowers. With its origins in countryside and with a variety of habitats, the Heath is an important open space with rich flora and fauna unique to London.

-        1 July – World on the Heath Family Day: tubs of wild flower meadow will be given away to mark the Festival’s 50th anniversary at its annual celebration of games and music for the whole family.

-        10 July – lecture by Dr Robin Probert, Head of Conservation & Technology at the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew, at Gresham College: ‘Human livelihoods depend on wildflowers – Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank explained.’

-        11 July The Flowers of Opera: singers from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama present floral operatic arias and duets by Handel, Britten, Delibes, Bizet, R. Strauss, Gounod, Puccini, Cilea and Bernstein at St Margaret Pattens, Eastcheap.

-        27 July – Golden Honey Feast in Paternoster Square: your chance to sample the delights of super-tasty City honey, taken from hives installed on top of such iconic locations as the Museum of London, Mansion House and Middle Temple Garden.

The City of London Festival this year celebrates its Golden Jubilee, having first been staged in 1962. Highlights of the main programme for the Golden Jubilee celebrations include an 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, which will be performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Britain’s foremost period instrument orchestra, at Mansion House (28 June), herself a graduate of the Guildhall School, 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, and the installation of 50 Golden Street Pianos on streets and in public spaces across the Square Mile and beyond.

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

Ian Ritchie, Festival Director, says: ‘Living in a city it can be easy to forget the importance that nature plays in our daily lives – just as it can be easy to forget how the chance to experience music and art can enliven the working day. Our wildflower programme not only symbolises the local and international diversity of the City, the cultivation of culture itself and the celebration of talent that is both budding and in full bloom – but also provide forage for the bee colonies that we have established over the past two years.’

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Press Contacts and Images
Rajina Gurung e: rajina.gurung@kallaway.com t: 0207 221 7883
William Kallaway e: william.kallaway@kallaway.com t: 0207 221 7883
Susannah Glynn e: susannah.glynn@kallaway.com t: 0207 221 7883

Press pictures:  http://bit.ly/CityofLondon

About City of London Festival

24 June – 27 July 2012, www.colf.org

Since its inauguration in 1962 the Festival has been animating the City, bringing the Square Mile’s monumental architecture, wealth of buildings, outdoor spaces, and ancient streets to life with a rich and extraordinary programme of music, performance, events and installations. Ranked among the world’s leading cultural celebrations, City of London Festival is one of the UK’s most significant and highly regarded artistic platforms featuring a dazzling array of luminaries from across the worlds of music, dance, visual art and street performance. Inspired by the history of the City and its communities the Festival has built a reputation for innovative programming, showcasing newly discovered and world-class artists, championing new work and presenting contemporary collaborations in beautiful surroundings.

For half a century the Festival has connected the communities of the City with the world’s most acclaimed musicians and performers, enlivening the City, its inhabitants and visitors through culture. The alumni of contributing artists over the Festival’s lifetime reads like a Who’s Who of the world’s most accomplished artists, featuring the likes of Jacqueline Du Pré, Sir Willard White, Yehudi Menuhin and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf to name only a few. In its 50th year the Festival will continue to add to this outstanding pedigree of performance, as well as building upon its commitment to search out exceptional emerging talent.

Sustainability and wildflower-themed programme:

(for full listings of City of London Festival events, including travel information and Box Office visit: www.colf.org)

Euromix Garden
Monday 25 June – Friday 29 June, Broadgate Circle
A five-day open air celebration of intra-European music collaboration. Scottish highland fiddle with Norwegian lyrics and polyphonic alpine songs from Italian and French singers are all part of the diversity. Swathes of wildflowers will decorate Broadgate Circle, showcasing flowers that support insect life through biodiversity and connect with the Festival’s environmental focus. FREE

Stephen Disley
Monday 25 June 1.05pm
Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, SE1
Organ recital drawing upon the Festival themes of flowers and trading places. Highlights include Alain Le jardin suspendu; Judith Bingham St. Bride, assisted by angels; MacDowell To a Wild Rose from Woodland Sketches. FREE 

A Bouquet of Comic Flower Songs
Wednesday 27 June 1.05pm, Temple Church

This concert by the Singers of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama explores the lighter and more comic side of the art of song, in a programme which represents some of the greatest songwriters in the English language. The entire programme reflects the theme of flowers, which audiences will find planted in many corners of this year’s Festival. The performers are from Britain’s premier conservatoire for the development of singers, whose alumni fill the concert halls and opera houses of the world. This is an opportunity to hear the budding talent of voices already in full bloom.
Arthur Sullivan To a garden full of posies; There grew a little flower; I’m called Little Buttercup; Tit Willow; The flowers that bloom in spring; Love me!; I’ll stick sunflowers in my hair; Comes the broken flower; Silvered is the raven hair
Richard Rodgers O what a beautiful morning
Donald Swann Columbine
Tom Lehrer Poisoning Pigeons in the Park
Stephen Sondheim Sunday in the park with George

Festival Procession
Friday 29 June, 12.45pm – 1.30pm, St Paul’s
Join a thousand children and young people as they weave through the City celebrating ‘Flowers of the World’ – dressed in costumes and decorations created from the City’s unwanted plastics and cardboard. The participants arrive at St Paul’s for a music performance and Festival Arts Awards presentation. FREE

Where the Wild Flowers Are
Saturday 30 June, 2pm; 3pm; 4pm, start St Mary-at-Hill
Special promenade performances lead audiences between three of the City’s most beautiful historic churches – St Mary-at-Hill, St Olave Hart Street and St Stephen Walbrook – in celebration of wildflowers. A poem and a piece of music will be presented as a gift to each of the 15 species of wildflower, before the flowers themselves are planted in the churchyards. In each church, solo musicians give the premieres of the specially-commissioned miniatures, and performers read the new poems. Special bee poems lead us between the wildflowers, like a bee moving from flower to flower. Featuring 15 composers, ranging from young artists at the Guildhall School to Jonathan Dove, Julian Grant and Alec Roth; young poets from the new Salt Anthology as well as writers John Agard, Kay Syrad, Sean Brodale and Colette Sensier. Curated by Clare Whistler. £15, including a refreshment.

Power of Flowers
Saturday 30 June, 10.00am – 12.00pm, Barbican Children’s Library, EC2
Children ages 3-9 and their families will be enchanted by this biodiversity-inspired literary and art event; with stories of magical and useful flora and fauna, and a chance to create flower-themed art to take home.

Wildflowers on the Heath
Sunday 1 July, 11am
Hampstead Heath is an important open space with rich flora and fauna unique to London. Its landscape is varied with woodland, meadows, fragments of heathland and strings of ponds along its valleys. With its origins in former countryside, long-established features such as hedgerows and ancient trees provide links with the past. Large areas of grasslands have been allowed to grow long, to the benefit of many wildflowers which provide cheerful splashes of summer colour. For this special event, a member of the Hampstead Heath team will lead you on a walk, searching for the sometimes elusive wildflowers that make the Heath their home. £10

World on the Heath Family Day
Sunday 1 July, 12pm – 6pm, Parliament Hill
An international celebration of games and music for the whole family to enjoy. Get involved in exciting games and competitions, from a tournament of extinct Olympic sports such as tug-of-war to that curious English pastime, croquet. There will be concerts on the bandstand and other activities throughout the afternoon with artists of the UK, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, including world-class guitarists John Williams and John Etheridge. At the end of the day tubs of FREE.

A Garland of Romantic Flower Songs- Singers of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Thursday 5 July, 1.05pm, St Vedast Alias Foster, Foster Lane
Lieder by Schubert, Schumann and R. Strauss, melodies by Faure and Debussy, and songs by Purcell, Quilter, Butterworth and Britten. FREE

Rubikon Quartet
Thursday 5 July, 7.30pm, Stationers’ Hall, Ave Maria Lane
The UK debut of this outstanding young quartet led by the leader of the LSO, Roman Simovic. Puccini – Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums); Ravel – String Quartet, Toshio Hosokawa – Blossoming, Elgar – String Quartet. £10/20, including glass of wine.

Wishful Singing
Thursday 5 July 7.30pm, Dutch Church, Austin Friars, EC2

This programme of sacred and secular a cappella works connects the City of London and the Netherlands and also represents some of the finest examples in the genre from around the world – including some numbers which reflect the Festival’s theme of flowers this year! Wishful Singing is a newly-formed group of five young Dutch singers who have previously been mentored by our very own King’s Singers and represent the best qualities of balance, tuning and musical precision. This concert marks the UK debut of the group and includes the London première of Paul Patterson’s Time Piece in this new version which he has specially created for them. The original version, for the King’s Singers, has been hugely popular and performed hundreds of times around the world. Highlights include: Arnie (arr Bob Zimmerman) Tulpen uit Amsterdam (tulips from Amsterdam), and Richard Leigh (arr Tom Grondman) Don’t it make my brown eyes blue. £15, including glass of wine.

Human Livelihoods depend on wildflowers – Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank explained
Tuesday 10 July, 6pm, Gresham College
A lecture by Dr Robin Probert, Head of Conservation & Technology, the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew.  FREE

John Williams and Friends
Tuesday 10 July, 7.30pm, Fishmongers’ Hall
Australia’s John Williams has for decades been one of the world’s great masters of the classical guitar. He performed as a young artist in the very first City of London Festival in 1962. This year he returns to give a concert with some of his musical friends and colleagues, including the distinguished guitarist and younger fellow-Australian, Craig Ogden, in spectacular Fishmongers’ Hall. His programme brings together music and musicians from across different ages and cultural worlds. The instrumental line-up for The Light on the Edge, by the Australian composer and guitar guru Phillip Houghton, includes an Aboriginal didjeridu. John Williams has commissioned English composer Steve Goss to write a new work especially for this 50th anniversary Festival, taking its title from William Dunbar’s poetic tribute to England’s capital: ‘London, thou art the flower of cities all.’ £10/20/30 including a glass of wine.

The Flowers of Opera
Wednesday 11 July, 1.05pm, St Margaret Pattens
Singers of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama present floral operatic arias and duets by Handel, Britten, Delibes, Bizet, R. Strauss, Gounod, Puccini, Cilea and Bernstein. FREE

Golden Honey Feast
Friday 27 July, 12-2pm, Paternoster Square

The Festival’s City Bees project of 2010 saw eight hives installed on buildings across the City, at the Lloyds Building, Mansion House, Middle Temple Gardens, the Museum of London (now two hives), St Olave Church, St John Cass’s Foundation Primary School and SEB. For the final day of the Festival there will be a public feast with its beekeeping partners and a chance for you to slather some bread with the fruits of the City hives, along with several delicious international honeys – alongside a variety of bee and honey-inspired music, poetry and participative activities.