When you think of the most artistic and cultural destinations in London, the City might not spring to mind. But it gets a bad rep – and at One City we aim to share the vibrant, eclectic side of the Square Mile, often hidden under bad press about the financial market. The area has the youngest workforce in the UK and is home to an enormous arts and media industry, and yet there’s still a stale impression that its general demographic is older, homogenous and passing through for their 9-5s – not sticking around to soak in the culture and the architecture. Our goal is to lift the veil on some of the City’s secrets; in my time at One City, I’ve discovered a life to the Square Mile that I never knew existed.
One City is an online platform with a large social media presence, sharing images, videos and stories around what’s new in the City – whether it be a new restaurant, market, fitness experience, exhibition, or more. My job and the role of One City, at its core, is to connect young City workers with local businesses. The project is at the heart of NLA’s ethos of making London a better place to live, work and visit, bringing individuals together to shape a stronger London. The majority of my day-to-day work involves liaising with key developers and stakeholders who are invested in attracting new talent to the City and making sure the many fantastic businesses in the area are well represented.
A platform promoting the best of the City doesn’t sound like it has longevity when a pandemic hits and offices empty out. Since the medieval period, the City has been a business district, first and foremost, with over half a million workers coming in and out each day (pre-Covid) compared to only around 9000 residents. September is a crucial time for the City, when many return to their offices for the ‘back to school’ autumn period; in previous years we’ve always seen a spike in activity at this time, for both the City workers hungry to explore the space and for hospitality eagerly preparing their Christmas party bookings. But this September brings an unusual mix of pessimism regarding rising cases and optimism with the vaccine rollout. So how can City businesses prepare?
It’s good news, largely: City AM reported Landsec survey data in July that showed 70% of City workers were heading back to the office at least one day a week, even ahead of ‘Freedom Day’ on the 19th, and one in four London office workers were missing having access to restaurants and pubs. But many companies are examining flexible approaches to their offices, anticipating that the fully staffed 9-5 rota may be a thing of the past. With that in mind, seeing City businesses adapt hybrid approaches, keeping their lockdown online offerings live and active alongside physical, in-person experiences, has been an encouraging insight into how hospitality can safely respond to changing circumstances this autumn and beyond. We’ve been the first to know how excited City workers are to see the City, both online and in person – and we can look forward to a winter period where City retail and hospitality can stay alive and thrive with new hybrid approaches.