On July 19th, I was lucky enough to attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to mark its 150th anniversary – the first full show at the venue since lockdown in March 2020. The curtain coming up on Freedom Day seemed an apt cue for the revival we hope is ahead.
But while there is some optimism in the air, these have been tough times in Westminster. Businesses have been devastated with our theatres, restaurants and attractions among the hardest hit.
As we return to a post-lockdown world, it is time to rebuild our City. And we have innovative plans to do that.
We all know footfall is sharply down in central London and overseas tourists are thin on the ground. We will shortly be launching Westminster Reveals, a new marketing campaign to showcase attractions ranging from the forthcoming Inside Out art exhibition, to our theatres and the return of the West End LIVE weekend.
Al fresco dining helped to sustain the embattled hospitality industry during lockdown. The current raft of temporary licences in Westminster runs until the end of September after which we will look at requests for renewal on an area-by-area basis. Where local people give their support, al fresco schemes will become a permanent presence.
We are seeking to draw visitors back to the West End, encouraging them to eat out, to take in an exhibition or a show, and visit our unique mix of shops. We are renovating the Oxford Street District nearby so it feels like an inviting place to go.
Central London didn’t stop being a world attraction when lockdown began. With restrictions gone, we need to proclaim that message anew.
Cllr Rachael Robathan is Leader of City of Westminster – 27.7.21