Premier PR & City of London Artwashing

Last week Response Source was among the public relations industry sites to comment on the hiring of Premier PR by the City of London:

Premier PR has been appointed by the City of London Corporation, the governing body for the Square Mile, to provide PR for an exhibition at its Guildhall Art Gallery featuring new work by Belfast-born photographer Hannah Starkey, the gallery’s inaugural artist in residence.

Premier has also been appointed to provide PR for the City of London Corporation’s 2020 summer cultural programme, entitled “Believe! Faith, Freedom (and Football)”. The festival will explore the themes of faith, freedom, tolerance, worship, identity, believing in yourself and being who you want to be, connecting these with anniversaries and events, including Mayflower 400; 900 years since the birth of Thomas Becket; and the UK hosting Euro 2020.

Premier will provide PR and experiential and creative activations across both of these integrated briefs.

City of London Corporation appoints Premier PR to major art and culture briefs by Tahmina Mannan, Response Source, 24 February 2020: https://web.archive.org/web/20200301213658/https://www.responsesource.com/bulletin/news/city-of-london-corporation-appoints-premier-pr-to-major-art-and-culture-briefs/

The kind of culture Premier generally promotes is evident from their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles:

We are incredibly proud to today have launched “Scenes in the Square”. This has been a year long project for Premier, working with @discoverlsq and many partners to devise and create a new tourist destination and landmark for London. Consisting of 8 bronze statues celebrating a century of cinema in the heart of London, this interactive new attraction rivals the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a celebration of the big screen. 

Head down to Leicester Square to get a selfie with Paddington, Mary Poppins, Gene Kelly, Batman, Wonder Woman, Bugs Bunny, Mr Bean and Laurel & Hardy!

Yeah, right! Premier PR and partners have ‘create(d) a new tourist destination’ in the form Leicester Square! As if it hadn’t already been long established as a tourist destination. That said footfall, or tourists, is among other things what the application guidelines to the soon to be Premier PR promoted City of London’s Believe! Faith, Freedom (and Football) commissioning form stressed:

Believe! provides an opportunity for the City to showcase a different side to the Square Mile and to build on previous years’ programmes… by extending reach and driving footfall to the area through a 3 month programme of inspiring, engaging and accessible free outdoor events.

Like previous programmes, Believe! will include a variety of outdoor performances and events; on street exhibitions; walks and tours; new music commissions; street theatre, circus and a large-scale spectacular. Through the programme we are inviting audiences to celebrate the positive impacts of migration, tolerance, freedom, democracy and belief.

Believe! Faith, Freedom (and Football) Commissioning Application Form 2019 by the City of London Corporation: https://web.archive.org/web/20200301211813/https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/whats-on/Documents/believe-artist-application-form.pdf

The idea that the City of London, the only place in the UK to maintain the utterly undemocratic business vote, wishes to ‘celebrate the positive impacts of… democracy’ is laughable. If this local authority wanted to celebrate democracy it would reform itself, something we recently suggested was unlikely. Likewise, the City of London’s commitment to tolerance can be called into question on many counts, recently and quite notoriously because of the homophobic line of questioning a candidate for Lord Mayor was subjected to. The same goes for freedom. As for belief, there can be little doubt that the City believes in neo-liberal low regulation regimes that allow it and the network of tax havens it connects with to take wealth from those create it and divert it in the form of money to an undeserving corporate elite. None of this will prevent Premier PR from attempting to artwash the City of London as it promotes Believe! Faith, Freedom (and Football) and the culmination of Hannah Starkey’s deployment as Guildhall artist (AKA flunky) in residence, a series of portraits ‘celebrating City women’.

And there are other claims as ludicrous as those addressed above in the City’s Believe! application guidelines:

It is unlikely the City of London Corporation will be able to fund 100% of any proposal. Therefore, we like to see proposals where the City of London Corporation is one of several commissioning partners. Generally, we would look to support between 10% to 60% of commissioning costs for any proposal.

Given the billions available to the City of London in its sovereign wealth fund City’s Cash and from other sources including the City Bridge Trust, the Corporation is taking the piss when suggests it probably can’t fund 100% of any proposal. The truth is the City of London likes others to subsidise the costs of its artwashing so that it can do more of it, while continuing to spend much more on neo-liberal lobbying. None of which is to suggest the City doesn’t take artwashing seriously, current Lord Mayor William Russell – who achieved office through a rigged election – recently boasted:

When I decided the themes for my mayoral year, I was determined to show my support for culture, heritage and the arts, which are at the heart of life in the City and a driving force for the UK’s economic growth.

Our world-leading culture offer encourages us to think differently about ourselves and our lives. It also contributes over £100bn to the UK’s coffers every year.

For our part, the City of London Corporation prides itself on being the UK’s fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities, investing over £100m every year, and running a wide range of landmark institutions and cultural assets — including the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Keats House, and Tower Bridge.

The City should be proud of its world-class cultural scene by William Russell, City AM, 13 January 2020: https://web.archive.org/web/20200113141820/https://www.cityam.com/the-city-should-be-proud-of-its-world-class-cultural-scene/

Russell and the Corporation of London really are utterly shameless, rather than being ‘a driving force for the UK’s economic growth, the City’s artwashing is an attempt to cover up the fact that the square mile sucks money out of the UK’s regions, the global south and most other parts of the world, and in doing so retards the growth it claims to foster. Two years ago we called on people to boycott City of London artwashing, and we are none too happy with the likes of Hannah Starkey who have chosen to collaborate with the Corporation on its artwashing programme.

The header above shows the Guildhall Art Gallery.

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