Its mere design sent ripples across architectural London, Charles Dickens penned some of his life’s finest works here, the great Oscar Wilde was put on trial here for his sexual persuasion and, in 1980, the area changed function from fruit and vegetable market to modern day shopping and entertainment destination, in the process creating a cultural district in the heart of the West End that became known globally for theatre, opera, street performance and other forms of artistic expression.
Covent Garden has played a central role in the changing face of London for centuries. Now, on the cusp of another year of change, it also marks a momentous milestone by celebrating the 180th Anniversary of the Market Building, a structure so recognizable it has become a mecca for the worlds of fashion, food, entertainment and design to co-habit. The Market Building, now firmly established as offering some of the most diverse independent retail in the capital, also marks 30 years since its transition from fresh produce larder to dedicated shopping emporium, with a host of exciting new developments to come this year.
Marking a huge year of celebration will be a range of activities celebrating Covent Garden’s heritage, from food to fashion, shopping to architecture. Offering both a written and visual representation of Covent Garden will be two interactive, yearlong initiatives that will gather content from the Covent Garden community to celebrate the history of one of London’s most recognizable architectural and cultural spaces.
Creative in Residence This month sees the launch of Covent Garden’s first creative-in-residence, award winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams. From his vantage point on the Piazza, Inua will be gathering the sentiments and memories of those who visit the area and transcribing them into short stories, poems and drawings, to be shared via the Covent Garden website (www.coventgardenlondonuk.com/creative). He will also be engaging with the public via Twitter and Facebook, so that those who do not have the opportunity to share their musings of London’s most famous public space in person, can do so remotely.
The Covent Garden Canvas will invite residents and visitors to share their favourite images of Covent Garden by uploading them to the Covent Garden website (www.coventgardenlondonuk.com/canvas) where they will be exhibited in testimony to a place that is loved locally and remembered globally. The images will be celebrated online before the best are printed to create a physical photography wall, to go on display in Covent Garden later in the year.
Other celebratory activity taking place will see the Market Building dressed in decorations, the return of the Covent Garden Real Food Market to a new weekly Saturday slot and a special celebration of the Apple Market, London’s premier craft market for hand produced goods from the UK.
June 18th – 20th marks the official anniversary weekend. Visitors to the Piazza will witness a street party for all to be involved in. Covent Garden will be awash with colour as the surrounding community and members of the public come together to celebrate the history of the area.
In July, the Royal Opera House, a cornerstone of the Covent Garden fabric for many years, will be producing a special one- off performance on the Piazza, to be announced.
Playing to the creative medley of the area’s roots, Autumn in Covent Garden is a time to celebrate food and fashion. Last year Covent Garden introduced the hugely successful Fashion Fete, a tongue-in-cheek take on London Fashion Week. This year it returns with more fun and more in-store offers.
October will see the return of Covent Garden’s involvement in the London Restaurant Festival. Now in its second year, the festival returns with a larger and more dynamic celebration of food. Come and enjoy festival menus in many of Covent Garden’s diverse restaurant and dining spots and an extended Food Market for the weekend of 7-10th October, with guest stalls from restaurants and suppliers.
Covent Garden Brand Director Bev Churchill commented, “This year we are celebrating the heritage of Covent Garden. It’s a place known and loved by many. Everyone has a memory or an experience of the area and through our two year-long initiatives we hope for these to be shared.”
Keep checking www.coventgardenlondonuk.com for more information about Covent Garden’s Anniversary celebrations in 2010, where throughout the year there will be celebratory exhibitions, festivals and events featuring every aspect of Covent Garden from past to present to future – fashion, food, design and architecture.