Citizens Forum gets first-hand report of Destination City review

The second Citizens Forum event about Destination City, held yesterday evening, was a great success on several counts.

It was a fascinating venue, the content was highly relevant, drinks and food generous, and the overall style engaging. I also figured out a technical fix to deal with my hearing problem, which may be more generally useful at other events.

Councillor Brendan Barns, the Resident Representative on the City Envoy Network, had organised the event at The City Wall at Vine Street, which offers “a fascinating journey through 2,000 years of London history, told through a collection of meticulously unearthed historical artefacts and a unique section of the original London City Wall”. Look Up London has a full description here.

The content was provided by Paul Martin, who is carrying out an independent review of the City Corporation’s Destination City programme. That was launched in 2022 to attract more visitors and support an economy hit by working from home. Background here.

The initial focus was on major events – including a re-staged Bartholomew Fair – and Paul has already reported that the next phase should be about “the future development of a liveable, lively and connected City in a uniquely historic, cultural and characterful setting”. Make the most of the City’s assets rather than importing performers for events.

There’s been a lot of internal to-and-froing in the Corporation about which committee gets first sight of Paul’s recommendations, and a delay so that he could consult more widely with residents and other interests, beyond the 160 or so meetings already held.

Brendan demonstrated the value of the City Envoy role in brokering an event with Paul when everyone is keen to hear his findings.

In the event there’s wasn’t a great deal we didn’t know or anticipate … well, I don’t think there was. My problem on these occasions – and perhaps for others too – is that while the venue may be super-attractive, the acoustics can be difficult. I certainly found that at the recent City Question Time at the Old Bailey.

I’m currently testing various apps that use artificial intelligence to transcribe audio and video files. You can get a transcript from YouTube without that, but it isn’t very accurate.

At the Citizens Forum event I used the iPhone Voice Record app to create a sound file, and then fed that into Notta. Within minutes I had a transcript that made sense, together with a summary, Q and A and action points – as below.

At the event Paul kindly agreed to follow up any questions I had by email, so I sent him the Notta transcript. He did some light editing. That’s a significant commitment to taking residents seriously. You can see the full transcript here.

I have had some doubts about the Citizens Forum approach, but yesterday Brendan and Paul got it right. I don’t think the Forums on their own are sufficient for resident engagement, but they could help set a style. Even better if they had a hearing loop system or better acoustics.

Meanwhile I shall experiment further with Notta. One simple application would be to feed into the app some Corporation committee sessions that are available on YouTube. That would make it easy to get transcripts of councillor contributions on key items.

Meanwhile you can book into the next Forum which is at the London Centre. That has a stunning model of the City today.

Below is auto-generated summary text from Notta, lightly edited. Full transcript here.


The meeting was an interview with Paul Martin, an independent consultant hired to review the City of London’s Destination City program. The program was launched to help the Square Mile recover economically from the pandemic. Key topics discussed included: an overview of Destination City and its focus on events and promotion so far; the need to define a strategy and priorities going forward; and potential areas of focus like culture/heritage, public realm improvements, marketing, addressing the change in visitor patterns during the week. Input was sought from residents on what they think should be the focus.


Q: What is Destination City?

A: A program launched by the City of London Corporation about 2 years ago to aid economic recovery, footfall and spend from the pandemic, with a focus so far on major events and a promotional website.

Q: What were the major events and website?

A: The Golden Key event in early 2022 and Bartholomew Fair in 2022-2023 were major Destination City events. The website is (information site is

Q: Why is a review being done of Destination City?

A: The business case has changed. Things have moved on significantly since 2022. We need to get input on what the future strategy and priorities should be.

Q: What are some potential priorities discussed?

A: Focusing on cultural/heritage assets, improving public spaces, marketing what exists, working out how we can address void units, addressing the change in visitor patterns during the 7 day week, assessing the partnership working arrangements.

Action Items

  • Submit review report to committees on 18 March
  • Reflect resident input in review report
  • Continue conversation with residents at reception upstairs

Note: food and drinks were excellent. Thanks Brendan and The City Wall at Vine Street.


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