City Bridge Foundation — our year in review
As 2023 draws to a close, we look back at an eventful year in our charity’s history
A concise, month-by-month review of the year, covering our bridges, our funding, our investments, and more.
We started the year with a complete revamp of the old City Bridge Trust website. The new design and concise content was created to be as inclusive and accessible as possible. The new website now serves all of City Bridge Foundation, providing a gateway to our funding and information on all five bridges.
Alongside our digital revamp, Blackfriars Bridge has been undergoing a rather more expensive and lengthy refurbishment. Our renovation works have been carried out without any disruption to the traffic and are due to restart next year.
In February, His Majesty The King visited The Felix Project in East London. City Bridge Foundation is supporting the project’s work with a £300,000 grant to Felix’s Kitchen, reducing food waste by using surplus food to cook nutritious meals to support frontline charities and nourish vulnerable Londoners.
The origins of our charity date back more than 900 years, when tolls and donations were collected to maintain the historic London Bridge. On Thursday, 16 March 2023, we celebrated the 50th birthday of the modern London Bridge, opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 16 March 1973.
Our refurbishment of Blackfriars Bridge received media coverage throughout the year, including this feature from the BBC in March — The solving of a ‘Victorian jigsaw puzzle’.
We also organised our second Networking and Learning Day for funded organisation. This free and enjoyable event, in the wonderful Barbican Conservatory, gave more than 150 guests the opportunity to focus on their organisations’ strengths, explore the challenges they face, and seek solutions. Check out our short video below.
In April we launched the Anchor Programme, an innovative, multi-million-pound fund offering long-term core funding to catalyse systemic change. The Anchor Programme has since supported 13 organisations with grants totalling almost £14m. In November our Funding Committee agreed to boost the fund with an additional £10m.
In the same month, the first grants were delivered by the ground-breaking £100m Propel fund, designed to fight inequality in London. In this first round of funding almost £25m was allocated to over 80 projects empowering disadvantaged young people, building stronger communities, and providing advice and support for people facing financial hardship. Propel is a collaborative funding programme, coordinated by London Funders, in which we’ve joined forces with other major funders.
This month saw the re-election of the Chairman of our Board, Dr Giles Shilson. Giles is a keen advocate for our work, from our funding to the operation of our five bridges.
We also celebrated the weekend of the Coronation by lighting Tower Bridge and London Bridge in red, white and blue, a theme also taken up at the Guildhall, home of our trustee, the City of London Corporation.
The origins of our charity lie in historic documents, such as a Royal Charter of 24 May 1282, which governed how our forebears were allowed to govern gifts, grants, and bequests to old London Bridge.
On the first of June 2023, a new Supplemental Royal Charter was sealed by King Charles and became legally effective, allowing us to modernise the charity’s governance powers.
This change has been incorporated within a new Investment Strategy Statement, which allows us to create more for-good impact, closely linked to relevant Sustainable Development Goals. It will help us meet our climate action commitments, maximise the impact of our funds, and allow us to be a responsible leader in the way we manage our investments, including new social investments.
June also saw London Climate Action Week giving us an opportunity to reflect on our charity’s strategy, commitments and grant-making, in the drive to net zero.
Alderman Alison Gowman from the City Bridge Foundation board spoke of our ambitious Climate Action Strategy, which commits us to achieving carbon net zero in our own operations by 2027 and across our investments and supply chain by 2040.
City Bridge Foundation is spending £3.5 million over the next five years to improve energy efficiency in our premises, including the iconic Tower Bridge, and ensuring our investment portfolios reflect our net zero goals.
Our first all-staff meeting took place at the Barbican in early July. This all-day event saw more than 130 colleagues gathering from across the charity, for a fun and informal day of networking.
We also launched our new funding portal and new grant management software, with the aim of making applications easier for those applying for grants.
We kept the bascules at Tower Bridge pointing to the sky over the August Bank Holiday weekend, making for a great photo opportunity. The closure of the bridge to traffic and pedestrians was necessary to allow for essential maintenance work. The bridge will be 130 years old in 2024 and inevitably repairs need to be made.
The work, carried out by Sheffield-based contractor 3RS Engineering, replaced metal plates at the rear of the bascules – the moving parts of the bridge – which have become damaged through wear and tear.
September saw the launch of the new City Bridge Foundation brand, reflecting our unique role as a world-class bridge owner and London’s largest independent charity funder. Alongside new flags flying from Tower Bridge, we shared this short, upbeat video to introduce our new brand, and ourselves, to the wider public.
October saw the reopening of our Small Grants programme, revamped to ensure our funding can reach hundreds more deserving organisations across the capital.
Meanwhile, the Millennium Bridge closed for three weeks, allowing our contractors to undertake significant 24/7 maintenance work – and to give the bridge a much-needed deep clean. Our social media post about the tradition of hanging a bundle of straw below the bridge (to warn of ongoing work) ticked up more than half-a-million views, leading to national media coverage.
October also saw us closing Tower Bridge over one weekend, to undertake further maintenance. Engineers worked overnight to replace the bridge’s nose bolts – the large bolts which slide in and out of the bascules and lock the roadways in place when they are lowered.
Check out our video of Tower Bridge and its amazing Nose Bolts below.
In November, staff joined together for outdoor team volunteering sessions at City Farms in Stepney and Spitalfields. For many of us, it makes a change from our usual work, and it’s a great opportunity to socialise with colleagues from our own and different teams.
November also saw a joint screening of our latest Media Trust short films. Each year, we support the production of up to ten short films, highlighting the work of the organisations we fund. The films, directed by volunteer professionals, are invariably stunning, even when dealing with potentially traumatic topics.
We’ll be sharing the new films over coming months, but if you’d like a taste of one of our favourites from last year, check out the wonderful Me and My Stammer from Action for Stammering Children.
City Bridge Foundation is providing an early Christmas present of financial support to more than 200 of our funded organisations, which are battling the effects of inflation and seeing increasing demands for their services. This extra support is expected to be around £437,000 and is unrestricted, meaning charities can use it to wherever the need is greatest, such as paying fuel bills or staff costs.
So far this year we’ve distributed £47m through our main funding programme, supporting those most at need in London. Additional funds are delivered through other specialist programmes, such as the Anchor programme, spotlighted above, in April.
And our funding work is, of course, just part of what we do. Over at Tower Bridge, we’ve greeted more than 900,000 visitors over the last year, maintaining Tower Bridges’ place as one of London’s most iconic and well-loved visitor attractions!
Finally, a thank you to all our funded organisations, our trustee the City of London Corporation, our partners, our contractors, and our staff for the incredible work you do, in supporting the varied work of City Bridge Foundation and the communities we serve.
This year we’ve been joined by more than 30 new colleagues, who we welcome aboard, and together we look forward to a productive and rewarding New Year.