London Symphony

Director/Editor: Alex Barrett | Producer: Katharine Round | Music: James McWilliam | Writer: Rahim Moledina

London Symphony is a multidisciplinary project combining film, music and performance to offer audiences a poetic journey through the city of London. The film and music offers an artistic snapshot of the city as it stands today, and a celebration of its culture and diversity.  Taking inspiration from the original 1920s city symphonies, notably Walter Ruttman's Berlin, Symphony of a Great City and Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera - this gloriously beautiful variation reimagines the genre for the 21st century, taking us through 300 locations in the capital to build a portrait of the modern city, set to a classical composition by James McWilliam. Looking at life today through the lens of the past shows a city that is a vibrant as it quaint, as marked by change as it is identifiable.  This diverse, energetic and meditative piece of work explores the contradictions and charms of modern life in our capital city. 

Premiering at the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival, London Symphony was nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Film, and was released theatrically across the UK. The project culminated in a series of three live participatory performances supported by Arts Council England which installed one of London's most dynamic orchestras, Covent Garden Sinfonia, in three unique sites across London: The Barbican Centre in the North East, the iconic brutalist Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate in the North West and the Shree Ghanapathy Hindu Temple in South West. Each of these sites both inspired and are featured in the work, and the events form a musical and artistic conversation with their communities on the changing nature of London. 

The film is now available to watch on BFIPlayer (UK), to stream and on BluRay via Flicker Alley and will be released on DVD February 2018 by New Wave Films. 


"a seductive parade of striking images" Kim Newman, Sight & Sound

★★★★ "rapturous, compelling and inventive" David Jenkins, Little White Lies

★★★★ "lustrous" Neil Smith, Total Film

★★★★ "thought-provoking" Radio Times

★★★★ "A loving ode to the heart of the United Kingdom" Jamie Neish, CineVue


Further reading

An interview with the makers of London Symphony


Alex Barrett, Katharine Round and James McWilliam discuss the project's influences, production and distribution


Similar Project

Listen to Britain 2017


To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Listen to Britain, Humphrey Jennings and Stewart McAllister's poetic collage of British life, BBC Four and the BFI commissioned 12 short films to celebrate Jennings' legacy.