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Our centenary

Image of City Lit logo, and students outside of Stukeley Street building Image of City Lit logo, and students outside of Stukeley Street building

A century old, a century young

Every Londoner can find their cultural expression at City Lit. You can try something new, rediscover past passions, learn new skills, keep active, change career or bring some balance to a busy life. Our centenary celebrated our community of students, staff and partners. September 2019 marked 100 years since we opened our doors. Throughout  the whole of 2019, we are celebrated with a collection of special events and activities, both at City Lit and across the city.

The quest for knowledge, understanding and opportunities for creative expression…the most joyous and exhilarating enterprise in which a human being can engage.” Former Principal, T.G. Williams, on one of the guiding principles of City Lit, 1960.

  • ‘The City Literary Institute’ opened in Fetter Lane in the City of London with 180 students in September 1919.
  • Following the opening in 1919 - soldiers with acquired hearing loss from the First World War attended lip-reading classes 
  • In 1939 City Lit moved to its first purpose-built home in Stukeley Street, off Drury Lane. The new building was officially opened by the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield. 
  • Second World War - City Lit never closed its doors in the war; during the Blitz on London classes were held in air raid shelters and music on tube platform. One intrepid tutor even wheeled a piano underground for recitals.
  • 2005 - City Lit moves to its purpose-built home here in Keeley Street
  • More information on the history of City Lit

City Lit Stories

Sovel CunninghamSovel Cunningham

Sovel Cunningham

A career with Royal Mail and in Human resources equipped Sovel with great interpersonal skills. Mastering her natural poetic voice during several writing and speech courses at City Lit, she has recently signed a publishing deal with That Guy's House.

Laura Cristin and friends in the 1970sLaura Cristin and friends in the 1970s

Laura Cristin

Laura recalls her memories of 1970s London. Her relationship with City Lit whilst working an an au pair, looking after young children and learning English for the first time.

Ray Plassard playing the fluteRay Plassard playing the flute

Ray Plassard

'Hearing that the City Lit celebrates its centenary in 2019 put me in mind that I have been attending classes there on and off for over 50 years, half of its existence! Mainly in the music department.'

Angela Tullock in art studioAngela Tullock in art studio

Angela Tulloch

City Lit bursary recipient Angela Tulloch shares her experiences; 'City Lit has been and still is a life saver, it is a powerful, positive tranformation place for me. This opportunity has allowed my soul to sing because I am actually doing what makes me free and happy.' 

Ilyaas Caders with his wifeIlyaas Caders with his wife

Ilyaas Cader

llyaas travelled from Sri Lanka, surviving an incredible journey across Europe, to join his brother in London. He went on to study English at City Lit and now works as a Senior Deaf Children’s Mental Health Worker.

Russell Aldersson at the National Gallery, LondonRussell Aldersson at the National Gallery, London

Russell Aldersson

Russell's connection to City Lit spans three decades, from studying British Sign Language at he age of 19 to becoming a fully qualified British Sign Language/English Interpreter at City Lit and beyond.

Sonia Brown gardening on the 4th floor roof terraceSonia Brown gardening on the 4th floor roof terrace

Sonia Brown

Sonia designed the 4th floor roof terrace garden in 2012 and works at our reception. She designed a green space, user friendly to humans and insects and a tranquil quiet haven to enjoy a break during your stay at City Lit. 

Marsha Dunstan with her SLR camera Marsha Dunstan with her SLR camera

Marsha Dunstan

I am hugely grateful to City Lit for giving me so many of the tools to change my life. Thanks to City Lit, I went on to gain a BA and MA in fine art. I now earn my living through a combination of writing, editing and art-based courses.

The Wilson familyThe Wilson family

Lucy, Dave and Gene Wilson

Lucy and Dave met at a Photography taster course at the Visual Arts Open Day, by the end of the day they had arranged a date, went on to marry and start a family with the arrival of baby 'Gene'. Lucy Wilson; "We are firm believers in trying new things - you never know what might happen.”

Gillian Anderson receiving her award from Dame Moira GibbGillian Anderson receiving her award from Dame Moira Gibb

Gillian Anderson

'Before I visited City Lit, I looked through what you do here and the lives you help transform, it was such a privilege to hear some of the stories of those impacted by such opportunity, I was overwhelmed. What an extraordinary gift to the community, and to this wonderful city'.

Jack O'Neill massaging in studioJack O'Neill massaging in studio

Jack O'Neill

Jack decided to take early retirement and started looking for massage therapy courses in London after deciding the quiet life wasn't for him...Jack is now a fully qualified massage therapist and a professional member of the CThA, and the owner of Holmas massage. 

Malorie Blackman by the River Thames, LondonMalorie Blackman by the River Thames, London

Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman OBE has a long connection with City Lit as a former student attending diverse courses with us since the late 1980s. Having written over fifty books, Malorie is acknowledged as one of today's most imaginative and successfull writer for young readers. 

Lucille Lewin looking through a magnifying glassLucille Lewin looking through a magnifying glass

Lucille Lewin

Lucille discovered her passion for ceramics on the course following her hugely successful career in fashion and retailing (selling the Whistles business in 2002). 

Penelope Maynard performing on stage at City Lit Penelope Maynard performing on stage at City Lit

Penelope Maynard

Discover how City Lit courses provide inspiration and substance in Penelope’s retirement, and her general view of City Lit after being a student here for a number of years. Having taken over 15 courses, City Lit plays an enormous role in her daily life.

Annemarie O'Sullivan creating a basket in her studioAnnemarie O'Sullivan creating a basket in her studio

Annemarie O'Sullivan

Annemarie O'Sullivan started as a basketry student and is now a City Lit basketry tutor and basketmaker. She makes a range of small scale domestic work through to large scale installations and sculptural work. Her work has been featured in The New York Times and Country Living UK. 

Farrah Idris with a client Farrah Idris with a client

Farrah Idris

Farrah Idris is a fully qualified, practising complementary therapist, working in the oldest established hospice in London. She specialises in clinical therapies with end of life patients, and is also a tutor in massage (ITEC) at City Lit and hypnotherapist in training.

David Ekong giving speech at his weddingDavid Ekong giving speech at his wedding

David Ekong

David has lived with a stammer since childhood, but it was only after taking a stammering course at City Lit that he managed to build his confidence speaking in public situations and deliver his wedding speech.

image of hand writing on paperimage of hand writing on paper

Judith Pearson

Judith Pearson recounts her first experiences of City Lit. Describing a 6am queue to book a creative writing course and a surprise journey into adult education, completing hundreds of writing and drama courses along the way.

Mary Hurworth cutting a cakeMary Hurworth cutting a cake

Mary Hurworth

Mary Hurworth, an art student at City Lit for over 25 years, left a gift in her will, Mary has made sure that others have the same opportunity to follow new pathways in art with the development of the Digital and Design Lab on the fourth floor.

City Lit student Belinda talking to cameraCity Lit student Belinda talking to camera

View more student stories from City Lit here

Over 25,000 Londoners enjoy a course at City Lit each year, some looking to change career or embark on a new challenge, and others to learn something new and have fun while exploring a new interest. Read about some of our students here...