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City Lit

Coordinates: 51°30′54″N 0°07′13″W / 51.5149°N 0.1202°W / 51.5149; -0.1202
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(Redirected from City Literary Institute)

City Lit
City Lit in Keeley Street
Keeley Street

, ,

TypeAdult education college
Principal & Chief ExecutiveMark Malcomson

City Lit is an adult education college in Holborn, central London, founded by the London County Council in 1919, which has charitable status. It offers part-time courses across four schools and five "centres of expertise", covering humanities and sciences, languages, performing arts, visual arts, deaf education, family learning, community outreach, learning disabilities education, speech therapy and universal skills.[2]

In 2011, City Lit was graded as "outstanding" by government inspectors Ofsted.[3] Then, in 2016, it was ranked "outstanding" for "personal development, behaviour and welfare" and "good" in four other categories.[3] More recently in May 2023, City Lit was graded as "outstanding" by Ofsted [4]in all five categories which are: The quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management and adult learning programmes.



In 1918, following the war, the London County Council wanted to strengthen non-vocational education. It approved the opening of five literary institutes: Plumstead and Woolwich, Marylebone, Dalston, Peckham, and City Literary Institute (City Lit). They took their first students in September 1919. At the time, it was a radically different approach to adult education. The City Lit's first four classrooms were leased from a teacher training college.[5] City Lit is now the sole survivor of London's Literary Institute movement.

Among the very first courses City Lit offered in 1919 were lipreading classes for Londoners returning with damaged hearing from the battlefields of the First World War.[6]

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, and contained a theatre, concert hall and gym.[7]

City Lit never closed its doors in the war; during the Blitz classes took place in air raid shelters, on the platforms of Covent Garden and Holborn Tube station, one music tutor even wheeled a piano underground for recitals.[8]

In 2005, City Lit moved from its building in Stukeley Street to new, purpose designed premises in nearby Keeley Street,[9] which are fully accessible[10] and include facilities such as studio spaces (for visual arts, drama and health and movement), "supported learning centre" (library), roof terrace with a herb garden, theatre and music recital room. Since then, they have also opened new photography, fashion and digital arts studios.[11]

In 2019, City Lit celebrated its centenary with a year of events reflecting upon the previous 100 years. At the City Lit Centenary Awards, The Princess Royal was awarded the Centenary Fellowship for her outstanding contribution to adult learning.[12]

In early December 2022, City Lit suffered a severe IT outage, with the central website and a number of online resources becoming unavailable. [13]



City Lit offers subjects in the areas of art, drama, dance, creative writing, history and politics, philosophy, languages ranging from French and German to Persian and Korean, computing, counselling, music, and fitness.[14] Its courses are held across nine schools and "centres of expertise":

  • School of Humanities and Sciences
  • School of Languages
  • School of Performing Arts
  • School of Visual Arts
  • Centre for Deaf Education
  • Centre for Family Learning and Community Outreach
  • Centre for Learning Disabilities Education
  • Centre for Speech Therapy
  • Centre for Universal Skills

The college also offers specialist areas, including education for deaf adults,[15] courses for adults with learning disabilities,[16] and work in stammering therapy.[16]



City Lit hosts a programme of visual arts exhibitions, drama productions, musical performances, book launches, creative writing performances, stand-up comedy, festivals, talks and lectures.

Flagship events include Deaf Day; one of the UK's biggest gatherings for Deaf and hard of hearing people,[17] and the annual Mental Wealth Festival, in partnership with Beyond Words and The National Gallery, bringing together professionals and key stakeholders to discuss mental health issues, providing a forum for informative, challenging and inspiring discussions and workshops exploring mental health issues. Speakers and contributors of the Mental Wealth Festival include Grayson Perry CBE, Ed Balls, Jonny Benjamin MBE,[18] Dr Kathryn Mannix and Antony Gormley.[19]

Notable alumni


Notable lecturers


City Lit Fellows


Accolades and criticism


In 2007 City Lit was the first adult education college to be given the Queen's Anniversary Prize, to mark its international reputation in stammering therapy.

In 2014, proposed cuts and redundancies, including to university access, English and maths GCSE courses, and deaf education, attracted controversy. The Guardian reports a "senior source" blamed the government and warned "We got outstanding in our last inspection. How are we going to maintain that outstanding education with fewer staff?". Criticism was directed at the college's marketing budget and the expansion of short courses such as "graffiti" cross-stitch, beer tasting and burlesque. Principal Mark Malcomson said the advertising expenditure was intended in part to support "more charitable provision" in the future.[41]

In 2016 City Lit were graded "Good" by government Ofsted inspectors, down from 2011's "Outstanding".[42]

In 2018, Russell Alderson, tutor in the Centre for Deaf Education was shortlisted for the Times Educational Supplement FE Awards Teacher of the Year award.[43]

In 2019, Fiona Pickett was awarded the Festival of Learning Tutor of the Year award.[44]

In 2019, City Lit was awarded the Festival of Learning President's Award for its outstanding contribution to adult education over 100 years.[45]

In 2019, City Lit Students Sylvia Rowbottom[46] and Dace Miksite[47] were named Finalist Winners at the Festival of Learning Awards for their commitment to adult learning.

See also


Other adult education providers in Camden, London include the nearby Mary Ward Centre, Birkbeck College (a university), and the Working Men's College.


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "City Lit London - Adult Education, Short Courses & Classes | City Lit". www.citylit.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b Ofsted Communications Team (28 January 2019). "Find an inspection report and registered childcare". reports.ofsted.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  4. ^ Lit, City (11 July 2023). "City Lit Celebrates Outstanding Ofsted Report". FE News. Retrieved 22 September 2023.
  5. ^ ""City Lit finally gets a £21m home fit for its heroics", TES, 5 September 2003". Archived from the original on 21 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Lipreading campaign supported by Turner Prize winner". Tes. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  7. ^ kurtresponse, Author (26 May 2016). "Day 26 – St Giles – Shaftesbury Avenue – Drury Lane – Denmark Street". everystreetinlondon. Retrieved 12 April 2021. {{cite web}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ "A Century of Teaching Londoners New Things: City Lit Turns 100". Londonist. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Our History". City Lit Help Centre.
  10. ^ "Our Building". City Lit Help Centre.
  11. ^ Bayley, Sian (3 April 2019). "Royal approval for 100 years at City Lit". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  12. ^ "HRH The Princess Royal received The City Lit Centenary Fellowship in recognition of her commitment to adult education | City Lit". www.citylit.ac.uk. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  13. ^ "City Lit halts online lessons until new year after 'IT disruption'". FEWeek. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  14. ^ "city lit annual review" (PDF). city lit. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  15. ^ "Centre For Deaf Education | Courses in London | City Lit". www.citylit.ac.uk.
  16. ^ a b "Courses | Short Evening & Weekend Courses | City Lit". www.citylit.ac.uk.
  17. ^ "Juliet England: More than two decades of Deaf Days at London's City Lit". The Limping Chicken. 23 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  18. ^ ellen.tout (13 July 2018). "Mental Wealth Festival". Psychologies. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Head to the Mental Wealth Festival". Happiful Magazine. 30 September 2021. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  20. ^ "Steven Berkoff | Authors | Faber & Faber". www.faber.co.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  21. ^ "Garstang drama professor taught young David Bowie". www.garstangcourier.co.uk. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  22. ^ "Souad Faress". Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  23. ^ "Esther Freud on Hideous Kinky: 'Memories came back to me, humorous and chilling'". The Guardian. 5 June 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  24. ^ "Kerry Godliman: 'We're cracking up on stage for your entertainment'". The Guardian. 27 April 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  25. ^ Borama, Jennifer (5 March 2020). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Natacha Karam". TVOvermind. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  26. ^ Craig, Amanda. "Tiers before bedtime". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  27. ^ "Mikko Makela". Peccadillo Pictures. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  28. ^ "Interview: Muslim stand-up Shazia Mirza". The Guardian. 20 April 2003. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  29. ^ a b "City Lit Lifetime Fellowship". Francesca Martinez. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  30. ^ a b "Moira Young talks Raging Star & the Dustlands Trilogy". ThirstForFiction. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  31. ^ a b c d Crace, John (19 April 2005). "Bright Lit's big city". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  32. ^ a b c "A facebook page for creative writers – Safari Friday searching the web for writers and readers". BRIDGET WHELAN writer. 2 May 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  33. ^ Bayley, Sian (3 April 2019). "Royal approval for 100 years at City Lit". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  34. ^ "Gillian Anderson OBE receives City Lit Lifetime Fellowship Award". All About Gillian. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  35. ^ "Ed Full biog". Ed Balls. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  36. ^ "The Rt. Hon Sir Vince Cable". www.liverpoolphil.com. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  37. ^ "London's City Lit college toasts centenary with #HearMyLips campaign and House of Commons tea". The Limping Chicken. 26 November 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  38. ^ "Jonathan Miller and Barrie Rutter: 'At this age, people assume you to be either dead or senile'". The Guardian. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  39. ^ Partnership, The Kolberg. "City Lit Perspectives presents Grayson Perry: Divided Britain". AllinLondon. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  40. ^ "Ruby Wax - Keynote Speaker". London Speaker Bureau. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  41. ^ Swain, Harriet (15 July 2014). "Redundancies at City Lit as college 'focuses on beer-tasting and burlesque'". The Guardian – via www.theguardian.com.
  42. ^ Ofsted Communications Team (16 October 2019). "Find an inspection report and registered childcare". reports.ofsted.gov.uk. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  43. ^ "Tes FE Awards 2019: Shortlist unveiled". Tes. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  44. ^ "Fiona Pickett | Festival of Learning". www.festivaloflearning.org.uk. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  45. ^ "City Lit | Festival of Learning". www.festivaloflearning.org.uk. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  46. ^ "Sylvia Rowbottom | Festival of Learning". www.festivaloflearning.org.uk. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  47. ^ "Dace Miksite | Festival of Learning". www.festivaloflearning.org.uk. Retrieved 28 November 2019.

51°30′54″N 0°07′13″W / 51.5149°N 0.1202°W / 51.5149; -0.1202