For centuries, global trade winds blew ships loaded with goods down the Thames and into London’s docklands. Along the South Bank, upstream from Deptford’s Royal Docks, this mercantile scene morphed into a chaotic cultural underworld that produced Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. North of the river, these spontaneous flows were chronicled in the city’s great institutions of learning that emerged from the heat of the industrial revolution: UCL, King’s, LSE, Imperial and SOAS among them.

These threads – the City, culture, education – remain woven into contemporary London’s cosmopolitan fabric. The trade winds are no longer literal, as international business runs in real time across hundreds of thousands of smartphones and tablets. Shakespeare’s plays have gone overground, held tight in the establishment embrace. But in the backstreets of Dalston and scrawled across the walls of abandoned buildings, the seeds of the next generation’s art are being scattered, drawing the perspectives of the future into the present moment.

There is an alchemy in London that transforms the local into global and the global into local. Millions belong here who also belong elsewhere. Incomers from around the world have always shaped and changed London. But now new economic centres are emerging, and they are transforming the city’s traditional centres of power. The map of the City is being re-drawn by companies who are leading the advance of emerging markets.

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This process of globalisation – fuelled by technological advances in communication and transport – brings diverse bodies into continual contact with each other. The relationships and interactions this generates have created a whole new terrain of issues and dilemmas, opportunities and challenges. Migration, transparency, cultural difference, imbalances of power, resource use and sustainability – all raise hugely complex questions with which large contemporary organisations must grapple. A multinational organisation’s actions affect a diverse range of people and places, interplaying with a multiplicity of cultures.

Following the most recent financial crisis, however, the discipline of economics has increasingly taken to looking inward for the causes of the crash and the tools to prevent it happening again. But an informed, rounded and effective economic understanding needs also to look outward, at the cultures in which economic systems are embedded. For each Forum, a subject is identified which pertains to the interplay between corporations and culture within the context of London’s position on the geopolitical scene.

For the Corporate Cultural Forum, Zamyn invites leading institutions in the realms of business, economics, policy, politics, media and the arts to discuss and illuminate this subject.