Medway named as a priority in the south-east by Arts Council England

Today (Thursday, 16 September), Arts Council England has announced that Medway will be a Priority Place to focus on as part of the publication of its three year Delivery Plan for 2021 – 2024.

Arts Council England’s three-year Delivery Plan sets out a detailed roadmap to implement the vision of their strategy Let’s Create: by 2030 England will be a country in which the creativity of each individual is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where everyone has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. The Delivery Plan highlights where there are opportunities for investment, collaboration, and progress.

The publication of the Delivery Plan follows the Government’s unprecedented £1.96 billion Culture Recovery Fund, administered by the Arts Council and other bodies. Driven by the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, with the backing of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the Culture Recovery Fund is the biggest one-off investment in culture from the Government in history, providing a vital lifeline to save our cultural sector and help organisations prepare for reopening.

The strategy was written just before the pandemic, but the vision still holds true and if anything is even more critical now. Creativity and culture can, and should, play a part in helping level up the country.

To help make this vision a reality the Delivery Plan names 54 priority places across England. The Arts Council will work closely with these locations to develop new opportunities for investment, both from the Arts Council and other partners. Across the South East, from Medway to Slough, and Dover to Crawley, priority places recognises the need for cultural investment, and it will give more people the opportunity to enjoy excellent cultural experiences in their communities and neighbourhoods.

Medway is rich in cultural and creative potential

Medway is rich in cultural and creative potential. In recent years, Kent and Medway’s creative opportunities and infrastructure have thrived – with places such as Margate securing a prominent reputation as a cultural hotspot. Medway is home to a number of cultural organisations, and the local authority has strong ambitions for art and culture to reach more of the local community, as well as developing the area’s offer as a creative destination.

Medway’s creative potential has been recognised by the Arts Council and was awarded funding as part of their national Creative People and Places programme, funded by the National Lottery. The ongoing programme seeks to support the investment in individual, local talent – helping creatives get other members of the community involved and enthused in culture. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Medway has received £1,028,821 investment from the Arts Council through the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. On the back of this investment, being a priority place will boost the growth of local opportunities for arts and culture through partnership and collaboration.

These places have been chosen through a set of criteria based on a review of current public investment and opportunities to engage with creative and cultural activity. Each of the priority places are ambitious to drive positive change through culture.

In the last decade, the Arts Council has significantly shifted its investment outside of London. The aim in Let’s Create is to increase focus on specific places underserved in the past. Priority places are just one of the ways in which the Arts Council are committed to levelling up by strengthening cultural and creativity opportunities in a targeted way. Investment will increase in a range of other locations through Arts Council’s own programmes such as Creative People & Places (budget for 2021-22 £23 million), the new Place Partnership fund (budget for 2021-22 £7 million), and the Government funding streams that Arts Council support: UK City of Culture (the City of Coventry has received nearly £21 million for 2021), and the Stronger Towns Fund (£1.6 billion fund from 2019 to 2026).

Building on the spirit of imagination and innovation

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “Artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries have found creative new ways to serve their audiences and communities since the start of the pandemic. Our new Delivery Plan shows how we’ll work with them to build on that spirit of imagination and innovation as our society reopens. It’s particularly exciting to be focusing on our 54 priority places over the coming years, as part of the Arts Council’s commitment to play its part in delivering on the government’s programme of levelling up. We’re looking forward to nurturing dynamic new partnerships with local people and organisations in each of these locations.”

Vital recognition of Medway’s ambition to embrace culture

Hazel Edwards, South East Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “Our priority places approach provides a vital recognition that there are places across the country with huge ambition to embrace everything that culture can offer, but need more than just funding to make that happen. Through working strategically with local partners, we can bring them together and support them as they develop the local cultural infrastructure, which will in turn create vital opportunities for both artists and local communities. This work takes time and by establishing Medway as a priority place, we’re committing our time and expertise to work hand-in-hand with them as they develop their cultural offering and identity.”

Celebrating the strengths and creativity of all residents

Cllr Howard Doe, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “We are delighted that Medway has been highlighted by Arts Council England as one of their priority places. Medway is currently at an important point in its creative journey. Our new ten-year cultural strategy provides a bold new vision that speaks to Medway’s broadest aspirations to put culture centre stage. Championed by the new Creative Medway Compact, formed of creatives, educators, regeneration and business experts alongside health and wellbeing professionals it sets out how we will show the rest of the world how proud we are of our home.

“There are significant opportunities offered to us on many fronts; through our monumental regeneration programme, our economic potential, our geographical advantage, our bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025, our aspiration to become a Child-Friendly City as well as our bid for City Status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Our ambition is to be internationally recognised for the area’s creativity and culture by 2030. Diverse, collaborative and engaged, we will celebrate the strengths and creativity of all our residents.”