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Warrington’s new cultural journey begins

Culture Published: Monday, 12th February 2018

Leading figures from the world of arts and culture have come together to begin mapping out Warrington’s cultural future.

Warrington’s Cultural Commission has met for the first time, to begin laying the foundations of the future direction of culture in the borough.

Set up to build on the work already carried out as part of last year’s City of Culture bid and the feedback received, the Commission is made up of leading individuals from arts, culture, business and the third sector. They will lead an open debate, focusing on cultural provision in Warrington and future opportunities to strengthen the borough’s cultural offer.

A key theme emerging from the initial group discussions is the importance of children and young people - along with diverse communities in every part of the borough - playing a central role in Warrington’s culture plans.

At the meeting, Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for Culture and partnerships, Cllr Dan Price, shared feedback from Warrington’s recent City of Culture bid, including what had been praised and areas for development.

Warrington’s cultural ‘desk top review’ was also presented, a key document for Warrington’s cultural future, which has been developed to explore international, national and local research into the impacts of investment in culture on people’s health, well-being and lifestyles, the economy and on the identity of the place itself. The desk top review also looks at the cultural assets Warrington currently holds, and considers possibilities for future development.

Commission Chair, Adrian Friedli, said:  Having contributed to Warrington’s initial bid for UK City of Culture, I was delighted to be invited to Chair the Commission, to help build on the creative ideas and partnerships that were generated by that process, and to set out an ambitious vision for Warrington as a place committed to culture being at the heart of shaping its future.

“Our initial meeting made clear that Commission members bring a wealth of expertise and passion to enable Warrington’s to harness its creative talent and potential, in order to develop an inspiring and diverse programme that engages with all parts of the borough, and attracts audiences to Warrington as a distinctive and innovative cultural destination.”

Cllr Dan Price said: “Our bid for City of Culture was just the beginning. It laid the foundations for something very special to happen here in Warrington, changing our way of thinking about culture and the arts, and giving us a new energy and focus. We are already seeing real results from our bid, such as bringing the Neighbourhood Weekender to Victoria Park – our biggest festival for more than 20 years. The Cultural Commission will further harness this energy and help us develop a new cultural vision for our borough.

“It’s great news that our discussions are now under way. I’m confident that we can deliver a really exciting cultural vision – one which begins to addresses any gaps we have, builds on our strengths and makes Warrington a place where culture can thrive.”

The Commission aims to review local, national and international evidence and research, seeking input from local stakeholders, recognised specialists and key cultural interest groups. It will also take account of Warrington’s desire to establish a unique sense of place, in which culture plays a key part.

Based on the informed debate and associated research, the Commission will draw evidence-based conclusions on Warrington’s current cultural position and identify opportunities and areas for improvement. It will provide realistic yet aspirational recommendations to further Warrington’s ambitions, which will be publicly reported.

Following the conclusion of the Commission, commission members will, where possible, act as champions for culture and support the development of a meaningful action plan to address the recommendations made.

The members of Warrington’s Cultural Commission are:

•          Cllr Dan Price – Executive Board Member for Culture and Partnerships, Warrington Borough Council
•          Andy Farrall – Executive Director, Warrington Borough Council
•          Emma Hutchinson – Managing Director, Culture Warrington
•          Bill Carr – Managing Director, Carpe Diem and Chair of Regional Institute of Directors Cheshire
•          Ben Dunne – Founder, River Reeves Foundation
•          Janice Pounds – Music Education Commissioner, Warrington Borough Council
•          Rob Griffiths – Entrepreneur/Businessman
•          Sebastian Farrell – Theatre for Warrington
•          Patrick Fox – Director, Heart of Glass, St Helens
•          Kate Lindley - Head of Transformation, Warrington Borough Council
•          Stef Woof – Warrington Voluntary Action, 3rd Sector Hub representative
•          Brendan O'Sullivan - Dean of Arts and Humanities, University of Chester
•          Leah Biddle – Cultural Partnership Manager, Warrington Wolves Foundation
•          Jude Bird – Head of Education, Leadership and Research, Curious Minds 
•          Professor Mike Stubbs – Director, FACT
•          Stephen Broadbent – Artist (Warrington River of Life)