Published date 11 December 2023

Every child to experience wonder of West’s arts as Mayor brings 150 cultural leaders together

Every child in the West of England will enjoy a cultural experience thanks to ‘Culture West’, launched by regional Mayor Dan Norris and Arts Council England.

The Mayor secured £1 million of investment from Arts Council England and is providing £1.5 million of match funding plus £640k from regional partners to create ‘Culture West’.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the two-year, £3 million scheme that will open up the creative sector to more talent, and build a more resilient West of England creative sector, the Mayor said local children were missing out on the West’s cultural offerings right on their doorstep.

1 in 3 children say they have not visited a museum in the past year. This rises to nearly fifty percent of less privileged pupils, according to a recent study carried out by UK charity, the Art Fund.

Determined to change this, Mr Norris’ Mayoral Combined Authority and the Arts Council England have brought together 150 regional creative and cultural organisations.

New cash and support will enable schools to organise trips to the West of England’s fantastic theatres, galleries and museums. Plus, musicians, painters and poets will head to the classroom for a series of “artist residencies” with local school pupils.

But this is just one strand of a strategic initiative to make the world-leading West of England creative industries more resilient after a tricky few years, provide training and other opportunities for those in the sector, and open up creative spaces and career opportunities to more people.

In fact, Culture West will set up two new performing arts and music festivals in the West and create new opportunities for young people to enter and thrive in the creative sector.

And it is estimated that Culture West’s activities will also provide work for over 400 local creative freelancers, while there will also be bespoke programmes of support for creative businesses right across the sector helping to retain diverse talent in the region – building on top programmes already run by the Mayoral Combined Authority.

Mayor Norris said:We only get one childhood but too many children have been denied the rich experiences that set them up for life. Seeing the wonders of the West is eye-opening and inspiring - and I don't want a single child to miss out.

“Because our region has produced some truly remarkable stars – Cary Grant, Banksy, Maisie Williams and Shaun the Sheep. We have amazing museums and some of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world. A child’s chance to enjoy museums, galleries and historical places and learn more about the creative greats from our part of the world shouldn’t be determined by their class.

“Creativity and culture runs through our region’s veins – it really is the lifeblood of the West of England and is part of what makes us special and world-beating. I’m proud to back our fantastic creative talent here in the West of England.”

Phil Gibby, South West Area Director, Arts Council England said: “Each of us, no matter our personal characteristics, should be able to live, learn and work creatively. 

"That is why we are thrilled to commit £1 million in public funding to a Place Partnership with the West of England Combined Authority, ensuring access and inclusion are placed at the heart of cultural experiences in Bristol and beyond. 

"This is a pivotal moment for creative practitioners and audiences in the region – one we are confident will be felt for many decades to come.”

To achieve change across the sector, the Mayoral Combined Authority will also hold an open dialogue with the public to co-design a new set of priorities for creative investments and partnerships through the West's first Citizens Assembly for Culture next year.

Trinity's CEO, Emma Harvey said: 'Trinity, St Paul’s Carnival, and Citizens In Power are thrilled to be collaborating with the West of England Combined Authority on the development of a ‘Citizens Assembly for Culture’. 

"By placing community involvement at the heart of shaping the region’s delivery plan, we hope everyone living and working in the region will have the opportunity to lead culturally enriched lives and realise their creative potential."

It is estimated that Culture West’s activities will provide work for over 400 local creative freelancers.

Freelancer Ryan Francis added: “Culture West will greatly enhance the freelance creative community in the region for multiple reasons such as, regular paid work, training and development, collaboration and overall, supporting a massive pool of freelancers who come from underrepresented backgrounds who often get overlooked. 

"It's fantastic that the West of England Combined Authority is stepping up to the challenge and helping provide mass opportunity to those who otherwise wouldn't get it.”

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