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Lewisham starts work on a cultural strategy following successful stint as London Borough of Culture focused on young people, community and cultural activism.

Trinity Laban's Hope 4 Justice was part of We Are Lewisham's programme of events

Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Lewisham’s tenure as London Borough of Culture saw the majority of local schools participate during its year-long programme of events, according to a new impact report.

The report, from programme organisers We Are Lewisham, found 92% of local schools got involved in events delivered throughout last year including music, performance arts and installations. 

More than 8,000 young people were also supported with training and careers advice to access jobs in the creative sector, according to Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan.


In addition, over £100,000 of paid work, alongside training and leadership experience, was offered to 80 young people involved in the year-long project.

In total, Lewisham’s programme of events, which focused on the themes of migration, climate and community, drew in £4m of inward investment and attracted over 436,000 participants, alongside a digital audience of almost 475,000.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said Lewisham’s tenure as Borough of Culture had been “spectacular”.

“We Are Lewisham brought together communities, inspired conversation and demonstrated how culture has the power to spur us into action on the most important matters facing us today,” Khan added.

“It has helped make Lewisham even more of a cultural destination and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the borough to create a long-lasting legacy.”

Cultural strategy and legacy projects

Lewisham Council is now developing a cultural strategy that is set to be agreed for the by summer, after elements of We Are Lewisham were found to have supported policy change.

Programmes included Artists of Change, which placed creatives within Lewisham Council’s Climate Emergency and Sanctuary Borough teams for six months, leading to the creation of a community-led Climate Manifesto. 

We Are Lewisham Director Gavin Barlow said he was “especially proud” of Artists of Change: “[It] showed how artists can facilitate dialogue between councils and communities.”

He added: “Cultural activism was a key theme of the year and we wanted to demonstrate how arts and culture can be used to engage people in difficult or challenging conversations, leading to new solutions and real change.”

The impact report says a toolkit and guidance will now be developed to help council staff and partners work with artists in the future.

Lewisham Council opened a consultation into its cultural strategy today (03 April), which will run throughout April. Elsewhere, learnings from the Borough of Culture year are being fed into the council's Corporate Strategy, Local Plan and Local Strategic Partnership and Cultural Strategy.

Looking ahead, the impact report says new event and performance spaces are in the works, including an outdoor space in Lewisham Market, which is being funded following a successful Levelling Up Fund application.

Several temporary spaces designed for the year’s programme are to be made permanent including Climate Home, a new performance space co-designed and built by over a hundred young people and artists on an underused playground in Deptford.

Associate Director of We Are Lewisham Vicki Amedume said the programme was a “true testament to the power of co-creation”.

“It involved thousands of people across the whole borough and reflected the spirit and identity of the place. I’m excited to see how this energy can be harnessed going forwards, as we continue to develop projects such as Climate Home.”