The pledge to set up the programme is part of the region’s first ever cultural strategy, which will run for five years until 2024.

Photo of Bolton
Gulliver's Travels, by Bolton Octagon
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Bolton Documentary Photography

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has announced plans to set up a ‘Town of Culture’ award as one of the flagship proposals in its first ever cultural strategy.

The competition, inspired by the City of Culture and Borough of Culture programmes that already exist for the UK and London, will be launched this summer, choosing a town to hold the accolade throughout 2020.

A spokesperson for the authority said the programme is intended to be an annual scheme, with the level of funding to be determined at a later date.

Strategy

The award will form part of the authority’s plans to make the city “the best place in the world to create, participate and engage with culture and heritage”. The new strategy, covering the period from April 2019 to March 2024, identifies three key priorities: establishing the conditions for creativity to flourish; enriching the lives of all people through engagement with culture and heritage; and celebrating and protecting the region’s culture.

The plans follow consultation with hundreds of Greater Manchester residents to find out what culture and creativity meant to them. Responses revealed a broad understanding of these concepts, encompassing areas including religion, food, sport, and enjoying the outdoors.

The cultural vision is intended to support the successful delivery of the wider Greater Manchester strategy, which aims to make the region “one of the best places in the world to grow up and grow old”.

"This strategy sets out how, through investment and partnership, our ten local authorities, and the cultural organisations that work within them, can ensure everyone is able to enjoy the richness of Greater Manchester’s culture and heritage,” commented Linda Thomas, Greater Manchester portfolio lead for Culture.

"We want our people to feel ownership of the cultural offer of Greater Manchester so they feel empowered to tell their stories and the stories of our places, locally, nationally and internationally. We want our cultural offer to be representative of the diversity of our people. We want talent, not background, to be the determining factor of creative success in Greater Manchester.

"I’m determined to ensure our cultural organisations can thrive and are able to attract and retain the very best talent. We want people to visit our attractions and people to choose to live in our cities and towns because they are vibrant, inclusive and exciting."

Aims

The document sets out an aim for the region’s cultural offer to reflect the diversity of residents by 2024, noting that the Government’s Active Lives survey shows a 15 percentage point difference in levels of engagement and participation between the most and least engaged districts of GM.

It also hopes to achieve:

  • A 20% increase in cultural participation across Greater Manchester
  • Increased “parity of engagement” with culture across the city region’s 10 districts
  • A 20% increase in cultural visits to the area.

“The ambition of this strategy is to set out how, through investment and partnership, and by using our devolved powers, our ten local authorities, and the cultural organisations that work within them, can ensure all can enjoy the richness of Greater Manchester’s culture and heritage,” the document reads.

“We want talent, not background, to be the determining factor of creative success in Greater Manchester.”

EBacc

The strategy also aims to increase the uptake of cultural subjects at GCSE and A Level. A spokesperson for the council said the authority wants all residents to “see a clear pathway to and value of” a career in the creative industries, as well as the value of a creative education to other subject areas and parts of the economy.

Research by AP and others has consistently revealed the negative impact of the Government’s English Baccalaureate policy on access to the arts in schools. 

The Greater Manchester spokesperson added that the authority understands the benefit of a cultural or creative education to the wellbeing of its residents, at all stages in life. “[We] want to support our residents to enjoy a creative education, whether that’s within the curriculum or not,” they added. “An increase in the uptake of cultural subjects at GCSE and A Level is one way that we’ll encourage and measure this.”

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