Herefordshire is being given £748,000 to embed culture in every day thinking.
Sixteen areas across England will receive cash from the pilot Great Places Scheme, one of the showcase elements of the government’s Culture White Paper.
The aim is twofold: ensuring that investment in culture made by organisations like Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund has a lasting impact (and “the maximum positive impact on jobs, economics, educational attainment, community cohesion, health and wellbeing”), and to persuade local authorities and businesses to invest in local culture themselves.
The money awarded to Herefordshire’s a Great Place will be spent on working with artists and arts and heritage organisations to “promote all the things that make the county special”.
Details of the ambitious programme of events, activities, competitions, promotion and research are yet to be revealed, but they’ll likely be linked to education, tourism, health and wellbeing - demonstrating the contribution culture plays to the county’s economy.
Money ring-fenced for culture is much-needed. It comes less than a year after Herefordshire Council, in a bid to balance its own books, withdrew financial support for The Courtyard in Hereford and cut its entire arts commissioning grants scheme, impacting the likes of Ledbury Poetry Festival and 2Faced Dance.
Cllr Tony Johnson, leader of Herefordshire Council, said the Great Places Scheme would present opportunities for local communities to adopt and manage sports pitches, parks and open spaces.
Whether you view that as empowering communities to create, curate and protect Herefordshire’s existing cultural treasures, or a gentle way of saying ‘you want it, you pay for it’ will depend on your own experience of council cuts vs cultural pride.
The Great Places grant has been secured by Herefordshire Cultural Partnership (HCP), the group behind Herefordshire’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2021.
Roger Morgan, chair of HCP, said the win demonstrated the power of arts and heritage organisations working together with business groups and the council, and a serious boost for the City of Culture bid.
Through its pilot scheme, Great Places also awarded funding to Gloucester (£1.4m), Barnsley and Rotherham (£1.2m), Greater Manchester (£1.4m) and Coventry (£1.4m). The latter is also bidding to be City of Culture and has already, if the branded t-shirts and public launches are anything to go by, invested a fair amount in that campaign.
In comparison Herefordshire’s bid is not hosted by a local authority but by consortium of arts and heritage organisations.
The next HCP public meeting is hosted by the Hereford College of Arts on April 4.
For more about Great Places, head to www.greatplacescheme.org.uk.