Arts council England announces commitment to Blackburn with Darwen as one of 54 priority places nationally

Published Thursday 16 September 2021 at 10:28

Today, Arts Council England has announced that Blackburn with Darwen will be one of 15 priority places in the North where they want to develop new opportunities for investment, as part of the publication of its three-year Delivery Plan for 2021 – 2024.

Arts Council England’s three-year Delivery Plan sets out a detailed roadmap to implement the vision of their strategy Let’s Create: by 2030 England will be a country in which the creativity of each individual is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where everyone has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. The Delivery Plan highlights where there are opportunities for investment, collaboration, and progress.

The publication of the Delivery Plan follows the Government’s unprecedented £1.96 billion Culture Recovery Fund, administered by the Arts Council and other bodies. Driven by the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, with the backing of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the Culture Recovery Fund is the biggest one-off investment in culture from the Government in history, providing a vital lifeline to save our cultural sector and help organisations prepare for reopening.

Let’s Create was written just before the pandemic, but the vision still holds true and if anything is even more critical now. Creativity and culture can, and should, play a part in helping level up the country.

To help make this vision a reality the Delivery Plan names 54 priority places across England. Arts Council will work closely with these locations to develop new opportunities for investment, both from the Arts Council and other partners. Across the North, from Barnsley to Blackpool, South Tyneside to Kirklees, County Durham to Wigan, and Barrow-in-Furness to the Tees Valley, priority places recognises the need for cultural investment, and it will give more people the opportunity to enjoy high-quality cultural experiences in their communities and neighbourhoods.

Blackburn with Darwen has great potential to build on its distinctive cultural heritage, including its historical links to the textile industry, and to address low levels of cultural participation by engaging local communities in new creative opportunities. Blackburn with Darwen Council is committed to cultural development, with plans to invest in its libraries, theatres and outdoor spaces. This will provide opportunities for the area’s already-innovative cultural organisations, such as Super Slow Way, the National Festival of Making and the British Textile Biennial, to enhance their impact and evolve further.

A Lancashire-wide partnership bid to host the 2025 City of Culture brings additional opportunity and potential for creative innovation and collaboration. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Blackburn with Darwen has received £2,180,884 investment from the Arts Council through the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

These places have been chosen through a set of criteria based on a review of current public investment and opportunities to engage with creative and cultural activity. Each of the priority places are ambitious to drive positive change through culture.

In the last decade, the Arts Council has significantly shifted its investment outside of London. The aim in Let’s Create is to increase focus on specific places underserved in the past. Priority places are just one of the ways in which the Arts Council is committed to levelling up by strengthening cultural and creativity opportunities in a targeted way. Investment will increase in a range of other locations through the Arts Council’s own programmes such as Creative People & Places (budget for 2021-22 £23 million), the new Place Partnership fund (budget for 2021-22 £7 million), and the Government funding streams that the Arts Council supports: UK City of Culture (the City of Coventry has received nearly £21 million for 2021), and the Stronger Towns Fund (£1.6 billion fund from 2019 to 2026).

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, says:

Artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries have found creative new ways to serve their audiences and communities since the start of the pandemic. Our new Delivery Plan shows how we’ll work with them to build on that spirit of imagination and innovation as our society reopens. It’s particularly exciting to be focusing on our 54 priority places over the coming years, as part of the Arts Council’s commitment to play its part in delivering on the government’s programme of levelling up. We’re looking forward to nurturing dynamic new partnerships with local people and organisations in each of these locations.

Jennifer Cleary, Director, North, Arts Council England said:

I am excited today to announce that Blackburn with Darwen is one of our 15 priority places across the North. The launch of our Delivery Plan, which sets out how we’ll implement our new 10-year strategy Let’s Create, and the announcement of our priority places will see us working closely with partners across Blackburn with Darwen to ensure that creativity and culture can play a key role in levelling up across the North.

Public investment in the arts is vital and never more so than as we emerge from the pandemic. It has been fantastic to see the Government’s commitment to art and culture through the Culture Recovery Fund which has provided a lifeline to arts and cultural organisations. The launch of our Delivery Plan and announcement of a set of priority places affirms our commitment to investing in the sector to ensure everyone across the country can access art and culture no matter where they live.

It is brilliant to see the commitment of Blackburn with Darwen Council to its cultural sector. Over the past couple of years the presence of culture has grown, as demonstrated by the success of the National Textile Biennial and the Festival of Making. I look forward to working with the local authority and creative organisations and individuals to ensure that the region’s cultural ambitions are realised.

Councillor Mohammed Khan CBE added:

We know that having high quality cultural activity and making the most of our creative talent is an essential ingredient for success in both our borough’s towns. Fair investment is sorely needed and we will welcome any opportunities that directly benefit our residents and support our growing cultural infrastructure.

Find out more about the 54 priority places online at Arts Council England.

Read more on the Delivery Plan in full online at Arts Council England.

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