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Mayor of London revives Borough of Culture

Above: We Are Lewisham promotion for London Borough of Culture 2022

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced that his flagship London Borough of Culture programme will return to the capital in 2025 and 2027. Boroughs are to be invited to bid for £1.35m to put on a spectacular year of world-class cultural events and put culture at the heart of their plans for the future. The Mayor launched London Borough of Culture in 2017 to ensure all Londoners have access to culture, to give grassroots creativity the chance to shine and demonstrate how culture can inspire and unleash the potential of young Londoners. It has been a game-changer for culture in the capital - more than 3,000 young people, 2,200 artists and partners, 3,370 volunteers and 315 schools have taken part in the successful creative programmes delivered by previous winners Waltham Forest, Brent and Lewisham. The first London Borough of Culture in Waltham Forest not only attracted 500,000 visitors but has left a very strong legacy, with Fellowship Square becoming a cultural hub of festivals and programming. In Brent a worldwide audience of 13.3 million tuned in for a podcast series created by young people in the borough and for every £1 spent by Brent Council, an additional £2 was raised from other funders. In Lewisham there was over £1.1 million in additional spend in the local area and more than 8,000 young people were supported with training and careers advice to access jobs in the creative sector. These boroughs have also established long-lasting legacies with the reopening of the Broadway Theatre in Lewisham, and the brand new Soho Theatre Walthamstow. The investment from the Mayor has gone a long way – leveraging an additional £19m of funding for boroughs and communities from partners including Arts Council England, City Bridge Trust, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Airbnb. This year’s London Borough of Culture is Croydon, who began a big, bold celebration of the borough’s unique identity, heritage and character on Saturday. Their programme is showcasing the best of Croydon, with flagship events, international headliners, emerging home-grown talent and hundreds of grassroots activities led by organisations in every corner of the borough. Applications to be the London Borough of Culture in 2025 and 2027 open next month, with the winners to be announced early next year. Three boroughs will also receive £200,000 through the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Awards for individual projects that are designed to inspire change. Previous award winners have seen 84 schools and nearly 6,000 people involved. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “I’m delighted to announce that the London Borough of Culture will return in 2025 and 2027. It has shown us the genuine power of culture to transform people’s lives, reimagine areas, raise confidence and create civic pride. It has brought diverse communities together, given grassroots creativity the chance to shine and shown how culture can inspire and unleash the potential of young Londoners, leaving a long-lasting legacy. I look forward to seeing the creativity of our boroughs shine through in their bids as we work to build a better and fairer London for everyone.”

Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, said: “ As last year’s London Borough of Culture, We Are Lewisham saw more than 400,000 people take part in over 600 brilliant events right across our borough – from Deptford to Downham, in our venues, libraries, parks and high streets. More than 8,000 young people were supported with training and careers advice to access jobs in the creative sector and our businesses benefited from people visiting the borough or rediscovering their local area. The dust is still settling off the back of an incredible year, I’m looking forward to making sure we really carry this enthusiasm and ambition forward.

Waltham Forest Leader, Cllr Grace Williams, said: “Being the first-ever London Borough of Culture in 2019 was a watershed moment for Waltham Forest. During our year of celebrating the borough’s rich cultural heritage with our diverse communities we attracted 500,000 visitors to events, activities and workshops, and over £4.1million was spent in the local area by audiences across 10 headline events. We’re still building on the legacy of the Borough of Culture programme – later this year we’ll open Soho Theatre Walthamstow, a 950 seat arts venue and cultural hub, in partnership with Soho Theatre. We are using the success of the year to establish Waltham Forest as an exciting and inclusive cultural destination for residents and visitors from across the capital and beyond.”

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said: “We built Brent 2020, the London Borough of Cultures, with our community who came up with the ideas, the people, the stories and the histories. The global pandemic challenged us but we reached audiences of over 800,000 who enjoyed events in person and online. We are continuing to build on the buzz created by Brent 2020 by supporting our creative practitioners to reach new audiences and amplifying the work being done by Brent’s cultural sector, not least our Arts Council National Portfolio Organisations which have doubled in number since 2020. My advice to other boroughs? Go for it – you won’t regret it!”


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