Council prepares bid to become London’s ‘Borough of Culture’

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Justine Simons, deputy mayor for culture, artist Bob and Roberta Smith and London mayor Sadiq Khan. Source: London City Hall
Justine Simons, deputy mayor for culture, artist Bob and Roberta Smith and London mayor Sadiq Khan. Source: London City Hall

Islington Council’s bid to become London’s first Borough of Culture reached its final stages on Wednesday night as the council looks to secure more than £1m of funding to stage a programme of cultural events and initiatives in 2019.

Outstanding cultural initiatives

The competition, announced by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in June, sees the capital’s 32 boroughs compete for the award based on what City Hall refers to as “their artistic vision and ambition to deliver outstanding cultural initiatives in their local area”.

A fairer place

In a report published earlier this month the council outlined its main objective for the bid:  “to focus on how culture can take a more strategic role in making Islington a fairer place to grow-up, live and work”. It aims to reduce inequality in education, skills development, employment and access to creative and cultural activities.

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz who's heading up Islington's bid to become Borough of Culture 2019
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz who is leading Islington’s bid to become Borough of Culture 2019. Source: Islington Labour

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, who heads up the Islington bid, said the process was an opportunity to help tackle inequality, “increasing access to our cultural institutions, so that they are inclusive of everyone in Islington, regardless of their background”.

Arts funding in decline

The mayor’s Borough of Culture initiative comes at a time of declining investment in the arts across the UK. According to the Arts Council’s Annual Report 2016/2017, local authority investment has fallen by £236m, since 2010. National Lottery funding has also slumped with a £6.4m cut in lottery funding for the arts in 2017 so far.

The Council’s own Art Strategy report estimates funding to  arts projects in Islington will reach £1,700,000 this year representing a decrease in funding of approximately £150,000 on 2015/2016 levels.

The closing date for boroughs to submit their bid is the 1 December with the Greater London Authority announcing the winning in February.