Arts fest set for ‘transformational’ £600k boost
A huge funding boost which will create a significant, lasting and transformational change within Warrington’s cultural offer has been unlocked.
Arts Council England has awarded Culture Warrington a £600,000 grant as part of its ‘Place Partnership Fund’.
This combined with significant match funding from Warrington Borough Council and Warrington BID bring the total to £840,000 and will enable the arts charity to create a vibrant two-year programme focused on developing a step change for Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival.
The game changing sum of money will not only extend the festival’s scope and scale but renew its focus on accessible large-scale, outdoor and family-friendly events. For example, previous awe-inspiring installations like Museum of the Moon and immersive, uplifting community gatherings such as Light Night will become more commonplace.
The grant will also act as a catalyst for three new project areas – ‘community engagement’, ‘artist development’ and ‘children and young people’ in a bid to reach both new audiences and emerging creatives.
Four new job roles will be created by December with the programmes going live this January. The reinvigorated Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival (WCAF) will then take place in the spring with event announcements from February.
The aim is to develop an ambitious cultural programme for all ages and backgrounds that will unite the community, support the economy, bring performances and workshops into non-conventional spaces to break down barriers to the arts, engender a sense of pride of place and address wellbeing and social priorities in a deep and lasting way.
Leah Biddle, Director of Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, is leading on the project and has been working on the application to the Arts Council since January.
She said: “We are delighted to have been awarded such a significant grant from Arts Council England. Our established festival has continued to grow and evolve each year and this investment will ensure we can create a transformational change within Warrington’s cultural sector.
“We have responded to feedback to create a new children and young people’s programme, enhancing existing activity and developing unique opportunities to explore pathways into the creative industries.
“We will strengthen our existing commitment to supporting the plethora of creative talent we have in the town, creating even more opportunities for artists to make and present new work, developing skills and opportunities.
“In addition, our community can expect to see an even wider programme of exceptional performance, exhibition, installation and large-scale events that the festival is renowned for, ensuring that over the time the festival becomes a place-based event, embedded within Warrington’s community.”
The strengthened WCAF programme will also include a fully developed Fringe Festival, a raft of training opportunities for artists and a young producers’ project while also retaining key elements that have been popular over the years like the Open Exhibition.
Meanwhile, the creation of a small cohort of associate artists will help guide the festival’s future direction alongside a series of local and regional partnerships.
Cllr Russ Bowden, Warrington Borough Council Leader, added: “This funding from Arts Council England is excellent news for our town. It will help us drive forward with the continued growth of our events and festival programme, helping us deliver even more exciting, diverse and inclusive events for our communities.
“High quality cultural events are an essential part of Warrington’s offer, as they play a crucial role in making our area an attractive and vibrant destination to visit, as well as bringing social and health and wellbeing benefits.
“I’m looking forward to us working in partnership with Culture Warrington to deliver a fantastic two-year programme, which engages people of all ages, creates new jobs and training opportunities, and enables us to continue building Warrington’s reputation as a place of cultural excellence.”
The Arts Council’s Place Partnership Fund supports groups of organisations to work in partnership to create lasting cultural and creative opportunities in a specific geographical area. The activity should also relate to the strategic cultural development aspirations of the place.
Jen Cleary, Director North for Arts Council England, said: “Our Let’s Create strategy aims to ensure that the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish. Our Place Partnership Fund helps us do this by supporting projects where a group of organisations work together to make a long-term difference to the cultural and creative life of the community.
“I’m delighted that we have awarded £600,000 to Culture Warrington to develop Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival and in particular its focus on community engagement, artist development and children and young people. I’m sure that the festival will bring the community together while providing exciting opportunities for artists and the local cultural sector and I look forward to seeing how the plans develop.”
Andrea Morley, Project Manager for Warrington BID, said the boosted Contemporary Arts Festival would also enhance the town centre’s wider events programme making Warrington a ‘destination of choice’ in the north west.
She said: “Through the partnership with Culture Warrington and Warrington Borough Council, it is important that Warrington BID supports our business community to embrace the changes to our cultural offer, ultimately making Warrington a destination of choice, that provides cultural experiences that are accessible to all.
“This two year programme is just the start of some ambitious changes to the large, outdoor family-friendly events planned for our town centre.”