Communities across Medway will be able to get involved with plans for new creative and cultural events and activities.
Medway Council has set out its commitment to celebrate the area’s vibrant and innovative cultural scene, as well as shape its future.
The council will work with local artists and creative individuals, as well as schools, universities, youth groups and voluntary organisations to offer residents more opportunities to get involved with exciting projects and activities on their doorstep. This includes working with creative partners to organise new events alongside the council’s free annual festivals programme.
The plans have been set out in a new Cultural Strategy, which was adopted at a council cabinet meeting earlier this month. The 10-year strategy was drafted by local residents who have a passion for, and work in, the creative sector following a public consultation. The group established Creative Medway, a Medway-wide partnership of creatives, members of the public and Medway Council.
The strategy highlights Medway’s vision to develop and improve its cultural offer and provide more opportunities for its residents, including helping to shape art and culture in Medway for future generations.
The ambitious strategy also sets out Medway’s aim to be nationally, and internationally, recognised for the area’s creativity and culture.
It will be the foundation of Medway’s bid for UK City of Culture 2025. The plans look beyond 2025, leading the legacy of the City of Culture bid, identifying opportunities for investment and development which support Medway’s longer-term vision to be recognised as a Child-Friendly City, putting Medway’s young people at the heart of everything the council does.
'Helping residents access Medway’s rich cultural offerings'
Cllr Howard Doe, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “I am pleased that we have adopted Medway’s new cultural strategy. Medway is at an important part of its creative journey and, alongside our partners, we have the chance to make lasting change. We are committed to helping residents access Medway’s rich cultural offerings and creating opportunities for children and young people to become more involved in the arts. Medway’s Cultural Strategy supports the area’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025 as well as our aspiration to become a Child-Friendly City.”
Fresh start full of hope and aspiration
Medway creatives Aidan Dooley, Alex Cameron, Christian Caruana, David Stokes, Fiona Watt, Jatin Patel, Kate Mechedou, Lucy Medhurst, Margherita Gramegna, Miriam Dooley and Sam Rapp all worked together as part of the Medway Cultural Strategy Drafting Group. Only two members of the group work for organisations, one is an engineer, and the others are freelance practitioners operating as sole traders or small companies across film, fashion, theatre, literature, visual arts, education and heritage.
They said: “Somehow, we found ourselves putting up our hands and volunteering our time to work on the first draft of the strategy: to take all the incredible conversations that happened during the first Open Space event at the Corn Exchange and all the strategy theme sessions and shape them into a collective voice we feel the whole of Medway can be proud of. The strategy has captured our need as a Medway community to find new ways to share our resources and to care for one another and this place in a fair, totally inclusive, kind and open way. This is a fresh start full of hope and aspiration. Now it is time for every one of us to work together to make it a reality.”
Medway is already seeing national recognition of its cultural strategy.
Medway Council’s Head of Culture and Libraries, Paul Cowell, has been shortlisted in the National Campaign for the Arts' (NCA) Hearts For The Arts Awards 2021. Paul has been shortlisted in the Best Arts Champion – Local Authority or Cultural Trust Worker category for his work in culture, libraries, and festivals and for his community-engaged development of Medway’s new cultural strategy.
Sea Folk Sing, a two-year project involving Medway and Swale residents aged 55 and above, led by Ideas Test and Sparked Echo has also been shortlisted in the Best Arts Project category. The creative writing workshops, which led to the production of new compositions, was supported by Medway Council, Kent County Council, Arts Council England and Swale Borough Council.
This year’s Hearts for the Arts Award winners will be announced on 14 February.