The role that culture and creativity has to play in building more resilient and thriving communities has come up in different ways for us over the past few weeks.
Published date: 13 February 2023
In January, we attended an inspiring Symposium hosted by Creative Estuary. This one-day event gave us the opportunity to connect with a range of colleagues from developers to planners, asset managers, policy makers plus other creative practitioners and organisations. Keynote presentations and discussions explored new ways of working and strategic models to enable culture to play its role in town planning and placemaking. It was a packed day; Louise attended the Round Table debating the topic of Levelling Up: People and Places and it was particularly interesting to listen to Paul Cowell, Head of Culture & Libraries at Medway Council share his experiences.
Paul is also one of our key partners working with us on a number of recent and ongoing flagship regeneration projects in Medway, including Rochester Riverside, Chatham Waterfront and Mountbatten House. In January we released a new podcast episode featuring a recent conversation with Paul about his work. Through our discussion, Paul shares insights about his experience as a regular commissioner of public art from a local authority perspective. He also shares his opinion on the role public art has to play alongside architecture, landscaping and infrastructure to create the best possible environment for people to thrive. Paul talked candidly about the pressures and priorities that local authorities face as a result of years of austerity and budget cuts. He is a big advocate for the power of public art to contribute towards flourishing communities. We hope you will have a listen to what drew him to develop his career in this sector and let us know what insights you take from tuning in!
Another initiative we heard about through the Symposium is the growing network of Cultural Compacts that have been set up in cities, towns and rural communities throughout England, with funding support from Arts Council England, to focus on place-based delivery of creativity and culture. The concept was recommended by the Cultural Cities Enquiry, which published a report in February 2019 setting out a collaborative vision for how arts and culture can continue to flourish, while taking a more central role in civic life. It outlines ways that cities can make better use of their cultural assets to compete successfully for talent, tourism and investment – emphasising how important culture is to building places where people want to visit, live and work. It was good to understand more about how this is playing out in our local area through the Creative Medway Cultural Compact.
At the end of the day, as part of the event, Laura joined a guided walk around some of Gravesend’s key sites – looking at an empty shop turned into a creative hub for artists, a new boat service from the riverside into London and hearing about aspirations to welcome visitors into the town using heritage and creativity as a driving force. The guided walk took in some of Gravesend’s cultural and heritage assets and highlighted future plans for the area.
In other news, it is good to hear that Medway School of Arts will be stepping in to fill the void left by the recent closure of UCA, Rochester. We have mentioned in previous blog posts about the negative impact this has created for the creative industries in the area, plus we are both alumni of Kent Institute of Art and Design, Rochester. So, it is heartening to learn that more investment is now being directed to support arts education that will nurture the next generation of talent and create more opportunities.
Looking ahead to the months to come – we await with keen anticipation on the publication of a new Cultural Planning toolkit due this Spring. This new set of practical resources and guidance will be produced by the Town and Country Planning Association and Urban Roots to address how arts and cultural infrastructure can be secured through development, redevelopment and the land use planning process.
And of course, we continue to be busy working on significant public art commissions in Chatham, Dartford, Ebbsfleet and more, so watch this space!