Rise, the opening event of Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture, is on 18 January

Brent gears up for borough of culture

Eleanor Mills, Issue 120/01, 24.12.2019
Brent's year as London Borough of Culture will put the area on the cultural map
Brent has been named the London Borough of Culture (LBoC) 2020 by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, following in the footsteps of the inaugural recipient of the award, Waltham Forest, which held a programme of cultural events last year.

The initiative aims to “bring Londoners of all ages and backgrounds together”, and “place culture firmly at the heart of local communities” via a “programme of ambitious cultural activities celebrating the unique character of local people and places”.

In the first two years, 22 of the 32 London boroughs submitted bids. Six received a Cultural Impact Award for exemplary individual projects, which have taken place between 2018 and 2020. Waltham Forest and Brent each received £1.35m.

Lorna Lee, the executive director of communications and communities at LBoC 2019, who oversaw the cultural programme in Waltham Forest, says the award brought a range of changes inside and outside the borough, and within the council itself. Last year, more than 1,000 events were delivered through about 800 partnerships.

“We already knew that Waltham Forest was a creative place with a heritage of creative people, but we’ve continued to discover the incredible depth and breadth of talent and enthusiasm in the borough,” says Lee.

“One of the areas of change has been in creating new, and strengthening existing, networks. Whether through our grants programme or commissions, people from across the borough have come together to create activity and get involved.”

During the first nine months of the year, there were more than 510,000 additional visits to cultural activity across the borough, each of the 88 local schools actively participated and 43% of households had attended an LBoC event. The target was to attract 500,000 visits to cultural activity, and to engage with 80% of schools and 85% of households.

Lois Stonock, the artistic director of Brent 2020, says: “We want our programme to put Brent on the map. We want it to platform the artists, movements and history of the borough. It is giving us the opportunity to work closely with artists and the creative sector in Brent to understand what is important to them and how we can support them in the long term.”

Parallel to the LoBC initiative, £11m is being invested in six Creative Enterprise Zones, including the outer London boroughs of Croydon, Hounslow and Haringey, to “support artists and creative businesses, and develop skills and jobs for Londoners”.

Justine Simons, the deputy mayor of London, says: “From the London Borough of Culture to the six Creative Enterprise Zones and Culture Seeds grants giving grassroots creativity the chance to shine, this is the most ambitious cultural programme City Hall has ever delivered.”

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