2024 ‘Borough of culture’ plans revealed

Wirral Council has unveiled its plans for a range of festivals, art projects, and community celebrations as it prepares to be the ‘borough of culture.”

The events will take place across 2024 and are part of an £800,000 spend by the council with £200,000 coming from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as well as funding from the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) and Town Deal funds.

The last time the council hosted the title was in 2019. According to the council, the year “should be a celebration of Wirral people and places and a showcase for its creative communities and the power of culture and heritage in regeneration.”

Planned spending includes £208,500 spent on permanent public art projects as part of regeneration efforts in east Wirral and £40,000 on two projects working with young people celebrating their local areas.

£147,000 will also be given out to local organisations “to deliver a lasting legacy” and “deliver events and activities of all kinds in their localities.” This is expected to be launched at the end of the 2023 financial year.

An arts festival will be held in New Brighton with £145,000 going towards this as well as other festivals and cultural events across Wirral.

Wirral Council will also spend £255,000 on delivering a series of activities with £120,000 spent on two celebration events in the spring and autumn. Other events include an artist-led project across Wirral, and activities carried out by libraries, the Floral Pavilion, and Williamson Art Gallery.

However, due to a £620,000 cut in its 2021 budget, event management and production costs for the programme will be outsourced and those who receive grants are being encouraged to get additional funding “to enhance delivery and outcomes.”

At a Wirral Council tourism, communities, culture, and leisure committee meeting, councillors asked for the events to focus on community wealth building as well as ensure events took place across the Wirral, not just in the east.

New Brighton councillor Paul Martin said, “One thing I’m quite conscious of, certainly in my ward, is when events are done to a community rather than with them.” He asked if the council had an events policy that focused on local businesses.

Officers said the council was “not best placed to deliver culture and creativity” and pointed to the programme’s steering group being led by arts venue Future Yard and involved a number of community groups.

Jane Morgan said, “We have tried to embed that in the programme and I think that will result in some really strong outcomes around social impact.”

Cllr Jenny Johnson raised concerns about a focus on eastern Wirral and asked the council to ensure “there’s a very clear geographical spread across our borough so our entire borough feels this borough of culture.”

Specific details of some events haven’t yet been revealed as council officers said they were still working on plans and wanted “some surprises” down the line when the full programme is announced.

Following questions from committee chair Cllr Helen Cameron, officers confirmed Birkenhead Park, which is on a shortlist for UNESCO World Heritage status, will be “front and centre” in its plans.

Officers said they were working to “make things more sustainable” to continue the legacy of the events into 2025 and beyond through the use of the long-term UK SPF funding.

Councillors also debated a strategy looking to boost tourism across the Liverpool City Region including in Wirral.

Image: www.birkenhead2020.com

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