Wirral launches 2024 Borough of Culture

A major music festival, a huge globe display, art projects and community events have been revealed as part of plans to “highlight the very best of the Wirral” over the next year.

The events are part of an £800,000 investment in arts and culture by Wirral Council, UK Government, and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, as it hosts the Borough of Culture for the second time. The last time the council hosted the title was in 2019.

The Borough of Culture rotates between the different boroughs that make up the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority with an aim to celebrate areas outside of Liverpool.

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram. Credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said, This is an opportunity for Wirral to forge its own identity with a year in the spotlight around culture,” adding: “Let’s put Wirral back on the map.”

Previously released plans showed an arts festival will be held in New Brighton funded with £145,000 while £120,000 will be spent on two celebration events in the spring and autumn.

The year was kicked off with a video presentation at the Williamson Art Gallery on 24 January showing plans for touring artwork Gaia to be displayed in Birkenhead Park celebrating the park’s history and the local authority’s bid for it to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There were also plans for a heritage festival, events held in libraries across Wirral, a gallery in the Bloom Building, and events at Eureka! Science and Discovery.

Craig Pennington, who runs Birkenhead music venue Future Yard, has helped shape the programme of events taking place over the course of the year. For the last Borough of Culture, Future Yard held a festival in front of Birkenhead Town Hall but this year they plan to take things to the next level hosting performances in multiple venues across the town on the August bank holiday weekend.

The festival will be called Future Now. Mr Pennington said, “We are going to be using Birkenhead Town Hall and various places around Argyle Street. It will be about encouraging people to get lost in Birkenhead and exploring new music and exploring the likes of the town as well.”

This he hopes will build on the last time the Borough of Culture was held in Wirral with the various organisations set up then now well established. He said, “What comes next are the groups and the arts organisations that will be born out of 2024,” adding, “This gives the support framework for the artists but also the infrastructure that supports them.”

He added, “Eurovision was an amazing opportunity to articulate the soft and hard power that culture provides to places. Both in terms of telling a different story and reimagining a places’ story.

“There is a similar thing happening in Birkenhead. I think Birkenhead sees itself different from how it did a few years ago. It gives local people a really tangible way of being proud of where they are from.”

Patric Rogers. Credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

Patric Rogers, from Rock Ferry, and the Material Matters collective will be running an 30-artist led experience called Into the Wyld over five months based around Wirral’s connections to the medieval tale Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

He said, “I am really trying to create an opportunity for other contemporary artists. It feels like at the moment Wirral is ambitious culturally and taking a risk on the type of work we are creating. It feels like a breath of fresh air for our area.”

Alison Bailey Smith. Credit: Ed Barnes

Alison Bailey Smith will be running Wirral MakeFest for the second time, an event promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths running from both Birkenhead Central Library and the Williamson Art Gallery. This will include crafts, virtual reality, and a number of different sessions with over 50 makers involved.

She said, “I worked on the Borough of Culture last time, it was great but then Covid hit us and so many things that we put in place weren’t able to progress.

“I do not think people realise how much happens on the Wirral in terms of history and heritage and I think it’s interesting the program is shaped a bit more by the community.”

Wirral South MP Alison McGovern, who previously worked for the charitable Art Fund before becoming an MP, hopes the year will showcase a different side of Birkenhead and Wirral and encourage people of all ages to get involved in arts and culture.

She said, “I feel like everywhere has got problems but we have a really great culture and history and all those stories deserve to be told too, not just the negatives,” adding, “I think this is a good opportunity for discovery.

“It’s not just our countryside, there are loads of cultural experiences that people do not know enough about so maybe we are undiscovered but that gives the opportunity for people to find out something they wouldn’t expect.”

Lead image: Mayor Cllr Jerry Williams. Credit: www.fotopiaimages.com

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Sir Phil Redmond CBE, television producer and screenwriter. Credit: www.fotopiaimages.com