Waltham Forest and Brent crowned first-ever London Boroughs of Culture

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced the winners of the London Borough of Culture competition.

Following a six-month bidding process which saw 22 boroughs submit proposals, the awards went to Waltham Forest for 2019, followed by Brent in 2020. Each winning borough will be awarded £1.35 million of funding to deliver a programme of activities which places culture at the heart of communities and celebrates the unique character of local people and places.

Both winning bids attracted celebrity backing – with musicians, Damon Albarn and Fleur East, and photographer, David Bailey, backing Waltham Forest’s bid and author, Zadie Smith, actor, Riz Ahmed, and footballer, Raheem Sterling, pledging support for Brent’s bid.

Inspired by the UK City of Culture and European Capitals of Culture programmes, the London Borough of Culture award, a flagship manifesto commitment, was launched by Sadiq Khan in June 2017. With £3.5m funding from City Hall, the initiative is also supported by a grant of £300,000 from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder.

Waltham Forest – London Borough of Culture 2019

More than 12,000 local people backed Waltham Forest’s submission from across the borough’s diverse communities. Waltham Forest’s bid promises a year of cultural activity across the outer London borough and has a target of getting 85% of households to participate, attracting half a million visits.

Activity is planned from Walthamstow to Epping Forest and Chingford to Leytonstone in a borough-wide celebration of culture. Projects include Molecules in the Marshes, a digital installation developed by local artist, Zarah Hussain, involving every school in the borough; a fashion exchange highlighting the heritage of Pakistani makers in the textile trade; and a new culture manifesto devised by artist, Bob and Roberta Smith, building on the radical traditions of William Morris (leader of the Arts and Crafts movement).

Brent – London Borough of Culture 2020

During the consultation for Brent’s bid, the council found that, of the young people it worked with, none had been to the Tate and none had heard of the National Theatre. During 2020, the borough aims to reverse this by establishing a new trust for delivering culture in the area with 50% of the trust’s board being both from the local community and under the age of 30. Rather than adopting a top-down approach, the borough is working with young people to explore what culture means to them in the 21st century and allowing them to directly influence the design of their London Borough of Culture programme.

Projects in Brent’s bid include a Summer street party for 200,000 people, centred around London’s oldest, straightest road, the A5; a Museum of All Brent Life which will see Brent libraries commission new art works throughout 2020; and a major new music festival, No Bass Like Home, for 82,000 people with eight new commissions that explore the musical legacy of Brent in collaboration with Federation of Reggae Music, BBC Radio 1/1Xtra, V&A, Island and Trojan Records.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

‘When I have been out and about in recent months around London, I’ve picked up a real buzz about the London Borough of Culture with different parts of the city vying to win this prestigious title. We’ve seen in the bids that have been submitted the brilliant ambition of boroughs across our city to deliver real change in their local areas through the transformative power of culture.

‘London Borough of Culture is a game-changer for the capital. It will give all Londoners, regardless of background, the opportunity to enjoy the capital’s fantastic cultural riches, discover places they never knew existed and will increase the level of participation in the arts across the city – especially in outer London boroughs.

‘But with such high-quality bids, deciding which boroughs should win was a very difficult decision. All boroughs who have bid should feel proud of their proposals.

‘Huge congratulations to Waltham Forest and Brent for their superb bids. I know that both will deliver a programme of work that will benefit residents and make the whole city proud. I am particularly happy to see both bids have placed such importance on young people. It’s vital that young people get access to culture, regardless of their background, so that they can aspire to be our performers, artists, entrepreneurs and cultural leaders of the future.

‘All of London has two exciting Boroughs of Culture celebrations to look forward to and I can’t wait to see Waltham Forest and Brent’s bids come to life and improve the lives of people in their local communities.’


The Mayor’s Cultural Impact Awards

In addition to the two winning boroughs, six boroughs will share a pot of £850,000 made available for the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Awards – landmark projects highlighted by boroughs in their initial bids.

The winners of the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Awards are:

Barking and Dagenham – New Town Culture | Funding Allocated: £160,000

Working with the Foundling Museum, children’s author, Jacqueline Wilson, and artist, Grayson Perry, this project takes culture into care homes across the borough. A programme with access at its heart, designed by and devised for looked-after children in the borough.

Camden – Camden Alive | Funding Allocated: £145,000

Animated trails, digital technology and augmented reality will bring the stories of residents of 12 housing estates in Camden to life. This project is led by the British Museum, Central St Martins, the Roundhouse and augmented reality app, Blippar.

Kingston – Live Music | Funding Allocated: £90,000

A brand-new music festival inspired by the musical heritage of the area, including the old Decca Records pressing plant in New Malden. Young musicians, promoters and businesses will take part in this festival, which will bring further investment into Kingston’s night-time economy.

Lambeth – Next Generation | Funding Allocated: £200,000

Lambeth will work with young BAME Londoners to help them develop careers in the arts – inspiring the next generation of artists and cultural leaders. It will be supported by major cultural institutions across the borough including the Southbank Centre, Old Vic, BFI and National Theatre.

Lewisham – Festival of Creative Ageing | Funding Allocated: £216,000

Working with Sadler’s Wells and The Albany, the Festival of Creative Ageing celebrates how culture can help people to live longer, happier, more independent lives. The centrepiece will be Christopher Green’s 48-hour immersive theatre performance, The Home, devised with older residents.

Merton – Film Merton | Funding Allocated: £40,000

Merton is taking an inventive approach to establishing a new local cinema in Mitcham. The project aims to show there’s a real appetite for film and to make the case for future investment.


Header photo: Award-winners, Brent and Waltham Forest, with Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (sixth from left)

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