‘Great art for everybody’ pledge as Hull and Huddersfield win £5m boost

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HULL’S bid to become City of Culture 2017 has been given a massive boost after the Arts Council awarded organisations £3m to develop the local arts scene.

A consortium aiming to draw inspiration from the city’s “rich cultural and social histories, and by existing and emerging creative talent in the city” scooped the highest amount of funding in the latest round of the Arts Council’s creative people and places programme.

Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre came second, winning £2m to create a “vibrant, self-sustaining cultural scene” in the North Kirklees area.

The theatre’s director Victoria Firth said although the money would run for three years, they wanted to create a legacy for ten.

She said: “Our bid was all about us trying to get local people involved at different levels, from those who want to explore their own creativity, to others who want to organise events and shape the programme. We will be able to go to communities and say what would you like a project to look like and what artist would you like to work with.

“The Arts Council mission is great art for everybody. This is about getting great art to people who haven’t been engaged before and helping them be part of it.

The money has been awarded to areas in the lowest 20 per cent in the country for participation in the arts.

Hull is facing stiff competition from the likes of Dundee, Leicester, Aberdeen, Plymouth and East Kent, who all have celebrity-backed campaigns, for the City of Culture title.

But positive newspaper coverage and a surge of optimism from its promotion to the Premier League, has seen odds on Hull winning the title slashed from 14/1 outsider to 6/1, behind favourites Chester (4/1), Leicester (5/1) and Swansea Bay (5/1), according to bookmaker William Hill.

In Hull the arts consortium will deliver a programme called Roots and Wings and will commission projects on three themes, Producing City, Discovery Programme and Made in Hull: Celebrations.

Nigel Mills, chief executive of the Hull and East Yorkshire Community Foundation, said he had been amazed by how many people had got behind the Larkin Toad Trail, which saw dozens of fibreglass sculptures go up round the city, after a shaky start.

He said they’d be going out to community meetings, to talk to locals and artists to ask them what they wanted.

There may be money for Hull’s eclectic Freedom Festival, which has a reputation for breaking new ground each year.

He said: “We want to talk to as many people as possible, building on the past successes of projects like the Larkin Trail which showed just how arts can engage people from all parts of the city. We will be talking to the organisers of freedom and other arts organisations.

“It is a significant investment and good news for the City of Culture bid. It is a degree of endorsement in Hull when times are tough.”

Craig Marriott, a filmmaker from Orchard Park said: “This is fantastic news. I film events on behalf of community groups, from skateboarding competitions to fun days to street festivals like Humber Street Sesh. This award means that more people will have more chances to enjoy arts and cultural activity throughout the city – and even have a go at doing something new. It’s brilliant.”

Cluny Macpherson, Regional Director Arts Council England, said: “This programme will build on the excellent work of organisations such as Hull Truck and Freedom Festival to enable its communities to further express that unique identity through the arts.”

The theatre, part of a consortium with We Do (formerly Open Art), Batley Festival Group and Kirklees Council, and the Hull project, led by Artlink, together with Hull Truck Theatre, Volcom, Hull Council and Hull and East Yorkshire Community Foundation, will now work up a business plan for arts programmes, which will be run over three years.