Today, 8th October 2021, Medway reaffirmed its ambitions after narrowly missing out on the longlist to be UK City of Culture 2025. The Trustees, Bid Director, backers, Medway Council and cultural sector pledge to build on the momentum and enthusiasm that the process has generated over the past year, and channel them into a collective project to create a lasting step change in the role that culture plays in the area.

This year’s competition has been fierce with 20 places competing for the title. From the feedback received Medway’s bid articulated a strong vision and was commended on being creative and compelling, with themes and ideas that saw it placed as a very close contender for the longlist. The judges commended Medway on how the bid demonstrated the role of culture in addressing challenges and transforming Medway, and were particularly drawn to its ideas for engaging and commissioning young people.

It has always been the plan for Medway to use the process of bidding to accelerate the delivery of its ambitious, sector-led Cultural Strategy, which was published earlier this year and is led by newly formed culture organisation Creative Medway. City of Culture was always seen as a catalyst to fulfilling the aims of this strategy, not a goal in itself, and Creative Medway, Medway Council and their partners remain committed to fulfilling their promise.

The strategy sets out to make Medway stronger and more resilient in response to current challenges and is based on two core beliefs: that culture is at the heart of defining Medway’s identity and building pride in the place; and that allowing community voices to be heard unlocks the possibility of powerful and meaningful change.

The Cultural Strategy, and the key themes, partnerships and creative ideas that formed Medway’s City of Culture submission remain at the heart of plans to take forward significant elements of the proposed programme. The bidding process has brought together civic, community, cultural and business partners, across Medway and Kent. Charities, creatives, students, SMEs and big business as well as national organisations have worked with local communities to focus on ways to bring about lasting improvements to people’s lives in Medway.

With the range of partners who assembled behind the bid, Medway and its supporters is confident they are ready and able to fulfil their aims of cultural ambition and reach – regionally, nationally and internationally. The next decade will see Medway reposition itself as a UK cultural hub, using its array of cultural assets – existing, hidden and prospective – to create social, economic and artistic impact.

Last month, Medway’s plans were given a boost when in September 2021, it was identified as an Arts Council England Priority Place as part of its three-year Delivery Plan 2021-2024. Priority Places are those identified as having a particular need for cultural investment, as well as the opportunity for success in raising further investment in the period 2021-2024. Creative Medway, Medway Council and the local cultural sector anticipates working closely with Arts Council England to continue to develop ambitious plans for the area.

Imogen Robertson, Bid Director, Medway City of Culture 2025 says:

“Bidding to be City of Culture has been a hugely positive experience for Medway and one which has brought about lasting change for Medway’s people and the future of the area. Though we would have loved to take our bid through to the next stage of the competition, we have so much to be proud of.  Medway has come together to consider the role creativity, heritage, tech and culture will play in the lives of young people here, our communities and our future. We have engaged a huge cross-section of Medway people in imagining change and there is genuine momentum and excitement about the new ways of working that have come about as part of this process and which will be taken forward by Creative Medway over the coming years. We look forward to following in the footsteps of other places which bid for the title of UK City of Culture to bring ambitious plans to life in the wake of bidding.  Medway wishes all the longlisted places the very best of luck in the next stage of their journeys and looks forward to celebrating the UK’s next City of Culture in due course.”

Jatin Patel (Creative Director of Kalikas Armour) and Deirdre Wells OBE (CEO Visit Kent), Co-Chairs of Medway 2025 City of Culture bid say:

 “While we would have loved to have been celebrating today, we still have much to look forward to. Medway’s City of Culture bid journey has been transformational, and the partnerships, ideas and community buy-in Medway has achieved will power the next stage of our journey over the course of our ambitious and radical new cultural strategy.  As the cultural events staged in Medway over the last few months have shown, we are thinking about culture differently and we are thrilled by the fantastic response from our communities and visitors alike. As we look ahead to moments of local and national significance such as the anniversary of the closure of Chatham Dockyard in 2024, the work developing Medway’s bid will underpin the ambition, approach and scale of our plans to bring Medway’s rich cultural heritage and innovative future to life for fresh audiences. Medway has truly catapulted itself onto the national radar and is positioned to make culture central to the future of the area and the lives of people here.”

Fiona Watt, Chair, Creative Medway say:

“Bidding for UK City of Culture has galvanised a true cross section of our communities from children through to elders and everyone in between to believe in and be proud of what Medway has to offer. From the co-writing of Medway’s Cultural Strategy to the forming and building of Creative Medway, we know that we have  strong foundations to still make this leap forward into a new future we can be proud of that will value and nurture the creativity of all of our residents”.

To get involved in the ongoing cultural plans for the area, sign up to the Creative Medway mailing list as a business or as an individual to find out about new ways to get involved in the community and sector-led plans at www.medwayculturalstrategy.co.uk.

ENDS

To arrange interview or for more information please contact Virginie Giles: cityofculture@medway2025.co.uk | 07799871337


Picture: The unveiling of ‘TOGETHER’, a public art installation by Lucid Creates on Chatham’s riverside in Medway, Kent. Picture date: Friday September 24, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Lia Toby/PA Wire

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