Surrey leads the way with county culture strategy

Surrey has published a ten-year culture strategy for the county as “a rallying cry to all those who believe in the power and the impact of the arts in changing lives in our society”.

The strategy has been developed by the Surrey Cultural Partnership, a collective of people working in heritage and culture in the county with representatives from business, education, health, criminal justice and local government. It will be seen as local communities and cultural entities taking command of the soft power of creative potential in the absence of national initiatives.

Surprising Surrey: Our Cultural Strategy and Vision 2024-2034 comes from a two-year research programme with a report written by Marilyn Scott, former director of the award winning Lightbox Museum in Woking.

“Very clear messages came through – the need for better collaboration, networking and sharing of expertise; the importance of placemaking and the enormous contribution culture can make, the value of cultural activity to health and wellbeing in our communities, and of course the need for better support and funding” she said. “I hope all of these messages are reflected in the strategy and clear actions that Surrey Cultural Partnership will encourage.”

Among those actions will be the creation of a new culture fund developed with the Community Foundation for Surrey to counter significant underfunding by national grant makers and the financial crises facing local authorities.

“The new fund” the report says “will support improved quality of life and wellbeing for the most disadvantaged communities in Surrey by reducing barriers to transformative creative experiences.”

The strategy sets out to increase access to culture for everyone, supporting creative programmes within communities, encourage collaborative working  and nurturing the cultural economy in Surrey.

Co-chairs of the Surrey Cultural Partnership are Perdita Hunt, former director of the Watts Gallery near Guildford, and Gavin Stride, former chair of the Independent Theatre Council and a cultural strategist. “Surprising Surrey is about championing what is already happening here, recognising that the county has much to celebrate” they said. “But as we know and despite its reputation for affluence and privilege, Surrey has areas of deprivation and marginalisation that need addressing. This strategy is a response to those needs.”

Picture credit: Wonderdusk, John Miller, Surrey Hills Arts

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