An arts and culture revival is happening in the North West – you can see it, you can feel it, writes Jade Chau of Bennetts Associates.
Projects already built and open to the public are helping to spearhead the exciting future the North West has in arts and culture.
Chester’s Storyhouse is experiencing huge success, having welcomed nearly 300,000 visitors in its first seven months of operation and heading for more than 500,000 in the first year, compared with a business plan projection of 350,000. This £37m centre that combines arts and culture under one roof has become a firm favourite with the local community of Chester. Other successful built projects include Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre and Everyman Theatre, as well as Home in Manchester.
Arts Council England this year awarded a whopping £88m funding to arts organisations in the North as part of their forthcoming national portfolio for 2018-2022. Lots of local, smaller North West-based organisations such as Z-arts in Manchester are finally benefitting from being awarded NPO status, a status which often focussed heavily on arts in London and the South of the UK. Other local NPOs such as Action Transport Theatre in Ellesmere Port have seen their NPO funding increased for the next four years.
Manchester will soon be welcoming a new £110m flagship arts venue, The Factory, on the site of the old Granada TV studios. Dubbed as the Guggenheim of the North, the aim of this ambitious project is to rival performance venues worldwide. This Manchester City Council-backed project shows the importance of arts and culture to the North West local economy.
Oldham’s Coliseum Theatre is undergoing a major £27m redevelopment that will see it move into a new purpose-built venue housing both a main house and a new studio theatre. This theatre forms part of a wider vision for a new cultural quarter in Oldham. Bolton’s Octagon Theatre is currently having a makeover, which will see its existing building vastly improved, modernised and enlarged.
Arts and culture is an important industry, and it is important that this industry is not London-centric. London’s arts industry is overcrowded, which makes it very difficult for younger generations to get established. Adding major new cultural facilities to the North West is going to make it a great place to be and help to ease the pressure in London.
We need to think ahead to the future and be mindful of the younger generations. We need to continue to support British creatives and local tourism, helping to generate local jobs and opportunities, while also providing for local people and communities.
This notion of North Westerners wanting and expecting more from local arts establishments and venues has meant that those who have the means to invest in arts and culture are waking up to demand.
Both local councils and arts funding boards, as well as property developers and arts institutions are attuned to this and are helping to make important changes to the local North West arts and culture industry. It’s safe to assume that the North West will be significant culture competition to London and the South.
- Jade Chau is an architect at Bennetts Associates
The North West in 2018 series features guest contributors looking ahead to next year and is published throughout December.