Commit to Culture campaign launched

BUSINESSES, charities, artists and volunteers were among those urged to pledge their support for a new Commit to Culture campaign.

Adur and Worthing councils have recently created a cultural strategy for the area but chief executive Alex Bailey wants to take it further and get others in the field involved.

Representatives from across Adur and Worthing were invited to a brainstorming session at Sussex Yacht Club last Tuesday to hear more about the strategy and talk about the possibilities in small discussion groups.

Worthing Theatres manager Amanda O’Reilly opened the evening by saying: “We have some real cultural gems here but the idea is to agree where the gaps are.”

Mr Bailey said culture played a key role in the successful economy of the area and the event was a ‘call to arms’ in the hope as many as possible would sign up.

He added: “A good cultural future is a central part of a modern economy. I have seen a number of residents absolutely lighting up when they get the opportunity to be creative.

“The cultural health of the place is in the collective hands of the people who want to do it. We have the wherewithal to come together and take on our cultural gem.”

The council has initiated the new Adur and Worthing Trust, a limited company that is about to become a charity.

Chairman Rosalind Turner said: “We were initiated by the council but we are independent and want to work with other organisations that are active in supporting arts and culture, including businesses.

“It is a vehicle to promote art, culture and heritage right across Adur and Worthing. We will be generating funds for projects, offering a collective identity and networking for local organisations.

“Town centre regeneration is central to making the cultural offer work. We won’t get people coming in if people don’t feel safe in their town centre.”

Paula Murray, assistant chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council, echoed the need to build the infrastructure for a cultural offer.

She has been with the council for more than 15 years and has always had a cultural brief as part of her portfolio, so was invited along to share her experiences, both successes and failures.

She said Adur and Worthing had some of the raw materials, such as festivals, artists and architecture, already in place and advised learning baseline statistics that could be ‘rattled off’ to capture attention and be something against which to benchmark progress.

Political support and vision were vital, as was the need to create partnerships that could collectively set priorities.

“We put quite a big emphasis on free events,” she added. “The idea of a cultural programme is to give access to things that people can walk in and be part of without having to buy a ticket.”

She pointed out building a cultural offer had a social impact on the area and in Brighton and Hove, there had been a great range of successful work with young people as well as mental health issues.

Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Dome, also offered his experience.

He said: “We are very conscious of the need to start with the raw materials. It is a steady and organic process. There is a richer element that can build over time.”