What would you spend £1.1million on to celebrate art and culture in Greenwich?
This is the question council leader Denise Hyland is asking residents as Greenwich prepares to submit its bid to become London Borough of Culture, writes Chiara Giordano…
Two boroughs will be selected as Borough of Culture for 2019 and 2020 and will be given £1.1million worth of funding for a year of cultural celebrations.
When asked that very question, Councillor Hyland said she was “not sure exactly what we would spend it on” – and that she wanted to “listen to people’s voices”. “We’ve been holding meetings with the community to ask people what it is they want in terms of a cultural offer,” she told the Weekender. “Greenwich as a borough is a great place for tourists to come, but we also want to make sure that our residents and students and anybody that has a connection with the borough is actually getting a cultural offer.
“We are a place of great culture – we’ve got a palace in Greenwich and one over in Eltham – but what we do find is there’s a disparity between the cultural offer across the borough, so we are looking to get conveyance between the culture of the west of the borough and the east.
“We want to make sure that the arts do really well, not just in Greenwich, but also in Plumstead and Abbey Wood and so on.”
The council leader said she wanted to “spread culture throughout the borough” and make it accessible to every child and adult, no matter what their circumstances are. “I do think there’s a sense of people should have an entitlement, no matter how fat their wallet is, in terms of their access to culture,” she said. “I was a teacher and used to take secondary school boys up to the theatre and for some of them it was their first experience of going to the theatre and they were fourteen.”
“I also think it’s about the value of living in communities and actually belonging to the community,” she added. “Take something like the Elthamread, where people are collectively reading the same book and are enjoying doing something rooted in their community, but they also enjoy experiences outside their own culture as well.
“We are a tremendously diverse borough; we have people from all around the world living here, so the potential for culture is immense.”
Cllr Hyland nodded to the £31million the council has already invested in Woolwich Creative District – a project which will see four 300-year-old buildings, previously used as ammunitions factories, renovated to be used as creative space. “I think we are doing our bit and we could do with some help and acknowledgement and recognition from the mayor’s office,” she said. “Our bid will go in in December and if successful we would win £1.1million, which is fantastic.”
The council is asking people to share their support on Twitter by taking a photo of a ‘hidden gem’ in the borough and using the hashtag #greenwichmeans