£5m boost to make Middlesbrough the most creative town in the UK

Press release

The bold vision to make Middlesbrough the most creative town in the UK has been handed a major boost after millions of pounds in government funding was confirmed.

Mayor Andy Preston today celebrated the “brilliant, brilliant news” that a bid led by the Middlesbrough Cultural Partnership and Middlesbrough Council for £4.25m from the Cultural Development Fund had been successful.

Extra match funding will see a total of more than £5m invested in cultural projects at Central Library, MIMA, Middlesbrough Railway Station and The Auxiliary.

The Auxiliary, 2021

Central Library will be transformed to become a captivating space that children and young people will love to visit. It will host events and activities to promote a lifelong love of literacy and making.

The Middlesbrough projects will help create almost 90 jobs, improve mental health, attract visitors and support the town’s economy. Mayor Preston said the funding would help Middlesbrough become the “most exciting and vibrant place for many miles”.

Access to the world-class Middlesbrough Collection at MIMA will be enhanced for visitors and researchers through new spaces and displays. The Tees Valley’s flagship gallery will also develop its community and learning spaces and create a new pavilion for children and families in its urban garden. 

The covered garden will link MIMA and the Central Library, creating an artistic hub in the heart of central Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough Railway Station, managed by TransPennine Express, will aim to become the most creative in the UK, building on Platform Arts’ work, welcoming artists in residence. 

And the independent sector will receive a further boost as The Auxiliary undergoes a full refit to support regional artists with studio space and a gallery for large scale work. This follows on from The Auxiliary’s recent purchase of their buildings.

Mayor Preston said: “We’re taking massive and bold steps forward in Middlesbrough to a really exciting future. Culture will play a huge role in our plan to be the most exciting and vibrant place for many miles.

“Middlesbrough’s booming arts scene is already making great things happen and changing perceptions of what is possible – but this big financial boost from central government will speed up Middlesbrough’s awesome and exciting journey towards success.

“The Middlesbrough Cultural Partnership is fighting hard to make sure Middlesbrough stays on the map for creativity, arts and tourism – this government support will help a lot – so this is brilliant, brilliant news.”

Galleries, museums, libraries and cultural venues across the country are to benefit from almost £50m of funding from the overall Cultural Investment Fund, which will improve people’s access to the arts, safeguard cultural assets for future generations and power economic growth through culture.

The grants have been awarded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports, delivered by Arts Council England. 

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson said: “Culture is the bedrock of society. It brings people together, entertains and informs us, and helps us to understand our common past and shared future. 

“Today we are announcing a raft of new funding for treasured cultural institutions up and down the country.

“This will help them to continue their great work, advance our work to level up access to arts and culture so they can be enjoyed by people no matter where they live, and protect these cherished institutions for future generations to enjoy.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said: “Our artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries are experts in making villages, towns and cities better places to live, work, visit or play. This investment means they’ll be able to help more people across England to lead happier, more creative lives”.

Professor Paul Croney, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Teesside University said: “This significant investment is excellent news and will have a considerable impact, not just for MIMA, but for the cultural landscape of the region. 

“Coupled with major capital investment committed to the School of Arts and Creative Industries, this project will further enhance the learning environment for the next generation of arts professionals. The planned development will firmly establish MIMA as a vibrant hub for community engagement and a cultural beacon and key visitor attraction for the region.

“Collaboration is at the heart of Teesside University’s approach and this partnership bid exemplifies what can be achieved when working together to deliver civic transformation.”

Graham Meiklejohn, Head of Regional Development for TransPennine Express, said: “Stations are at the heart of the communities they serve and this investment is fantastic news for Middlesbrough.

“We are thrilled that the station will be at the heart of these exciting plans as supporting the arts is so important, and we look forward to working with the Council to deliver this exciting initiative.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This welcome funding will help drive forward Middlesbrough’s cultural offering, support the creatives of today and inspire the next generation of artists. This will make the town an even better place to visit, in turn getting people spending in our brilliant local businesses.

“Not only that, as we’re helping bring about improvements to the very fabric of Middlesbrough station for passengers, this will also make it a vibrant, distinctive and welcoming gateway to the region, all while creating jobs and boosting the economy.”

The Auxiliary’s Artistic Director Liam Slevin said: “The groundswell of cultural activity happening in Middlesbrough is incredible. I’ve been involved in galleries in Berlin, Detroit and Cork and Middlesbrough is punching way above its weight. It’s incredible. 

“We’re currently supporting 30 artists with studios and opportunities; we’re seeing people move here because of the opportunities on offer. This type of investment is what supports and retains graduates and young people in making a home here.”

The projects will be delivered between April this year and March 2025.

The Cultural Development Fund aims to give people access to arts and culture in areas with historically low levels of cultural engagement and boost economic growth.

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