Following the recent news that a joint bid by Middlesbrough Cultural Partnership and Middlesbrough Council to bring in more than £5m for the town’s cultural development has been successful, details are now emerging about the difference these funds will make, and how they’ll be used to transform the cultural creativity of the Tees Valley town.
Earlier this year it was confirmed that £4.25m, which will be topped up by match funding, has been secured from the government’s Cultural Development Fund for projects over the next three years involving Central Library, MIMA, Middlesbrough Railway Station and The Auxiliary.
But with a rotating chair to help ensure equitable representation from across the group, a collaborative way of working and plans to pay every artist involved in the partnership for their time, the cash injection isn’t the only thing that will change Middlesbrough for the better over the coming months and years.
Charlotte Nicol is Head of Culture at Middlesbrough Council and a spokesperson for the partnership. She explained: “Collaboration is not only at the heart of the partnership, but will be the key to us achieving our ambition of making Middlesbrough the country’s most creative town.
“Through our ongoing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to work together, and seen the huge value in that process for everyone in our communities.
“There’s no doubt that the link between tourism and culture also provides vital economic opportunities, so as part of this new, and very collaborative way of working, the partners have agreed that it’s only right to ensure all individual artists involved, can be properly compensated for their contributions.
“This will also help to ensure smaller organisations and freelancers are as able to add their voices to our plans as larger and more established arts organisations, and this more equitable approach is what will help set us apart, providing an accessible platform for creativity, as well as additional pathways to opportunity and success for people living in and around our vibrant town.”
Initial plans for the funds, which will lead to the creation of 90 local jobs, include the creation within Middlesbrough’s Central Library of a fabrication laboratory and maker space – for a newly-imagined 21st century library that promotes a lifelong love of creative learning and making. The space will also be linked to the MIMA gallery through an urban garden as part of an artistic hub within the town centre that captivates, inspires, and attracts visitors year-round.
The Auxiliary, an 11,000 sq. ft, warehouse on Station Street that is dedicated to the production and promotion of contemporary art practices, will use £1m of the funding to support both established and emerging artists with newly refitted collaborative studio and gallery space for them to create and showcase their work.
Anna Byrne is co-director of The Auxiliary, and said: “Working in the arts can be precarious. There’s still an idea that you should work for free or very little, and that’s a real barrier to entry and participation for those from less privileged means and backgrounds.
“Middlesbrough Cultural Partnership is a game-changer. We are creating sustainability and making sure Middlesbrough is a brilliant place for artists and creatives to live and work.
“This £5m is just the start.”
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