As Waltham Forest today submits its bid to become Borough of Culture, council leader Clare Coghill explains why the Mayor of London should choose us as the capital’s top cultural destination
Ever since Waltham Forest launched its bid to become the first ever London Borough of Culture this summer, we were confident we’d be mining a rich seam of talent.
However, we did not appreciate the true scope nor scale of what we would uncover over the following five months. The Mayor of London says he wants to select a borough that can “deliver outstanding cultural initiatives” and we have proved that’s something Walthm Forest has in abundance.
We put culture at the heart of everything we do; we are culturally led and creatively driven and, as such, we believe we are front-runners to win. Since July, we have shone a light on the fantastic cultural programmes taking place in the borough – with 150 cultural highlights demonstrating the rich tapestry of opportunities Waltham Forest offers. Culture is thriving; be it in on our streets, in art and dance studios, or in our booming boutiques.
But what makes much of our culture exceptional is the way it actively engages and involves the community. As well as council-run events such as our hugely popular Walthamstow Garden Party, fireworks night, and Mela events, numerous community-run programmes enrich and energise local people.
That community focus is perhaps best personified by our 20 ‘Cultural Stars’. These are incredible individuals who go that extra mile to enthuse local people. They include the husband-and-wife team putting on community plays, a group of friends working together to rejuvenate their local area, and the bookshop owners transforming their shop into a community hub.
Over and over again, we have seen culture has the biggest impact on a community when it comes from within that community. Our Cultural Stars have shown they can break down barriers, bring people of all backgrounds together, prevent loneliness, and above all, enhance our lives.
That is what we have already but we know we could do more because it’s not just our culture that comes from the community– it’s support for our bid. More than 11,000 people have signed up and there is barely a street in the borough where you won’t find at least one ‘Back the Bid’ sign. It has been incredible to see the whole community come together and we are hugely grateful for your support.
Whether we win or lose, rest assured Waltham Forest will continue to put on a programme of world-class cultural events, and members of our community will still go above and beyond to serve people living here.
That said, £1million of additional funding would help put Waltham Forest firmly on the map and we could look forward to welcoming an influx of new visitors to boost our local economy. Most importantly, we could put on a once-in-a-lifetime cultural programme unlike anything we have ever seen here, offering an even greater range of cultural activities to be enjoyed by everyone.
We are proud of what’s already on offer in Waltham Forest, but we are even more excited about what we could achieve as the capital’s first London Borough of Culture.
To pledge your support for Waltham Forest’s bid to become London Borough of Culture 2019: