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Medway will build on momentum of City of Culture process to forge new cultural future

After narrowly missing out on the longlist to be UK City of Culture 2025. The Trustees, Bid Director, backers and cultural sector have pledge to build on the momentum and enthusiasm that the process has generated over the past year, and channel them into a collective project to create a lasting step change in the role that culture plays in the area.

It has always been the plan for Medway to use the process of bidding to accelerate the delivery of its ambitious, sector-led Cultural Strategy, which was published earlier this year and is led by newly formed culture organisation Creative Medway (www.medwayculturalstrategy.co.uk). The strategy sets out to make Medway stronger and more resilient in response to current challenges and is based on two core beliefs: that culture is at the heart of defining Medway’s identity and building pride in the place; and that allowing community voices to be heard unlocks the possibility of powerful and meaningful change.

The Cultural Strategy, and the key themes, partnerships and creative ideas that formed Medway’s City of Culture submission remain at the heart of plans to take forward significant elements of the proposed programme.

With the range of partners who assembled behind the bid, we are confident they are ready and able to fulfil their aims of cultural ambition and reach – regionally, nationally and internationally. The next decade will see Medway reposition itself as a UK cultural hub, using its array of cultural assets – existing, hidden and prospective – to create social, economic and artistic impact.

Imogen Robertson, Bid Director, Medway City of Culture 2025 says:

“Though we would have loved to take our bid through to the next stage of the competition, we have so much to be proud of.  Medway has come together to consider the role creativity, heritage, tech and culture will play in the lives of young people here, our communities and our future. We have engaged a huge cross-section of Medway people in imagining change and there is genuine momentum and excitement about the new ways of working that have come about as part of this process and which will be taken forward by Creative Medway over the coming years.”

Jatin Patel (Creative Director of Kalikas Armour) and Deirdre Wells OBE (CEO Visit Kent), Co-Chairs of Medway 2025 City of Culture bid say:

 “While we would have loved to have been celebrating, we still have much to look forward to. As the cultural events staged in Medway over the last few months have shown, we are thinking about culture differently and we are thrilled by the fantastic response from our communities and visitors alike. As we look ahead to moments of local and national significance such as the anniversary of the closure of Chatham Dockyard in 2024, the work developing Medway’s bid will underpin the ambition, approach and scale of our plans to bring Medway’s rich cultural heritage and innovative future to life for fresh audiences. Medway has truly catapulted itself onto the national radar and is positioned to make culture central to the future of the area and the lives of people here.”

Fiona Watt, Chair, Creative Medway

“Bidding for UK City of Culture has galvanised a true cross-section of our communities from children through to elders and everyone in between to believe in and be proud of what Medway has to offer. From the co-writing of Medway’s Cultural Strategy to the forming and building of Creative Medway, we know that we have strong foundations to still make this leap forward into a new future we can be proud of that will value and nurture the creativity of all of our residents”.

Medway has a unique cultural personality, which has been informed by its history and the stories of people who have called it home. The river provides not only a backdrop, but for many years was the source of its importance, with the Royal Navy Dockyards at Chatham established in the 16th Century playing a major role in the history of the UK until its closure in the 1980s. The closure led to 24% unemployment across the area, had a major impact on Medway’s economy, reputation and self-image.

In their heyday, the Dockyard spawned a booming tradition of popular entertainment and music hall, and led to the invention of the matinee as a crafty way to circumvent the naval curfews. Charles Dickens grew up in Medway, and it forms the backdrop of some of Dickens’ best-known works. It has since been home to innovative, sometimes irreverent, creatives from Tracey Emin and Billy Childish, to Zandra Rhodes and Nitin Sawhney.

In addition, Medway was identified as an Arts Council England Priority Place as part of its three-year Delivery Plan 2021-2024. Priority Places are those identified as having a particular need for cultural investment, as well as the opportunity for success in raising further investment in the period 2021-2024. Medway is destined for big things so watch this space….