Cheshire has received funding from Arts Council England and Visit England to enable it to be recognised as a true cultural destination which is on a par with other major counties and cities including London, Liverpool and Stratford.
The three unitary authorities in the county, Warrington, Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester, will share a £300,000 grant to enable them to work strategically with the tourism sector under the ‘cultural destination’ banner.
With all three boroughs enjoying increasing popularity and a strengthening visitor economy, the successful bid for funding is seen as an injection of faith and confidence in the county’s cultural and tourism industries.
Cllr Tony Higgins, executive member of culture, leisure and communities at Warrington Borough Council, said: “This is great news for Warrington and the wider sub region. I’m delighted that Arts Council England and Visit England have demonstrated their confidence in our cultural potential in this way.
“We are making great strides in improving our cultural offer here and this funding will help us to make Warrington an even more attractive destination for visitors and residents alike.
“I’ll be looking for us to use this funding to improve the range and variety of events on offer in our borough and to deliver a cultural programme which connects with all of our communities.”
All three authorities were able to prove they had the partnership capacity to meet several criteria.
These included an increase in the numbers and range of people experiencing the arts and culture in local destinations to boost the visitor economy, increased income leading to greater sustainability and resilience for culture and tourism businesses, repositioning of culture as a prominent part of the visitor offer and a commitment from public and private sector partners to continue working in partnership to support cultural tourism.
The bid document set out a number of objectives to strengthen and develop the cultural and visitor offer across the county.
Cheshire East will be the lead accountable body and chair of a consortium to drive forward the development of a cultural and tourism strategy, while Marketing Cheshire will be the destination management organisation tasked with undertaking management of the consortium, delivering agreed activity between partners and the development of branding.
Core partners include Warrington Borough Council, Culture Warrington, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Storyhouse, Cheshire Rural Touring Arts, Tatton Park and the National Trust. There is also a wider group of delivery partners, including cultural organisations, venues and tourism destinations.
Maureen Banner, chair of Culture Warrington, said: “We are delighted to have received this accolade from Visit England and Arts Council England, and it is fantastic that Warrington is being recognised as a cultural destination.
“The funding will enable us to work more closely with our partners across the county to support the cultural events programme here in Warrington including the annual Contemporary Arts Festival.”
The consortium will determine the annual events programme and how to support venues and organisations to benefit from the wider programme of cultural and tourism activity.