Waltham Forest & Brent crowned first-ever London Boroughs of Culture

27 February 2018
  • Sadiq Khan announces Waltham Forest as London Borough of Culture 2019 and Brent as London Borough of Culture 2020
  • The award will give all Londoners, regardless of background, the opportunity to enjoy the capital’s fantastic cultural riches - increasing the level of participation across the city and especially in outer London boroughs
  • Six boroughs receive the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Award, enabling stand-out schemes from other bidders to go ahead
  • Announcement follows six-month bidding process, which saw 22 boroughs submit proposals


The Mayor Sadiq Khan today announced the winners of the hotly contested London Borough of Culture competition. Waltham Forest will be the first borough to be awarded the title - in 2019, followed by Brent in 2020.


The London Borough of Culture award, a flagship manifesto commitment, is a major new initiative launched by Sadiq in June 2017 – inspired by the UK City and European Capital of Culture programmes.


Each winning borough will be awarded £1.35million of funding1 to deliver a programme of ambitious cultural activities, placing culture at the heart of communities and celebrating the unique character of local people and places. In total, 22 boroughs submitted bids to be London Borough of Culture. Recently, Sadiq committed £1m of extra funding to London Borough of Culture, to inspire young Londoners to become the next generation of creative talent.


Waltham Forest – London Borough of Culture 2019


Waltham Forest will be the inaugural London Borough of Culture in 2019. Waltham Forest’s bid promises a year of exciting cultural activity across the outer London borough, and has an ambitious target of getting 85 per cent of households to participate, attracting half a million visits.


More than 12,000 local people backed Waltham Forest’s submission from across the borough’s diverse communities. Drawing on this diversity was a key strength of Waltham Forest’s bid. 


Activity is planned from Walthamstow to Epping Forest, Chingford to Leytonstone in a borough-wide celebration of culture, which will capture the attention of the whole city. Stand-out projects include a digital installation called ‘Molecules in the Marshes’ on Walthamstow Marshes developed by local artist Zarah Hussain, involving every school in the borough, plans for a fashion exchange highlighting stories about the heritage of Pakistani makers in the textile trade, and, building on the radical traditions of William Morris (leader of the British Arts and Crafts movement), artist Bob and Roberta Smith will write a new culture manifesto for the future.


Waltham Forest was praised for its compelling artistic vision and commitment to growing its emerging cultural economy, establishing itself as a leading cultural borough. This outer London borough has shown strong leadership in recent years, putting culture at the heart of its growth agenda.


Brent – London Borough of Culture 2020


The winner of 2020 London Borough of Culture is Brent. The voices of young people take centre stage in Brent’s bid.


During the consultation for Brent’s bid the council found that, of the young people they worked with, none had been to the Tate and none had heard of the National Theatre. During 2020, the borough aims to reverse this by establishing a new trust for delivering culture in the area with 50 per cent of the trust’s board being both from the local community and under the age of 30. Rather than adopting a top-down approach, the borough is working with young people to explore what culture means to them in the 21st century and allowing them to directly influence the design of their London Borough of Culture programme. 


Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture coincides with Euro 2020, which will see the world’s eyes fixed on the borough as Wembley Stadium is set to host seven matches including the semi-finals and final of the prestigious tournament, creating an opportunity for Brent to reshape itself as a destination for creativity and culture.


Stand-out projects in Brent’s bid include a summer-time street party for 200,000 people, centred around London’s oldest, straightest road – the A5, a ‘Museum of All Brent Life’, which will see all Brent Libraries commission ten new art works throughout 2020 and a major new music festival – ‘No Bass Like Home’ for 82,000 people with eight new commissions that explore the musical legacy of Brent – the home of reggae, in collaboration with Federation of Reggae Music, BBC Radio 1/1Xtra, V&A, Island and Trojan Records.




Both bids attracted celebrity backing, with musicians Damon Albarn and Fleur East and photographer David Bailey backing Waltham Forest’s bid to become London Borough of Culture.  Author Zadie Smith, actor Riz Ahmed and footballer Raheem Sterling all pledged support to Brent’s bid.


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “When I have been out and about in recent months around London, I’ve picked up a real buzz about the London Borough of Culture, with different parts of the city vying to win this prestigious title. We’ve seen in the bids that have been submitted the brilliant ambition of boroughs across our city to deliver real change in their local areas through the transformative power of culture.


“London Borough of Culture is a game-changer for the capital. It will give all Londoners, regardless of background, the opportunity to enjoy the capital’s fantastic cultural riches, discover places they never knew existed and will increase the level of participation in the arts across the city – especially in outer London boroughs.


"But with such high-quality bids, deciding which boroughs should win was a very difficult decision. All boroughs who have bid should feel proud of their proposals.


“Huge congratulations to Waltham Forest and Brent for their superb bids. I know that both will deliver a programme of work that will benefit residents and make the whole city proud. I am particularly happy to see both bids have placed such importance on young people. It’s vital that young people get access to culture, regardless of their background, so that they can aspire to be our performers, artists, entrepreneurs and cultural leaders of the future.


“All of London has two exciting Boroughs of Culture celebrations to look forward to, and I can’t wait to see Waltham Forest and Brent’s bids come to life and improve the lives of people in their local communities.”


In November last year, Sadiq visited Hull, UK City of Culture 2017, to see how the award had transformed life in the city - bringing people closer together, improving the environment and attracting visitors from all over the UK. During the tour of the Hull, the Mayor met up with the city’s amazing volunteers, spoke to a huge number of people who made Hull 2017 a reality and visited artists and exhibitions – seeing what a fantastic impact culture can make to the area and to the everyday lives of people. Following Sadiq’s visit, City Hall will work with the evaluation team behind Hull 2017 and the successful boroughs to maximise the impact of the winning programmes.


Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE, said: “London Borough of Culture is great news for the whole of the capital. Culture is what makes this city tick and with eight boroughs winning awards the benefits will be spread far and wide. It will shine a spotlight on the incredible culture, heritage and hidden gems that exist in our city. Congratulations to Waltham Forest and Brent. They’ve shown how everyone can make the most of culture on their doorstep – bringing great art to everyone”


Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman at the City of London, said: “Warmest congratulations to Waltham Forest and Brent. We are looking forward to seeing how they use their funding awards to empower their residents to connect with the arts.


“As one of the UK’s major supporters of the arts, my colleagues and I at the City Corporation know that culture enriches people’s lives and is an important contributor to the economy.


“Now that they have been named as London Borough of Culture for 2019 and 2020, these boroughs will relish the opportunity to put their plans into action to help transform their communities over the coming years.”


Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said: “We are delighted to extend our congratulations to Waltham Forest and Brent, winners of London Borough of Culture 2019 and 2020. At Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we strongly believe that everyone should have access to the arts and understand its potential in helping to foster resilient communities. Culture can be an important source of social and financial capital, helping individuals and communities to express their identities confidently, and attracting visitors who may not otherwise make the journey, to less known parts of the capital.


“We’re looking forward to supporting Waltham Forest and Brent in the coming months and years and to seeing positive change coming to both boroughs and to London as a whole.”

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “Huge congratulations Waltham Forest and Brent! What an incredibly exciting time 2019 and 2020 will be for our city’s culture.

“As each of the bidding boroughs have shown, London has a wealth of outstanding heritage, much of which we’ve been proud to support thanks to National Lottery players. Waltham Forest and Brent will be invited to apply for National Lottery funding and we look forward to working with them!”


As well as £3.5m from City Hall for the London Borough of Culture competition as a whole, the initiative is also supported by a grant of £300,000 from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder.


In addition to the two winning boroughs, six boroughs will share a pot of £850,000 made available for the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Awards - landmark projects highlighted by boroughs in their initial bids. This ensures that as many Londoners as possible are able to benefit from the Mayor’s record investment in culture.


The winners of the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Award are:


Barking and Dagenham – New Town Culture                   Funding Allocated: £233,000


Working with the Foundling Museum, children’s author Jacqueline Wilson and artist Grayson Perry, this incredible project takes culture into care homes across the borough. A programme with access at its heart, designed by and devised for looked-after children in the borough.


Camden – Camden Alive                                                       Funding Allocated: £225,000


Animated trails, digital technology and augmented reality will bring the stories of residents of 12 housing estates in Camden to life. This project is led by the British Museum, Central St Martins, the Roundhouse and augmented reality app Blippar.


Kingston – Live Music                                                          Funding Allocated: £90,000


A brand-new music festival – inspired by the musical heritage of the area, including the old Decca Records pressing plant in New Malden. Young musicians, promoters and businesses will take part in this festival, which will bring further investment into Kingston’s night-time economy.


Lambeth – Next Generation                                                Funding Allocated: £200,000


Lambeth will work with young BAME Londoners to help them develop careers in the arts – inspiring the next generation of artists and cultural leaders. It will be supported by major cultural institutions across the borough including the South Bank Centre, Old Vic, BFI and the National Theatre.


Lewisham – Festival of Creative Ageing                            Funding Allocated: £216,000


Working with Sadler’s Wells and The Albany, the Festival of Creative Ageing celebrates how culture can help people to live longer, happier, more independent lives. The centrepiece will be Christopher Green’s 48-hour immersive theatre performance The Home, devised with older residents.


Merton – Film Merton                                                          Funding Allocated: £40,000


Mitcham really wants a cinema. Merton is taking an inventive approach to establishing a new local cinema in the area. The project aims to show there’s a real appetite in film, and make the case for future investment.


Notes to editors



1Funding for London Borough of Culture


The two winning London Boroughs of Culture (2019 and 2020) will receive a guaranteed fund of £1.35 million. This comprises of £1.25m pledged by City Hall with additional support from the City Bridge Trust of £100,000.


In addition, a total of £850,000 has been allocated to up to six additional boroughs for individual landmark projects – the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Award. This comprises £750,000 from City Hall and £100,000 from the City Bridge Trust.


About the City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation provides local government and policing services for the financial and commercial heart of Britain, the 'Square Mile'. In addition, the City Corporation has three roles:


It supports London's communities by working in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on economic regeneration, education and skills. In addition, the City of London Corporation's charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, makes grants of around £20 million annually to tackle disadvantage across London.


It also helps to look after key London heritage and green spaces including Tower Bridge, the Museum of London, Barbican Arts Centre, City gardens, Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches, and important commons in London. It also supports and promotes the 'City' as a world-leading financial and business hub, with outward and inward business delegations, high-profile civic events and research-driven policies, all reflecting a long-term approach.


About City Bridge Trust

City Bridge Trust is the City of London Corporation's charitable funder. It is London's biggest independent grant giver, making grants of £20 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital. City Bridge Trust has awarded more than 7,700 grants totalling over £370 million since it first began in 1995. It helps achieve the City Corporation's aim of changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

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