Cheshire was given a huge boost recently with recognition from Arts Council England and Visit England that the county should be recognised as a true cultural destination, on a par with other major counties and cities including London, Liverpool and Stratford.
The three unitary authorities, Cheshire East, Warrington, 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 borough's 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.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, said: "This is a fantastic start to the New Year; the award will provide a huge boost for Cheshire's visitor economy that's worth nearly £3bn. The cultural destination funding will help us further promote the wealth of cultural attractions and events across the borough from rural performances to arts events allowing many more people to experience what Cheshire has to offer. West Cheshire Museums include a changing programme of exhibitions and host a wide variety of talks, workshops and performances. The opening season for Storyhouse starts in May, our exciting new cultural centre will include a theatre, cinema and library."
Cheshire East Council acted as the lead applicant for the funding pot and the announcement was made by ACE on Tuesday (January 10). 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 Cheshire West and Chester Council, Culture Warrington, 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.
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.