Westminster City Council has announced the launch of new £1.8 million budget to fund cultural projects in London.
The budget will be allocated over four years and will help fund a range of projects that will make culture more accessible to residents and visitors.
The council aims to break down social and economic barriers by extending free cultural opportunities to those facing financial hardship, young people, over 65s, ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and experiencing social isolation.
Within the budget is a new annual Culture and Community Grants Programme, which invites local organisations and schools to bid for up to £10k of funding to help deliver community-based projects. This will support local artists and cultural organisations, following a time of unprecedented crisis, to use their knowledge and expertise to work with the local community.
The budget will also fund a series of ongoing projects such as Inside Out, Westminster City Council’s cultural festival to welcome residents and visitors back into Central London through a series of outdoor art activities. These events attracted more than 250,000 visitors in 2021.
Funding will also be used to continue the council’s City Lions programme, which provides cultural enrichment and skills training for residents aged 13-16; and for other projects such as heritage trail walking tours and Westminster’s participation in the annual Open House Festival.
Westminster City Council said that the arts and culture sector in London plays a big role in Westminster’s economy, with 27% of all jobs in London in music, performing and visual arts based in Westminster. Tourism also generates £18.6bn in London and research shows 80% of tourists give culture as their main reason for visiting London.
Westminster said that their new cultural fund will help their exceptional local partners take the arts out into the streets and community settings, to create a more vibrant and inclusive local offer.
Councillor Tim Roca, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure, said in a press statement: “I’m very excited to announce this new cultural budget that will fund a range of projects across Westminster. This new funding will bring culture directly into our communities and provide a boost for Westminster’s thriving arts scene which attracts so many visitors each year. Westminster is the centre of culture at the very heart of London, with a huge variety of world class theatre productions and some of the nation’s most cherished art collections, museums, and cultural institutions. We want to ensure that residents from all backgrounds can enjoy the rich and diverse cultural highlights that Westminster has to offer, and be able to participate in new cultural projects in their local communities.”
Jack Gamble, Director of the Campaign for the Arts, said: “It’s fantastic news that Westminster City Council is boosting its investment in culture. Especially at a time of major economic and mental health challenges, councillors are right to unlock the huge potential of the arts to enrich lives, communities and local businesses. As a direct result of their investment, many more people will be able to share in the joy, prosperity and opportunity that the arts and culture bring – and that’s good for everyone, in Westminster and beyond.”
Claire Walker, Joint CEO of Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre, said: “Westminster City Council has a long history of supporting our world class theatre and we value the opportunity to work in partnership with them to deliver West End LIVE, a free weekend of musical theatre entertaining thousands in Trafalgar Square. The announcement of this cultural fund is very much welcomed and we look forward to continuing to support the council, sharing its aim to make our theatres as accessible as possible and working with them and Westminster City Lions to develop projects such as Schools Theatre Day and the TKTS booth.”