Home Editor's pick Arts Council England names Knowsley as a ‘Priority Place’
The Shakespeare North Playhouse

Arts Council England names Knowsley as a ‘Priority Place’

by Lisa Bennett

Today, Arts Council England has announced that Knowsley will be one of 15 priority places in the North where they want to develop new opportunities for investment, as part of the publication of its three-year Delivery Plan for 2021 – 2024.

Arts Council England’s three-year Delivery Plan sets out a detailed roadmap to implement the vision of their strategy Let’s Create: by 2030 England will be a country in which the creativity of each individual is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where everyone has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. The Delivery Plan highlights where there are opportunities for investment, collaboration, and progress.

The publication of the Delivery Plan follows the Government’s unprecedented £1.96 billion Culture Recovery Fund, administered by the Arts Council and other bodies. Driven by the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, with the backing of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the Culture Recovery Fund is the biggest one-off investment in culture from the Government in history, providing a vital lifeline to save our cultural sector and help organisations prepare for reopening.

Let’s Create was written just before the pandemic, but the vision still holds true and if anything is even more critical now. Creativity and culture can, and should, play a part in helping level up the country.

To help make this vision a reality the Delivery Plan names 54 priority places across England. Arts Council will work closely with these locations to develop new opportunities for investment, both from the Arts Council and other partners. Across the North, from Barnsley to Blackpool, South Tyneside to Kirklees, County Durham to Wigan, and Barrow-in-Furness to the Tees Valley, priority places recognises the need for cultural investment, and it will give more people the opportunity to enjoy high-quality cultural experiences in their communities and neighbourhoods.

Knowsley’s creative potential

Knowsley has great cultural and creative potential. Its local authority has a long-term commitment to culture, shown by the creation of the Shakespeare North Playhouse, and in 2022 it will be Borough of Culture for the Liverpool City Region. This local investment and commitment will diversify and strengthen the cultural sector and will increase opportunities for local communities to engage in arts, cultural and creative activity. Since the beginning of the pandemic Knowsley has received £5,342,901 investment from the Arts Council through the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Entertainment at the Knowsley Sports and Culture Awards 2017
colourful cultural celebrationCloseup football match

These places have been chosen through a set of criteria based on a review of current public investment and opportunities to engage with creative and cultural activity. Each of the priority places are ambitious to drive positive change through culture.

In the last decade, the Arts Council has significantly shifted its investment outside of London. The aim in Let’s Create is to increase focus on specific places underserved in the past. Priority places are just one of the ways in which the Arts Council is committed to levelling up by strengthening cultural and creativity opportunities in a targeted way.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, says:

“Artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries have found creative new ways to serve their audiences and communities since the start of the pandemic. Our new Delivery Plan shows how we’ll work with them to build on that spirit of imagination and innovation as our society reopens. It’s particularly exciting to be focusing on our 54 priority places over the coming years, as part of the Arts Council’s commitment to play its part in delivering on the government’s programme of levelling up. We’re looking forward to nurturing dynamic new partnerships with local people and organisations in each of these locations.”

Jennifer Cleary, Director, North, Arts Council England said:

“I am excited today to announce that Knowsley is one of our 15 priority places across the North. The launch of our Delivery Plan, which sets out how we’ll implement our new 10-year strategy Let’s Create, and the announcement of our priority places will see us working closely with partners across Knowsley to ensure that creativity and culture can play a key role in levelling up across the North.

“Public investment in the arts is vital and never more so than as we emerge from the pandemic. It has been fantastic to see the Government’s commitment to art and culture through the Culture Recovery Fund which has provided a lifeline to arts and cultural organisations. The launch of our Delivery Plan and announcement of a set of priority places affirms our commitment to investing in the sector to ensure everyone across the country can access art and culture no matter where they live.

“Knowsley has got a fantastic cultural offer which is set to expand with the opening of the Shakespeare North Playhouse as well as becoming the Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture in 2022. I look forward to working with the local authority and the cultural sector to support and nurture the growth of the town’s cultural ambitions.”

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council commented:

“We’re delighted to be chosen as one of the Arts Council’s priority places. To be selected is a great endorsement of our local decision to place culture and heritage at the centre of some extremely ambitious post-pandemic recovery plans for Knowsley.

“Timing wise, this news is the perfect build up to an extremely exciting 2022 for Knowsley. Not only will we be the Liverpool City Region’s ‘Borough of Culture’, but we’ll also be opening the new Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot. This new theatre will become a visitor destination for people around the globe, completing the ‘Shakespearean triangle’ of London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Prescot. But first and foremost, it will offer ready access to world-class cultural experiences to people in our local communities – from the very youngest to the oldest residents.

“This borough’s commitment to this nationally significant project is tangible demonstration of our long-held belief that access to high quality culture not only enriches lives but is a powerful driver of regeneration and economic development, too. We are already seeing that in action in Knowsley.

“This opportunity to work alongside the Arts Council to enhance and develop those cultural experiences and underpin the ambitious plans we have for our borough in the coming years is further reason to be extremely optimistic about the future here in Knowsley.”