Westminster City Council has launched a new £1.8m ($2.2m/€2.1m) budget to fund culture projects across London.
The budget will be allocated over four years, and will fund a number of projects that will make culture more accessible to residents and visitors to the English capital.
Westminster City Council is aiming to break down social and economic barriers by extending free cultural opportunities to those facing financial hardship, young people, those over 65, ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and those experiencing social isolation.
Included in the budget is a new annual Culture and Community Grants programme, which will enable local organisations and schools to bid for up to £10,000 of funding to help deliver community-based projects. The funding will support local artists and cultural organisations following the effects of the pandemic.
The budget will also fund ongoing projects such as Inside Out, Westminster City Council’s cultural festival. The festival aims to welcome residents and visitors back into Central London through outdoor art activities, and attracted over 250,000 visitors last year.
Funding will be further used to continue the council’s City Lions programme which provides cultural enrichment and skills training for residents aged 13-16. Money will also be dedicated to projects such as heritage trail walking tours and Westminster’s participation in the annual Open House Festival.
Councillor Tim Roca, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure, said: “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.”
The arts and culture sector plays a major 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 with tourists highlighting culture as the main reason for visiting the capital.
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 chief executive of Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre, added: “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.”