Arts and Culture

Bolton’s plans revealed as it is awarded Town of Culture status

Bolton – known for Peter Kay, Vernon Kay and a dozen more stars – is hoping a new wave of talent will emerge following its recent Town of Culture award.

The annual accolade was introduced by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham in 2019 to celebrate and recognise the cultural wealth within the region’s towns, having seen the successful legacy of Liverpool’s UK City of Culture award in 2008. 

The previous recipients of Town of Culture have been inaugural winner Bury, Tameside and Stockport. Now it is Bolton’s turn to breathe a new lease of life into the cultural scene in the town – everything from music to acting. 

Plan for the Year

Bolton will see the return of the beloved Bolton Film Festival, Bolton Food and Drink Festival, Light Up and Right to Roam Festival. 

There will also be a comedy festival to take place plus many more to be introduced throughout the year.  

The year will start with Bolton Pride on May 26, 2024 and will end with the Bolton Gala in March 2025. 

The gala will be entirely dictated by the residents and how they see fit to celebrate culture within the town. 

The council will be looking to the local partners who will help support the events throughout the year. 

One partner is a music charity called Rock It. 

It helps 11 to 17-year-olds develop their passion by putting budding musicians together into bands and give them the tools to create music. 

A success story of the charity is James who performed in front of King Charles III and the Queen Consort when they came to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Bolton Town Hall. 

One of the director’s of the charity Julie Crompton, hopes the funding will help with the development of their projects.

Cllr Nadeem Ayub, Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Culture, has an “ambitious vision” for the future of Bolton.

He said: “The opportunity to bid for the Greater Manchester Town of Culture came at a perfect time that tied into our new cultural strategy.

“The strategy sets out to further solidify Bolton as a cultural hotspot, where we continue to host and build on our famous events, like the Bolton Food and Drink Festival and the Bolton Film Festival.

“Bolton has a powerful community and voluntary sector, with excellent cultural partnerships.

“This has all played a big part in winning this year’s Town of Culture grant, and we’re delighted to use this to help further build up our local arts, heritage, history and film offer.”

Bolton Visitor Economy Strategy 

The strategy was devised to find out the areas in which Bolton needs improving and how this can be done.

From this, they are hoping that the strategy will create more jobs and help tackle crime and safety within the town centre. 

Bolton’s crime rate in the year ending September 2023, stood at 121.54 per 1,000 population.

The current unemployment rate within the town is 5.3% in May 2024. 

The nationwide issue of dying high streets is evident, too. In 2022, 1,895 businesses within Bolton ceased trading, whilst 1,535 new businesses were created – a deficit of more than 350 according to the ONS data.

Bolton’s Cultural Strategy

The aim of the strategy is to make Bolton a “Creative Town”,  where culture is part of developing the future of the town.

Using national guidelines, they are hoping to bring more cultural opportunities to the residents of Bolton. 

Head of Services for Libraries Museums and Culture at Bolton Council, Sam Elliott, is hoping that the residents of Bolton take to cultural events are will be held throughout the year.

There are six priorities that the council wants to achieve by 2030. 

All three previous winners  saw success in the year that they held the title and have gone on to receive more funding from institutions like Arts Council England in order to maintain the successful projects. 

Whilst the plans and funding is well received by local government officials, some residents are concerned that this could take funding and resources away from other areas.

Grace Timmins, 25 from Farnworth said: “Culture is good for a town, Bolton is very multicultural anyway but there are bigger issues for example, poverty is such a massive issue.

“Immigrants and refugees that are coming into the town have little to no support, which is creating an issue with homelessness. I grew up in one of the poorest areas in Bolton, you look around and  think, ‘What is social care?’

“I can’t see how cultural events are going to fix any of the problems, I think it puts a pretty plaster over the issues.” 

Charlotte O’Connor, 52, from Turton said: “The town is a ghost town of what it used to be. 

“How are they going to organise simple things like car parking for extra visitors, as they shut most down.

“Why waste money on this project, when we have immense deprivation in the town which needs addressing. In my opinion it’s a waste of money.”

And Fred Gregory, 35, from Breightmet, said: “There is no indication of timescale and whether this is about events, facilities or something else. 

“I think any strategy should set out a tangible output, such as a new event centre, or an annual festival celebrating a cultural feature within the town.

“The basic question that needs to be answered is why would you come to Bolton?”

However, owner of Neon Creations, Tony Spink – who will be instrumental in the Light Up Festival – believes that it will help bring people together.

Feature image courtesy Bolton Council

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