SWT Cultural Development News: June 2022

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News and Upcoming Events:

Save the Date

We are delighted to have various cultural support and engagement events coming up over the next few months: 

Next Cultural Forum - September 2022:

As discussed at our last Cultural Forum, we would like to facilitate a face-to-face networking event to align with the Local Government Re-Organisation timeline and to also introduce our newly elected members. September is also the first annual anniversary of the Cultural Strategy being adopted by SWT Full Council and therefore we thought that this would be perfect timing to host an in-person Cultural Forum Open Day.

Plans are still being finalised but the aim is for this to be an interactive event with various stalls/tables to provide information and engagement opportunities with refreshments. We are looking for any members of the forum who would like to be involved in the open day, whether this is having a stall to present information, speaking or providing content. We will have access to projectors and therefore videos and VLOGS are also very welcome. Further details to follow but please get in touch if you would like to be involved.

Public Art and Events Sub-Group News and Meetings: 

  • Next Public Art Meeting - Tuesday 26th July 2022 at 10am via Microsoft TEAMS

  • Next Events Sub-Group Meeting "Coffee and Chat"- Wednesday 20th July 2022 at 10am via Microsoft TEAMS: We appreciate many of you involved with organising events will have a full programme activities over the summer. Therefore the next Events Sub-Group meeting will be an optional virtual drop in session to have a coffee, network and catch up. We aim to have a full and in person Events Sub-Group meeting in September. In the meantime we also now have a new Facebook Group to allow communication to flow in between meetings. If you are a member of the Events Sub-Group, you will have received an invitation to join via Facebook. The group is open to all Cultural Forum Members and can be accessed via SWT Cultural Forum - Events Group (facebook.com)

If you are not a member of a sub-group but would like to get involved, please email culturaldevelopment@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk

News on the Somerset Wide Cultural Strategy

Somerset Council Banner

Arts and culture across Somerset are set to benefit from the creation of a Somerset Cultural Strategy following a £30,000 grant awarded by Arts Council England.

Over the next year, the aim is to produce a five-year cultural strategy for the new unitary Somerset Council which comes into being in April 2023. Community priorities will be included with details of how the cultural identity of Somerset is promoted to ensure arts and culture is embedded at the heart of the new authority’s strategic plans.

The project will consider how to raise awareness and promote the role that culture and creativity can play in enriching communities and improving the quality of life, health, wellbeing and the local economy for Somerset residents, local businesses and visitors.

It will also help to create new employment opportunities and raise the profile of the county’s vibrant creative sector.

As well as the grant from the Arts Council, £5,000 has also been committed towards the strategy from each of the councils in Somerset – Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset County Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council and South Somerset District Council.

Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Somerset County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Communities, said: “Somerset is blessed with vibrant artists and superb arts organisations, but it remains the case that while talent is everywhere opportunity is not. We see the huge amounts of talent in our county and the Somerset Cultural Strategy will provide us with a fresh starting point to explore how we unleash creativity across Somerset so everyone can benefit from the creative arts.

“The Cultural Strategy will provide our new authority with an exciting vision of how the creative arts in Somerset could be transformed with world-class artists visiting our county, greater support for our local artists creating and working in the heart of our communities and opportunities for everyone to enjoy a diverse and exciting programme of arts and events.”

The project is being led by the Arts & Entertainment Service of South Somerset District Council based at The Octagon Theatre and Westlands Entertainment Venue, after the area was designated a ‘Priority Place’ by the Arts Council and included within the government’s Levelling Up for Culture Places. This comes on the back of SSDC’s commitment to developing The Octagon Theatre into a flagship cultural venue for the creative arts. The capital development of the theatre was awarded £10m of DCMS funding that will be managed via the Arts Council.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, Arts Council England, South West, said: “We’re delighted that the new Somerset Council are making this commitment to culture and creativity. Exploring what the cultural offer can look like in Somerset for people living and working across the county and intending to embed that at the early stage of this newly formed unitary authority is admirable.

“Culture and creativity make our lives better. It’s proven to boost civic pride and improve indivdual happiness – and clearly each of the existing councils in Somerset recognise it’s potential. We look forward to learning more about this strategy, which will help us to achieve our vision laid out in Let’s Create, our strategy designed to deliver new opportunities for every person in England to get creative and enjoy brilliant culture. Let’s Create recognises that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not, and aims to ensure that the creative talent of every person in every village, town and city flourish.”

The Somerset Cultural Strategy will be prepared for the new council and the decision on whether it should be adopted, and funding opportunities pursued will be decided by the new authority.

Taunton Town Council Consultation

Market House

You may have already seen that Somerset West and Taunton has launched the second stage of public consultation on proposed changes to local governance arrangements including the creation of a new town council for Taunton.  The Council is consulting on the preferred options identified by the Community Governance Review Working Group and approved at a special meeting of the Full Council in March, following the initial consultation.

With the current reorganisation of local government in Somerset underway to create the new unitary council, SWT is considering whether a town council should be set up to represent the central area of Taunton - the only part of the county not to be parished as a result of local government reorganisation in 1974.  The cross-party working group is leading the review which includes eight adjoining parish council areas, taking into account and analysing feedback to draft proposals that reflect the identities and interest of the local community.

The recommendations made following the first stage of public consultation are detailed in the second stage consultation document which can be accessed at Community Governance Review for Taunton Second Stage - Somerset West & Taunton - Citizen Space (somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk)

Consultation closes 26/07/2022

SWT-funded Arts Hub brings new life to historic building

Flook House

Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council has revived one of Taunton’s 17th Century Manor Houses by repurposing it as a new Arts Hub for cultural and creative activities.

The building, known as Flook House in Belvedere Road, will provide office and studio space for creative organisations and practitioners, as well as a conference-ready meeting room for community-based programmes, workshops and vocational learning.

Flook House, which features in Nikolaus Pevsner's Buildings of England and Joshua Toulmin's History of Taunton, previously served as a registry office for births, deaths and marriages. Although still home to key voluntary groups, including ManKind Initiative which supports male victims of domestic abuse and Taunton Advocacy, the Council-owned building has been underutilised for many years.

In 2021, a cross-party working group of councillors tasked with looking at the future of the property, concluded that it should be saved and invested in “for its historical interest and potential social value” with full usage of the meeting space (the former Marriage Room) and offices encouraged.

Consequently, the Council undertook some critical compliance remedial works along with general redecoration of the common stairwell.

Thanks to an SWT grant of £10,000 awarded to Creative Innovation Centre CIC (CICCIC) towards start-up costs, refurbishments and minor renovations to modernise the rooms, the future of Flook House is looking much brighter.

As the building’s primary tenant and driving force behind the Arts Hub, CICCIC is manging the project in collaboration with GoCreate Taunton and Somerset Youth Theatre, as well as multiple artists and designers.

Cllr Caroline Ellis, Executive Member for Culture, and Ward Councillor for North Town where Flook House is located, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled at the development of the Flook House Arts Hub.

"Our mission as a Council is to enhance arts and culture provision in the district and remedying the lack of affordable studio space for artists, creatives and art for the community has been high on our agenda.

"Residents will find exciting new opportunities here and a much-loved historic building has found an exciting new purpose.”

Richard Holt, director of CICCIC, said: “This is a great opportunity for Taunton and by establishing a base where all ages can get involved in workshops, events and hire the space for community activities, means we can provide a much needed safe place using arts and culture to bring individuals and people together.”

Activities will also go beyond general provision. Liz Hutchins, director of GoCreate, said: “In the near future we have art workshops for Ukrainian families; rehearsal space for a singing group and youth theatre; health and wellbeing workshops; art classes; and the list keeps growing.

"This would not be possible if we didn’t have the space to deliver these community-based projects”.

The Flook House Arts Hub will soon be launching a website for members of the public to get involved but in the meantime, inquiries can be directed to Richard Holt at richard@ciccic.co.uk.

Along with the ongoing renovations and to enhance the outside space, SWT is demolishing the disused toilet block in front of Flook House, which has become a focus for vandalism and low level anti-social behaviour in recent years.

The work commenced Monday, 13 June, lasting approximately three weeks and once completed, the area will be landscaped with grass and slabs to match the surrounding environment.

A Royal Affair: The Big Jubilee Lunch Event


Many thanks to all who braved the unpredictable weather to join us for our Big Jubilee Lunch on Sunday 5th June to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Somerset West and Taunton Council was very pleased to be able to offer this as a completely free event in the award-winning park fittingly referred to as the town’s Jewel in the Crown.

In spite of the weather, the Great British Public turned out in force with approximately 3950 people in the park during the day. 

The Big Jubilee Lunch was opened by the Mayor of Taunton, Cllr Sue Lees, with broadcast support from local radio station, Tone FM. There was a fabulous array of arts, culture and entertainment with theatre performances from The Bluebird's Theatre, TrashCat and leisure activities from Everyone Active. There was also  music from the Wellington Silver Band, the King Alfred Concert Band and the Taunton Rock Choir who kept the crowd in high spirits.

A special thank you to GoCreate who hosted Arts and Craft workshops for children in the week running up to the Jubilee and were integral to our Competition of the Crown fancy dress parade. This was directly funded by the Cultural Development Team and was a huge success! 

The Big Jubilee Lunch came to a close with a fantastic ceremonial toast to Her Majesty The Queen with the Somerset Opera leading a last night of the proms style sing-along of the National Anthem, Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule Britannia.

More photos of the event can be found here. 

Grants and Funding Information:

Funding 2

Funding for Heritage, Music and Health Projects Across the UK:

The Hamish Ogston Foundation is offering grants starting from £1.5 million for charities throughout the United Kingdom to deliver heritage, music, and sustainable health projects that have measurable social outcomes and make a long-lasting difference.

Funding will support projects and activities that focus on the following funding areas:

Heritage – Protecting the heritage of important sites across the UK and preserving structures, their craftsmanship, and their traditions.

Music – Promoting the UK’s choral and organ traditions, including related initiatives and apprenticeships, to preserve their knowledge and culture.

Health – Working towards eliminating the disparities in both access to medical treatment and health awareness amongst the most disadvantaged sections of society.


Levelling up funds to save pubs, clubs and historic buildings

Community groups across the UK can now apply for levelling up funding to take control of pubs, music venues, sports facilities and historic buildings for the benefit of the public. Groups will be able to bid for a share of the £150m Community Ownership Fund to rescue cultural buildings in their area that might otherwise be lost. Changes to the fund announced at the end of May 2022 will ensure it is more inclusive and flexible, so that more communities can benefit and more local economies are supported.


Creative Climate Justice Hub

Julie’s Bicycle has launched The Creative Climate Justice Hub: a free library of climate justice resources for the arts and creative industries.


Create Growth Programme

A Creative Industries fund £1.75m over 3 years + £7m pot. This link provides supporting documentation for local authority area partnerships submitting expressions of interest (EOIs) to apply for funding to participate in the £17.51 million Create Growth Programme.


Upcoming events and things to do:

Somerset Armed Forces Day

Check out the Somerset West and Things to Do Website for details on all upcoming Events in our district. A small selection are listed below:

Exhibitions in June/July 2022: 

Hot on the tail of Climate Action Taunton’s amazing Climate Curious Exhibition at Taunton Library, two other major exhibitions concerned with addressing the twin climate and ecological crisis and inspiring us towards a climate positive future are programmed for this summer – East Quay Watchet’s ‘Better then this’ featuring work by Kathy Hinde, Liv Torc and Amy Howden-Chapman is now showing with Taunton Brewhouse’s interactive video installation entitled ‘Through The Looking Glass’ delivered by Somerset based artist and creative technologist Richard Tomlinson coming up in July.

As SWT prepares to adopt an Ecological Vision and Action Plan in July 2022, Cllr Ellis praised the work of our cultural partners in raising awareness of the twin climate and ecological emergencies as well as enabling people to imagine and take action towards a better future.

Porlock Vale Art Trail -  25th and 26th June 2022:

Visit Porlock this weekend and take part in the Porlock Vale Art Trail. With nearly 40 artists participating, an exciting range of workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions for all the family, it's too good to miss! Further information can be found here. 

Somerset Armed Forces Day - 2nd July 2022:

Don't miss the chance to show your support for our Armed Forces at a completely free event being held in Vivary Park on 2nd July 2022. Further information can be found here.

Sound of the Streets Festival - 8th - 10th July 2022:

The free Sound of the Streets festival returns to the town bigger and better around Castle Green, Goodlands Gardens and High Street from Friday 8th July - Sunday 10th July. Special guests include the Kinetika Bloco, a remarkable group of young musicians and dancers from London, fresh from their appearance at the Jubilee Pageant. Further information can be found here.

Taunton Live and Pride - 16th July 2022:

Join GoCreate who are hosting this years Taunton Live and Pride event in Vivary Park. A free celebration of the arts and inclusivity this summer in the heart of Taunton. Further information can be found here

New BLOG: Out and About with Caroline


Check our what Caroline has been up to with regards to all things Art and Culture in her new BLOG


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