Wokingham Borough Council brought together town and parish councils, local charities, cultural organisations and businesses to explore new opportunities to make arts and culture thrive in the borough, as well as to bring social and economic benefits.
Stakeholders in or related to the local cultural sector were invited to an Arts and Culture World Café to exchange thoughts and ideas on various aspects of building a prospering arts and culture scene and what this could mean for businesses and residents.
Arts and culture brings social and economic value
Cllr Sarah Kerr, executive member for climate emergency and resident services, said, “Experience from around the world tells us that arts and culture brings intrinsic, social and economic value. It helps attract new talent to an area and incentivises new investment. It also benefits people’s well-being, especially mental health, helps people participate in society bringing communities together and promotes an even stronger sense of pride in where they live. In essence, arts and culture is what makes life worth living.
“Wokingham borough boasts a lot of history and heritage and the distinctiveness of our parishes and their communities offers immense potential. They are all unique cultural assets, and we recognise that as a borough, we’re not reaching our full potential in terms of harnessing the benefits of arts and culture. However, the council can’t do this on its own. Collaboration is key to making arts and culture flourish here, and that’s why we are striving to create an enabling environment that fosters interactions and discussions among our arts and related groups.
“This Arts and Culture World Café is part of our ongoing effort to garner feedbacks and ideas from our stakeholders to support delivery of our Arts and Culture Strategy. Looking ahead, we aim to set up an Arts and Culture partnership to help drive forward cultural opportunities within the borough.”
Collaboration is important
The Arts and Culture World Café was kicked off by a panel discussion moderated by Paddy Haycocks, an experienced broadcaster and presenter in the UK. Panel speakers included Cllr Sarah Kerr, Nicola Anthony, the artist who designed the art piece outside the newly opened Carnival Hub, and Professor John Gibbs from the University of Reading whose research interests are in arts, film, heritage and creativity. They shared views and insights on the benefits of arts and culture and the importance of maximizing collaboration to make Wokingham a cultural destination.
The panel discussion was followed by exchanges in small groups, where conversations did not confine to one’s own table. Each member of the group had a chance to move to different tables for a new round of discussions with other participants. They discussed extensively what would contribute to the success of an Arts and Culture partnership, as well as the gaps they envisaged in driving the cultural development in the borough.
Wokingham Borough Council’s Arts and Culture Strategy sets out key priorities to realise its vision of turning the borough into a recognised dynamic cultural hub regionally and nationally.
A roundtable type of event, World Cafés are a methodology said to be simple, effective, and flexible for hosting large group dialogue.
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