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Arts Council chief executive praises Cumbria as ‘naturally creative’

Members of the Carlisle Cultural Consortium (L-R) University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Prof Julie Mennell, Carlisle City Council Leader (Cllr) Colin Glover, Arts Council Chief Executive Darren Henley, Carlisle City Council Deputy Chief Executive Darren Crossley, Arts Council North Director Jane Beardsworth, Tullie House Director Andrew MacKay, Catherine Coulthard from Prism Arts and Institute of the Arts Director Roddy Hunter (photo Jonathan Becker)

‘Naturally creative’ – the words of the Chief Executive of the Arts Council who spent two days meeting and debating the future of the arts and creative industries in Cumbria as a guest of the University of Cumbria.

During a packed programme of events Darren Henley saw for himself the wealth of cultural organisations at work in the county and heard from some of those who run them. He also witnessed a showcase of work by performing arts student in a packed Stanwix Theatre after hearing from staff at the Institute of the Arts about the aims and ambition of the faculty.

“We’re immensely proud to have welcomed Darren to the county and give him an insight into the work that’s already going on but we want to do much more and his views and those of the arts council are vital,” Prof Julie Mennell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cumbria, said.

Proof of the value of the visit came immediately with the announcement of the creation of a group formed to encourage the development and promotion of arts and culture in Carlisle.

Performing arts students put on a showcase of work at the Stanwix Theatre, Brampton Road (photo Jonathan Becker)

With the support of the Arts Council the group, comprising the University of Cumbria, Tullie House, Prism Arts and Carlisle City Council, will be known as the Carlisle Cultural Consortium.

“We’ve worked to form this organisation to help establish a strategic vision for Carlisle,” Roddy Hunter, the director of the University of Cumbria’s Institute of the Arts, said. “Our aim is to develop more of what we have and this interim steering group, with the support of the Arts Council, will help us begin that process.”

On Friday the focus switched to south Cumbria and a visit to the Ambleside campus to tour the historic site and hear from members of the area’s economy during a debate about the university’s role in the development in the Lake District National Park, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“This is a fantastic campus and there is a real wealth of talent and creativity here and throughout the university,” Mr Henley said. “Your challenge now is to make the most of this and tell people nationally and internationally about the kind of work that is already going on here.”

Designer and honorary fellow Wayne Hemingway at the Stanwix Theatre, Brampton Road campus, University of Cumbria (photo Jonathan Becker)

The need to encourage more young people to come – and stay – within Cumbria was highlighted during both days; designer and honorary fellow Wayne Hemingway urging closer cooperation and calling for the communities of Cumbria and North Lancashire to have their say about future arts and cultural developments.

“The university has an important role to play in achieving this and through collaborations with our existing and new partners we can make the most of the untapped opportunities Darren’s visit has helped highlight,” Prof Mennell added. “We look forward to welcoming him back to visit other parts of Cumbria later in the year.”

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