CULTURE bosses in Warrington have hit back at a “provocative” national report which ranks Warrington as the worst town in Britain for culture and the arts – and believe it will help provide much needed funding for heritage in the town.
Warrington was ranked bottom at 325th on a list compiled by the Royal Society of Arts, designed to help local authorities make better use of their assets, with the report making headlines in the national press.
The Society based their league table on an area’s list of interesting assets such as Listed Buildings, museums and archaeological finds.
But a national newspaper report included glaring errors, stating Warrington had no canals – when in fact it has one of the oldest canals in the country, the Sankey-St Helens canal, as well as the historic Bridgewater Canal and Manchester Ship Canal!
The report comes as Warrington celebrates the 160th anniversary of it’s museum and art gallery, which includes the first public library!
The museum and art gallery has been awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for the last three years running, it stages award winning exhibitions and education programmes and its collections have featured in international exhibitions.
Warrington Borough Council and Culture Warrington have challenged the RSA’s “provocative survey,” while welcoming the opportunity to boost the case for much needed funding for heritage in the town.
They say many of the suggestions coming from the survey are already in place, such as plans to develop a state of the art Heritage and Archive Centre with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the town has also seen a network of local heritage groups established across Warrington with support from residents and local community groups.
Warrington has also seen the highest increase in cultural visitors in Cheshire with numbers up by 15% over the last two years and Culture Warrington has seen a 25% increase in event attendees.
The Council, Culture Warrington and partners have worked together to enhance the culture and heritage offer in Warrington.
The highly successful recent Warrington Festival saw 20,000 people attend and participate in cultural events across the town.
Events including Pixie Lott Live, Simon Western- My Story, My Life, Window on Warrington dance performance and Your Country Needs You drew audiences of people spanning all ages and some for the first time.
This month also sees the return of Warrington Contemporary Arts festival which now sees audiences of over 25,000.
Following the recent RSA report Cllr Kate Hannon, executive board member for leisure, community and culture, (pictured right) said: “We have some fantastic cultural and historical assets in Warrington, which we are rightly proud of, and this ranking is not an accurate reflection of how successful the council and Culture Warrington are at engaging the local community with its rich heritage and the activities we undertake to achieve this.
“We offer residents and visitors a great opportunity to engage with local heritage, and gain an insight into the borough’s history, through our highly regarded museum, which has just been assessed as one of the top performing regional museums. We have recently appointed a Heritage Champion for the borough, and just last weekend we hosted the ‘Your Country Needs You’ event, which engaged more than 640 people with their World War 1 local heritage.
“We are continually engaging and working with a number of local heritage groups to help create a partnership to ensure local people value their local heritage, and we will be holding the ‘Heritage Matters’ conference to engage with people and promote our heritage assets soon. We are also currently developing ambitious plans for a Heritage Hub, which will involve engaging the wider community with their local heritage. We are also planning heritage engagement and celebration events to mark the 170th anniversary of the town becoming a borough in 2017, and the 60th anniversary of the creation of Warrington becoming a New Town.”
Jan Souness, Managing Director at Culture Warrington, (pictured right) said: “Culture Warrington has strived from its formation in May 2012 to showcase the heritage and cultural offers already in existence within Warrington. Over the previous 3 years with the Rugby League World Cup, Olympics and Warrington Festival programme we have celebrated the towns cultural assets and we have plans in place to showcase many more over the coming years.”
Maureen Banner, chair of Culture Warrington, added: “We have a fantastic heritage offer in Warrington that we are proud to shout about. The Culture Warrington team and I will continue to raise awareness of Warrington and the amount it has to offer.”