Culture survey will boost case for heritage funding


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.


Pixie Lott

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.

To promote Warrington’s potential as a town of great heritage Culture Warrington’s Collections Heritage and Archive Manager, Janice Hayes, has taken on the role of Heritage Champion. kate hannon.jpg

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.jpg

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.”


The article in The Times


About Author

Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.


    • The Times like other papers was only reporting the conclusions of the Royal Society of Arts which named Warrington Britain’s least impressive area of culture in a list of 325 towns. Moreover the RSA was referring to cultural heritage, which with the greatest respect got her does not include Pixie Lott or, for heavens sake a photo of Frank Skinner taken at the gave of George Formby who hailed from Wigan.

        • positron was not denying that the report was inaccurate, just that the inaccuracies are not the fault of the Times reporter.
          But what a pity that we are making ourselves figures of fun for the rest of the country by telling people that we are cultured because Kerry Katona was born here and Pixie Lott did a show here. We have a real cultural and historical heritage in Warrington which has not been mentioned.

  1. Gary, no dis-repect to yourself as the reporter, but why would anyone argue taht we offer no culture, This council and previous administrations have managed to turn what was a lovely town to live, into a 50 suare miles ‘Industrial Estate’, St Helens did not destroy the ‘Beechams Factory’, we cant wait to knock down ALL our wire works (our heritage), allow deveopers to destroy our listed buildings for their pure greed, I dont blame the developers, that is what they do, but I do blame those who are charged with looking after our town (The Council) for playing the communal fiddle whilst Warrington burned. Shame on the council, who can collectivly declare that eventaully, “The town hall is the oldest building in town”. SACK THE WHOLE COUNCIL LEADERS and their cronies, and lets get Warrington a place to be proud to come from. FFS, dont blame the messenger.

  2. In complete agreement with Ken Newcombe’s comments. The Council cannot escape its responsibilities in this no matter how much they twist and turn. Heritage seems to count for now’t in their minds.

      • I hear you Gary, I did not know that Janice Hayes was a Councillor, however what Im talking about is poor judgement shown by the collective council members. You mention hard working people like Janice, I am confident that she is a credit to the town, we have recently a formed Police museum, that is funded by charity and run by unpaid volunteers. Given the artifacts and information available, it is a travesty that, not only does it not appear to get the publicity it deserves, but with a little imagination from the powers that be , I am sure it would be an absolute self-funding attraction.But it would appear that due to ‘austerity’ the funds are not available, Then the leader of the Council and the MP for Warrington North insist that the government consider Warrington’s offer to take in refugees, well I have news for Mr O’Neil & Helen Jones MP, We already have young and old ‘Indigenous Warringtonians’ who for what ever reason find themselves homeless, maybe it is in keeping similar to your other lack of immagination. You know “Home your people already reside here before you offer our ‘austerity’ funds and accomodation vased on a knee-jerk reaction.

      • Despite its very late entry into the field in 2012, where was Culture Warrington when the latest locally listed building bit the dust early this month? During the planning application stages was Culture Warrington invited to contribute? Did it offer to furnish suggestions into how the specified preservation and conversion approval conditions of a locally listed building might acceptably be achieved? My guess is it did not, there is no evidence in the planning file documents. There is little point in belatedly espousing culture, then standing back and letting the Council continue do what it has done for these past few decades, to the continuing detriment of this town. Some of the “official” responses to reasonable public concern, on the lines of ‘it was not listed anyway’ or ‘would you rather sit in a traffic jam while they made it safe’ or ‘conspiracy theorists’, were indeed insulting to those who expressed their genuine regrets at the eventual (some might say – typical) turn of events.
        I would never intentionally insult anyone. My criticisms, not insults, are directed at successive Councils for their collective failures to preserve but put on the back burner, the cultural heritage of the Warrington, in the face of genuine mounting public concern, which sadly has become inured to the inevitable. That is the real insult to those hard working people who live and breathe our town, including Janice Hayes and her colleagues. Having had a some association in the preservation of listed and historically valued structures around the country, I have nothing but admiration for those who devote their time, energies and oftentimes money in preserving the valuable reminders of our history; and have been amazed at the lengths they will go to ensure the authenticity of those artefacts. Would that they regularly had such opportunities locally.
        It would nice to believe the RSA survey warts and all, might just bring about a change in the views of those who have long had it in their power to help preserve our cultural heritage, but have done little so far in that direction. For any meaningful change to be realised the lead must come from them. Not be left solely to all those hard working people who live and breathe this town knocking their heads continually against the brick wall of indifference.

  3. Well said Gary – thinks are not brilliant at the moment but they are starting to be put in place. The Police Museum has been going for a while now and the volunteers that me and the Mayoress met last week and highlighted on the Mayor of Warrington Facebook have and are doing a fantastic job. I managed to get the Town Hall open for John of the Heritage group at very short notice last week for a Saturday morning – true it was poorly advertised but John was very pleased that we had got it open at all – All the people who visited were very pleased with their visit. I unveiled a blue plaque at Fletcher Street a few days ago to commemorate 102 years of RFL. I am trying to raise the awareness of Chris Vose of the RED vest Warrington Athletic Club. He was our first Silver Medal Winning Olympian who captained the 1920 Antwerp Games Cross Country GB Team.
    I visited the Unilever organisation recently to help them celebrate 130 years business and heard about their history in sight of the Transporter Bridge that people are now trying to save. I was very pleased on a Tour at Port Sunlight earlier this month to remind them of their Warrington Heritage.
    I am also pushing for a calendar of events each year to acknowledge what we should be celebrating about Warrington and not just stumbling or missing them as has been the case.
    I haven’t even begun to talk about what I learnt about at school and what you can see in the Museum that has just celebrated its 160 years – I would have loved to have been involved. Janice Hayes does great work and the Museum is and has picked up awards. The network of historic canals, Manchester Ship Canal, St Helens etc. and locks are other great assets. The letter is about to receive funding and restoration between the Warrington and Widnes. I am also working as a Trustee with the MGET on a 30 year project to protect the Upper Mersey Estuary as the New Merseylink Bridge is being constructed – whilst our focus is Nature Conservation and Habitat enhancement we will be looking for associated historic projects.
    I haven’t event mention Walton Hall, the Carpenter Tower saved by Join Mitchell and her Big Yellow Taxi Song, the Unitary Church, the Tudor buildings – the Wire Industry – what we don’t do well is celebrate these well – how then are Southerners going to pick up on are buried treasure? But if you ask Indian James and Mark Olly they will wax lyrical about them – just watch their YouTube videos and read their books. It’s there if you bother to look out for it.
    Hope this report in the Time will give us a big kick up the back side to be proud about what we have and enhance it.

  4. There is no mention of the Parr Hall, which was given to the people of Warrington by Joseph Charlton Parr.
    In 1926, Warrington Corporation paid more than £2,000 for the 1870 Cavaillé-Coll Organ therein.
    This hall is a Grade 2 Listed Building, and the C-C Organ has recently been awarded an Historic Organ Certificate Grade 1 by the British Institute of Organ Studies.
    My recent e-mails to Culture Warrington go unanswered, as did my e-mails some time ago to the Executive Board Member for Leisure, Community and Culture.
    The Cavaillé-Coll Organ has been the Cinderella of the cultural quarter for far too long. If and when a decision is made on the future of this organ, it will only then a contender (or not) for Heritage Lottery Funding.
    The Cavaillé-Coll organ in Parr Hall, Warrington, is the only instrument of any size in the United Kingdom by this French master-craftsman that has not been tonally altered to any great extent.
    In 1969 the Warrington Corporation decided that an estimate of £9,000 for repairs was not worth the expenditure and proposed its disposal to a local scrap merchant.
    When Councillor Harold Edwards became aware of this intended disposal, it was saved only by the efforts of the specially formed Cavaillé-Coll Organ Retention Committee which began to raise money for its repair.
    The Corporation eventually gave an undertaking that if sufficient funds could be raised, the organ would be retained.
    The future of an artistic treasure such as this should not be decided in such a manner.

  5. Warrington deserves to be bottom of this list. WBC has no respect for Warrington’s heritage as has been seen by the numerous demolitions and long term neglect of our listed buildings. The museum is only ‘excellent’ because of the work put in by Janice Hayes and the rest of the dedicated staff. Left to WBC it would probably have been closed and demolished years ago. As for culture Warrington – this was only set up in 2012 – and this will may prove helpful in the future. The recent appointment of a heritage champion is welcome but why so many previous years without one? My bet is that the set up of culture Warrington and appointment of a Heritage Champion by WBC has not been prompted by any real change of heart or concern for our heritage but more likely to have been prompted by the prospect of available funding sources. The question is, if funding is gained what will it be spent on? will it be anything that will genuinely protect our heritage or just squandered on tat?

    • “Warrington deserves to be bottom of the league” – sadly I must disagree – it may be far from perfect but there are plenty of people in this town who care about it and there is lots of hard work going on to improve it.
      The more people who bemoan our town – the harder if will be to improve things.
      Everyone needs to pull together and work as a team.
      Positive energy creates positive results – negative energy achieves nothing!

      • ‘Everyone needs to pull together and work as a team.
        Positive energy creates positive results – negative energy achieves nothing!’

        Gary, I have been triving for this since 2008 where the C-C Organ is concerned, but it has got me nowhere – perhaps your comment should be brought to the attention of members of the Warrington Borough Council and Culture Warrington.

        My motto is ‘Nothing happens – unless you make it happen’.

      • Yes Gary there are plenty of people in this town who care about it, like the thousands who supported the campaign to stop Walton Hall and Gardens being sold off to Contessa Hotels, and like those who fought to save Bewsey old Hall for the people of Warrington etc. etc. Walton Hall was saved but Bewsey old Hall was lost to developers because WBC wouldn’t grant the pittance to pay for maintenance whilst heritage funding was sought to preserve the Hall as a heritage centre. Are you trying to tell me that WBC, after years of wanton neglect, are now to be trusted to save our heritage? Well I don’t believe it. The recently published picture of the proposed new Market is an example of what WBC’s regeneration team consider ‘improvement’ of the Town Centre. Which makes me think the harder it is for them to ‘improve things’ the better! If the Town Centre Regeneration Project goes ahead Warrington may as well be officially renamed ‘Warehouseville’. I live in hope that the funding gets cut before they can do further damage.

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