Planning for Winchester’s Cultural Olympiad

Some of the most creative minds in the Winchester District will be gathering at Winchester Discovery Centre on Wednesday 21 January for the first ‘culture conference’ being held by Winchester City Council.

The conference is designed to gather ideas and evidence for a new, four-year cultural strategy for the district leading up to the London 2012 Olympics.

The event is open to anyone with an interest in the cultural life of the district, ranging from arts practitioners and heritage managers to tourist guides and creative professionals such as architects and designers. It is also open to local residents who are keen to find out more and take part.

Delegates will hear from national figures, such as Francesca Canty, UK Cultural Programme Advisor for London 2012, and John Holden who is a noted academic from the policy think-tank Demos.  Arts Council England’s South East representative, James McVeig,h will also attend the conference along with the City Council’s Chief Executive, Simon Eden.

A series of workshops will help to map out a ‘Cultural Olympiad’ for the district leading up to 2012, and to consider key questions such as how to involve more young people in cultural activities; how to place a ‘value’ on culture locally and how we can support the thriving creative industry sector in the district.

The conference will be chaired by Prof Anthony Dean of the University of Winchester, who heads up the district’s Cultural Consortium.  Prof Dean said:

Cultural Consortium has an important role to play in determining the development of the district’s cultural offer and ambitions.  Winchester’s creative and cultural community already has a national reputation for excellence, innovation and individuality. We will be looking at how to support that community, and make the most of the skills they have to enhance life in the Winchester District for everyone.”

Winchester City Council is a major supporter of arts and culture, spending over £300,000 over the past year on arts organizations and venues around the district.  The Council made a capital contribution of £1 million towards the very successful Winchester Discovery Centre which opened in November 2007, and has already established itself as a cultural focal point for the district.  It also plays an active part in the development of inspiring initiatives such as The English Project, the Hyde900 celebrations and public art commissions such as the new archway for Parchment Street which will be installed in spring 2009. Its commitment to the Theatre Royal has ensured that local people can enjoy high quality drama, music, comedy and dance throughout the year, and it played a decisive role in securing the future of The Tower Arts Centre last winter.

The event is the brainchild of Cllr Patricia Stallard, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Sport, who said:

“The City Council prides itself on a very visible commitment to culture, including our first class museums service and an internationally recognized track record for preserving and documenting the archaeological heritage of the district. This conference will provide a first class opportunity to draw on local inspiration and vision in shaping the Winchester of years to come.”

Attendance at the half-day conference is free.  To register, contact cultural services administration officer Eliza Berry at or call her on 01962 848 303.