Leaders call for more collaboration and space to help arts flourish

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The Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee meeting on 3 March

Local residents, artists and arts organisations have been talking to the council about how to stimulate and open up the arts in the borough.

At a rollicking Town Hall meeting of the Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee last night (March 3), sixty residents, artists and art leaders shared views with councillors and officers about how to stimulate the local arts scene and develop new opportunities for residents to access the arts, particular those people who might not otherwise do so.

“It was very encouraging to see how much is already happening in the borough and to get so many ideas about what could be achieved with more hands-on support from the council” said committee chair Cllr Ben Coleman. “This was an important first step for the new administration in developing an arts policy together with residents.”

Emma Hutchinson of the Music House for Children, Cathy Robertson of H&F ArtsFest and Nicholai Le Barrie of the Lyric Theatre kicked off the meeting by setting out their vision for the arts in Hammersmith & Fulham.

During the discussion, a recurring theme was the need for more space to develop and show art, and for a website and database to publicise the range of arts in the borough and enable artists and arts groups to collaborate more easily.

Trea Owens of Albert & Friends Instant Circus, which has been working with children and young people of all backgrounds in the borough for over 30 years, said: “It is great to see the council showing an interest in the arts locally. It’s very clear we need a local champion to recognise the excellent work being done here. This is a fantastic borough for the arts but empty spaces are still very hard to come by for smaller groups.”

This was echoed by Lucy Pittaway of the Scariofunk dance collective, who said the decreasing number of spaces and venues for young people was making it harder to work with young people, especially those who were vulnerable and needed support. “Even after school clubs can’t afford to host us anymore, due to funding pressures,” she added.

Cllr Sue Fennimore, H&F Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, said the council was already looking at how it could improve youth centre provision after the cutbacks of recent years.

And Cllr Andrew Jones, H&F Cabinet member for Economic Development and Regeneration, said the council would be developing an arts strategy and would come back with specific ideas based on what had been said at the meeting.

Among the issues discussed were:

  • How can we make Hammersmith & Fulham a more creative and exciting place to live in and visit?
  • How can we develop new opportunities for residents of all ages to create and access art in H&F, particularly those who haven’t done so before?
  • How can residents, arts organisations and the council work together on this?
  • Are the council’s criteria for what it funds the right ones?
  • In addition to financial grants, what other things can the council do to support the arts in the borough?
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