South Somerset becomes a ‘Priority Place’ under Arts Council England’s bid to transform the country through culture
South Somerset has been designated a ‘Priority Place’ by Arts Council England as part of its three-year Delivery Plan which sets out their roadmap to implement the vision of their strategy Let’s Create. For South Somerset, this means greater cultural investment and more opportunities to enjoy high-quality cultural experiences.
The Let’s Create strategy vision states:
By 2030, England will be a country in which the creativity of each individual is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where everyone has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences.
To help make this vision a reality, the Delivery Plan names 54 Priority Places across England – with South Somerset being one. Arts Council will work closely with all locations to develop new opportunities for investment, both from the Arts Council and other partners.
With South Somerset home to excellent cultural venues such as South Somerset District Council’s Octagon Theatre and Westlands Entertainment Venue, the investment will see more opportunities to grow the area into a cultural hub in England.
Alongside South Somerset, 10 other Priority Places were announced in the South West, including:
- Isles of Scilly
- Isle of Wight
- New Forest
- North Devon
- North Somerset (with a focus on Weston-super-Mare)
Councillor Val Keitch, Leader of South Somerset District Council, said: “I’m delighted that South Somerset has been included in the Arts Council England delivery plan as a Priority Place, meaning greater investment in the arts across the district.
“Alongside the £10 million HM Treasury grant to be administered on behalf of DCMS by Arts Council, we are investing millions of pounds to redevelop The Octagon Theatre as a Council to see it become a flagship venue for the Arts and Entertainment in South Somerset and our commitment to deliver this scheme will enable the district to become a real hub for the creative arts. South Somerset District Council has been a champion for the arts for many years, recognising the benefits they bring to health and well-being and bringing communities together. Our district is home to superb artists, arts organisations and is brimming with local talent.
“We want South Somerset to continue to be a place where communities have access to exceptional cultural activities and we fully welcome the new Priority Place status for the district and look forward to seeing new opportunities arise with this new partnership.”
Phil Gibby, Area Director, Arts Council England, South West, said: “Arts Council England is pleased to share our approach to place-based working, and as part of this, we are delighted to confirm the 11 south west places that we will prioritise from 2021 to 2024.
“In deciding on these Priority Places, we considered both the needs of local audiences, and the strength of our partnerships with Local Authorities, Local Cultural Education Partnerships, and Higher Education Institutes. We look forward to collaborating closely with our partners in the 11 Priority Places over the next three years, beginning with a series of foundation meetings this autumn, in which we will come together in each place to agree on a set of jointly held cultural ambitions.
“By joining forces in this way, we hope to ensure that more people in our region have the opportunity to take part in creativity in the places where they live and work, and to experience for themselves the power of culture to bring people together, support local economies, and make lives better.”
Earlier this year, South Somerset District Council’s members unanimously agreed to invest £23 million in the redevelopment of the Octagon Theatre. The vote to proceed followed the Government’s Budget announcement in March which saw £10 million being pledged to help fund the refurbishment of the venue.
Councillor Mike Best, South Somerset District Council’s portfolio holder for Health & Wellbeing, said: “We know what the Octagon Theatre can be – a real gem for arts and entertainment in Somerset and beyond, so we will be ambitious with our proposals and aim to make the venue somewhere that can house some of the best shows in the country and become a hub for culture.”
To help inform the architectural work, we want to hear from you on the initial concepts and enable you to voice your opinions on our proposals. You can take part in the consultation online until Thursday 30 September. You can view all the proposal details online at The Octagon Theatre website.
Art Council England’s Priority Places have been chosen through a set of criteria based on a review of current public investment and opportunities to engage with creative and cultural activity. Each of the Priority Places are ambitious to drive positive change through culture.
In the last decade, the Arts Council has significantly shifted its investment outside of London. The aim in Let’s Create is to increase focus on specific places underserved in the past. Priority Places are just one of the ways in which the Arts Council are committed to strengthening cultural and creativity opportunities in a targeted way.
Adam Burgan, Arts & Entertainment Venues Manager for South Somerset District Council, said: “This is huge news for South Somerset and I am delighted that the Priority Place investment will focus on our area. We have a wealth of arts and culture activities already on display but can unlock a lot more with the funding and collaborative work with Arts Council England. Our work to transform and develop The Octagon Theatre into a flagship venue for the Arts and Entertainment in South Somerset shows where we want to be in terms of brining joy, inspiration and entertainment to the area for generations to come.”
The Octagon Theatre and Westlands Entertainment Venue has recently launched its autumn / winter brochure, packed with amazing artists and performers. For all the latest show details, visit www.octagon-theatre.co.uk and www.westlandsyeovil.co.uk.
Tickets for the Yeovil Literary Festival have also gone on sale. The 2021 festival, which will feature Michael Mcintyre, runs from Thursday 28 October to Wednesday 3 November, with over 50 events taking place across multiple venues.
For the full Yeovil Literary Festival 2021 programme or to book tickets visit www.yeovilliteraryfestival.co.uk or call The Octagon Theatre Box Office on 01935 422884.