Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon battle to become London’s first borough of culture

*This article originally appeared on EastLondonLines.co.uk

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Lewisham, Croydon and Tower Hamlets are all bidding to become London’s first borough of culture, battling it out for a grand £1m prize.

The competition, introduced earlier this year by the mayor of London Sadiq Khan as part of a strategy to support the arts in the capital, hopes to bring “people and ideas together”.

Six runner-up boroughs will receive £600,000 to deliver bespoke cultural projects.

City Hall said the winning boroughs will be “chosen based on their artistic vision and ambition to deliver outstanding cultural initiatives in their local area, putting communities at the centre of the programme’s design and delivery”.

Several cultural institutions will be providing help to the winning boroughs, including the Museum of London, the Roundhouse, Film London and the National Trust.

Croydon has already begun preparations for the bid, with a new website and campaign, setting out five key aims they hope will help them secure the title – one being the improvement of young people’s lives.

Croydon has the largest and fastest youth population of any London borough- with 63,000 people between the ages of 10 and 23 living there.

If Croydon were to secure the bid, they hope to increase opportunities for young people in the area and provide more routes into employment, through new internship and apprenticeship schemes.

They also hope to create more workspaces for artists, as well as making nightlife in Croydon safer for everyone.

Similarly, Lewisham Council’s #LoveitLewisham campaign has already received a strong backing, with the council asking the public to submit their own ideas of what they would like to see happen in Lewisham.

With two months left to go, 170 ideas have already been submitted it to the ‘Love it Lewisham’ site. Ideas so far include a street food market, historical walking tours, a street festival and the building of a community pavilion.

Tower Hamlets have already received over 540 supporters on their bid to become the winning borough– and public support is vital to success in the competition.

Kate Bloomer, 32, an accounts manager from Poplar, told EastLondonLines: “It’s got to be Tower Hamlets. We live in one of the most diverse areas in London, there’s people on both ends of the wealth scale, and this could really help a lot of people.”

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs added: “When it comes to culture, Tower Hamlets offers the best of London in one borough.

“We have a unique story to tell and this is our opportunity to show our rich heritage, where we are now and where we want to be as a borough.

“From the Tower of London to Victoria Park, taking in the Boishakhi Mela in Weaver’s Fields and major London festivals such as the new All Points East, we have one of the most diverse cultural offers anywhere in the UK.”

Hackney has confirmed it will not be competing, with councillor Guy Nicholson, the culture lead at Hackney Council, telling the website Arts Professional that the authority was instead “developing its own arts and cultural sector” through a new audience participation and engagement programme.

The bids will close on December 1 and will then be submitted to the Mayor of London for the final decision. The winning bid will be announced in February next year.

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