Michael Ellis MP visited the University to announce the successful funding bid

£4.3m Cultural Development Fund awarded to Kent

The Right Honorable Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has announced an award of £4.3m from the Cultural Development Fund (CDF) to the University.

The fund aims to allow cities and towns to invest in creative, cultural and heritage initiatives that lead to culture-led economic growth and productivity. Michael Ellis MP visited the University to announce the successful funding bid on Thursday 17 January.

The funding has been awarded to contribute to the development of the Thames Estuary area as Europe’s largest creative corridor, making it a world-leading location for creative and cultural industries. This will cover areas including Basildon, Canterbury, Castle Point, Dartford, Gravesham, Medway, Southend-on-Sea, Thanet, and Thurrock.

Plans for the CDF funding include building a programme of activity that develops critical cultural infrastructure, R&D and innovation, training and capacity building for local businesses and the commission of new cultural products.

The investment will help support the creation of over 500 creative industry jobs, provide skills and qualifications to 200 workers and 60 apprenticeship opportunities for young people in the region.

The estuary will also host a major new festival called Estuary 2020, planned for September 2020, which will include new commissions and collaboration with business, innovators and education and will be curated by Metal and Whitstable Biennale. It is estimated 200,000 people will attend the festival.

Further events to take place between 2019 and 2022 include:

  • Estuary Works: new creative workspaces for creative and digital production in creative clusters like Margate, Southend and Chatham Historic Dockyard
  • Cultural Co-Location: piloting an innovative approach to embedding art and culture into in Ebbsfleet, Purfleet and Basildon demonstrating new practice in the role that arts and culture can play in planning and placemaking
  • Estuary Producers: producer ‘residencies’ in locations across the Estuary, creating new cultural experiences in high streets and parks, on watersides and other venues
  • Creative Labs: a project bringing together creatives, technologists and academics from the universities of Essex and Kent to explore how culture can address key issues such as mental health, ageing and town planning
  • Creative Apprenticeships: targeting future sector leaders in the Estuary aged 15- 24 years supporting the SELEP (South East Local Enterprise Partnership) skills strategy. This new model will be developed in partnership with others in the HE and Further Education, schools, creative freelancers, SMEs, and skills agencies and young people themselves.

Professor Karen Cox, Vice Chancellor and President of the University, said: ‘On behalf of all our partners I welcome this timely investment from the Cultural Development Fund. It will help support our commitment to developing a wide range of creative and cultural initiatives and, by driving innovation and economic growth, ensure that our region becomes one of the most attractive places in the UK to live, work and study.’

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Karen Cox with Michael Ellis MP

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Karen Cox with Michael Ellis MP

The funding has come from the £20m Cultural Development Fund launched by the Government to use investment in heritage, culture and creativity as a catalyst for regeneration. Towns and cities were invited to bid for funding for local cultural plans tailored to their strengths and needs. The other winning areas are Grimsby, Plymouth, Wakefield and Worcester.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: ‘Creativity, arts and heritage make our towns and cities unique and our communities better places to live. The Cultural Development Fund will support tailored local plans that use culture to create jobs, boost tourism and ultimately regenerate communities. This funding will directly benefit young people and creative businesses across the Thames Estuary and further the region’s ambitions to be an international centre for culture and the arts.’

This unique cross-boundary partnership was established by the South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN), a working group of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and the GLA, supported by Kent County Council and Thurrock Council, who together launched with the TEPC vision in 2017. The TEPC partnership is a consortium involving the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), Kent and Essex County Councils, 11 local authority areas represented by Thames Gateway Kent Partnership and Opportunity South Essex, (SECEN), the GLA, Royal Docks and seven East London boroughs, University of Kent, University of Essex, and cultural organisations Metal and Whitstable Biennale.