Berwick's £500k arts bonanza
County bosses have promised to end “42 years of hurt” with plans for a major cash injection into Berwick’s art scene.
The town has been selected for the first stage of proposals for a new network of ‘Cultural and Creative Zones’ stretching from the River Tyne to the Scottish border.
And the initiative will come with £500,000 for its first year and the prospect of more to come in an attempt to boost tourism and other industries in the region.
Berwick’s depth of culture and heritage assets was among the factors in the decision.
Tongue-in-cheek comments by Richard Wearmouth, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, suggested the electoral success of the Conservative Party in recent years partly explained the latest investment.
He said: “42 years of hurt never stopped Berwick dreaming and now your dreams are a reality thanks to a fantastic Conservative administration and government, so happy days.
“Build back better – build back Berwick.”
The Tories have been in charge of the county council since 2017.
The Berwick parliamentary constituency has been represented by current international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan since 2015, before which it had been held by Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith for more than 40 years.
The cash for the arts boost is being provided by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, which has been headed by Labour mayor Jamie Driscoll since the organisation was created in 2019.
According to the county council, while the Berwick Cultural and Creative Zone (CCZ) pilot scheme is to be funded to the tune of £500,000 initially, it could potentially attract a further £2-3 million over the following five years.
Hexham was also considered on a shortlist alongside Berwick, but it was eventually decided the border town offered “the greatest potential to showcase the potential of the CCZ approach”.
Guy Renner-Thompson, county councillor for Bamburgh, said: “You know what we say in the north of the county, that from 1973 we had a Liberal Democrat MP, meaning a government of either colour had no incentive to invest in Berwick.
“This is a real achievement that simply didn’t happen when anyone else was in charge.”
Following the approval at the county council’s cabinet meeting today (Tuesday), county councillor for Berwick North Catherine Seymour said: “The funding that we have qualified for will enhance the growth of our Culture and Creative assets and support them looking ahead to the future.
“It is exciting that it will provide more jobs and boost our economy and communities.”
Isabel Hunter, county councillor for Berwick West with Ord, said: “On behalf of residents from Berwick and the surrounding area, I welcome the significant investment into our local community as well promoting our cultural offer nationally.
“This will benefit local businesses and the economy.”
Cllr Jeff Watson, cabinet member for culture at the council, added: “Berwick has a long heritage of offering creative space for cultural organisations and partnerships.
“The development of a CCZ in the area will only help to further enhance the town’s and the county’s reputation for the creation of innovation and progress in the cultural sector.”