‘Made in Kingston’: Kingston Council approves plan to support creative growth in the borough

Kingston Council has approved a new “cultural strategy” that aims to support creative businesses and ensure the needs of residents involved in the arts are taken into account in future council decision-making.

The Made in Kingston strategy outlines five action points including the development of more shared public spaces and live music venues and plans to aid creative residents in forming local and international networks.

Introducing the strategy at a Growth Committee Meeting on March 27, Councillor Liz Green said its goal was to put “culture and creativity firmly at the centre of good growth, development and regeneration across the borough”.

“There is a wealth of talent across our neighbourhoods and our residents which, if we could harness it, would support inclusive growth,” she said.

“Yet we know that many of our borough’s career creatives choose to travel outside of the borough to work on a daily basis.”

The plans were laid out in a report commissioned by Creative Kingston, a community interest company that works to raise Kingston’s profile as an ideal home for creative businesses, and its partners.

The Made in Kingston report, which was produced following consultations with council representatives and local businesses, states that Kingston is home to 6,500 residents who are “career creatives” but only 1,900 currently work within the borough.

The council hopes the approved changes will encourage more people to work within Kingston and further its reputation as a town with a rich creative culture.

Other plans include the formation of mentoring connections between Kingston University graduates and residents working in the creative industries, and the founding of an annual event led by Creative Kingston where people can showcase their talents.

Carly Allen, co-founder of Kingston-based dance class company Vital Signz, welcomed the report but said she hoped the changes would provide more opportunities for all members of the community to become involved in the arts.

She said: “I think it’s brilliant and it’s definitely important that the council are putting more money into the arts and culture, but it would be nice to actually see something done.

“I’d like to see them catering to all ages rather than just young kids, and there are a lot of places around here that are quite expensive. It would be nice to see the cultural arts hit those that don’t have as much money.”

Director of communities at Kingston Council Stephen Evans said: “The time has never been better to place culture and creativity at the heart of inclusive growth.

“Here in Kingston we have a rich and diverse culture that can help drive good growth, support livelihoods, families and quality of life.

“We are immensely grateful to all our community stakeholders who helped shape this strategy and we look forward to working with them in the coming months to take this strategy forward.”

The report also highlights Kingston’s existing creative successes including the Rose Theatre, which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary and sold 150,000 tickets for more than 500 performances in 2017, and the Hippodrome, a 1,000-capacity music venue which hosted 20 chart-topping artists last year.

Work on the plans will begin in Summer 2018.

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