Arts Council funding to bring engaging cultural projects to Burnley

13 September 2023

Two Arts Council grants totaling almost £100,000 will fund projects encouraging locals to take pride in their borough and giving them easier access to cultural events and performances often associated with places bigger than Burnley.

The money is funding two projects – the Burnley Pride of Place Project portraying the borough through the lens of two professional photographers, and Hug Burnley, which aims to open eyes, ears (and doors) to an array of cultural performances and activities ranging from live theatre and music to family craft events.

Both grants have been won by Burnley Leisure and Culture (BLC), which manages and operates the borough’s publicly owned leisure facilities, including the Burnley Mechanics Theatre.

A grant for £56,099 is funding the Hug Burnley project that is building on a seven-year partnership between the Mechanics and Culturapedia, an independent organisation that states its mission is to put Lancashire on the cultural map.

It has been centred on a group of volunteers staging live events in the Mechanics’ Front Room performance space on a handful occasions each year.

But now the aim is to increase the regularity of performances, expand the scope of what is being put on while staging even more events, activities and performances at BLC’s Down Town Kitchen and Café in Burnley town centre. These will include theatre, dance, cabaret, music, accessible, family-friendly visual arts and writing sessions.

Sue Robinson, Culturapedia’s director and owner, says: “Like many towns around Pennine Lancashire, Burnley has not been able to benefit from the opportunities of investments in culture like Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool. It gets drowned out by those louder voices in the region and it means that people in Burnley can’t enjoy the same quality of cultural life.

“We’re delighted to be part of this project. We are passionate about Burnley people being able to enjoy affordable and accessible live events and fun, creative activities. Burnley people love to be expressive and creative and have huge pride in the town. The project will see the Mechanics go back to its community roots.

“Over the next 16 months we will work with different communities to plan art events that are relevant and accessible to them, in the buildings and spaces they feel comfortable in, so if you fancy an affordable great night out, it’s there, on your doorstep.”

Hug Burnley events planned between now and Christmas include fun family-friendly shows in the October half term and regular live lounge events at the Mechanics with news of more to follow soon.

Meanwhile, a grant for £43,650 will fund the Burnley Pride of Place Project, which sees The Caravan Gallery coming to the borough to replicate similar successful projects all over the UK.

It is run by artists and photographers Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale, who say they engage with people and places ‘normal’ galleries might not easily reach.

Over the next year, the pair will be intermittently pitching up with their bright yellow caravan, which doubles as an exhibition space, in different places throughout the borough to take pictures, shoot videos and meet locals to encourage them to take part.

Charlotte Steels, BLC’s Cultural Strategy Manager, says: “The project is starting with a week-long ‘recce’ which is an opportunity for the artists to build contacts and scope locations. They’ll be back again with the caravan for five days before Christmas and again in the Spring. They’ll work in an organic way so that the project is unique to Burnley.”

“It’s a great way to get people looking at and thinking about the place in a different and more positive way maybe than they normally do.

“It’s a really good participatory engagement process that should give us lots of information about how we can develop working with different organisations and communities in the future.”

With more visits scheduled in early 2024, the plan is to stage a community exhibition in an empty town centre shop next Spring.

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