Medway will build on momentum of City of Culture process to forge new cultural future

After narrowly missing out on the longlist to be UK City of Culture 2025. The Trustees, Bid Director, backers and cultural sector have pledged to build on the momentum and enthusiasm that the process has generated over the past year, and channel them into a collective project to create a lasting step change in the role that culture plays in the area.

It has always been the plan for Medway to use the process of bidding to accelerate the delivery of its ambitious, sector-led Cultural Strategy, which was published earlier this year and is led by newly formed culture organisation Creative Medway. The strategy sets out to make Medway stronger and more resilient in response to current challenges and is based on two core beliefs: that culture is at the heart of defining Medway’s identity and building pride in the place; and that allowing community voices to be heard unlocks the possibility of powerful and meaningful change.

The Cultural Strategy, and the key themes, partnerships and creative ideas that formed Medway’s City of Culture submission remain at the heart of plans to take forward significant elements of the proposed programme.

With the range of partners who assembled behind the bid, we are confident we are ready and able to fulfil our cultural ambition and reach – regionally, nationally and internationally. The next decade will see Medway reposition itself as a UK cultural hub, using its array of cultural assets – existing, hidden and prospective – to create social, economic and artistic impact.

Medway has a unique cultural personality, which has been informed by its history and the stories of people who have called it home. The river provides not only a backdrop, but for many years was the source of Medway’s importance, with the Royal Navy Dockyard at Chatham established in the 16th Century playing a major role in the history of the UK until its closure in the 1980s. The closure led to 24% unemployment across the area, had a major impact on Medway’s economy, reputation and self-image.

In its heyday, the Dockyard spawned a booming tradition of popular entertainment and music hall, and led to the invention of the matinee as a crafty way to circumvent the naval curfews. Charles Dickens grew up in Medway, and it forms the backdrop of some of Dickens’ best-known works. It has since been home to innovative, sometimes irreverent, creatives from Tracey Emin and Billy Childish, to Zandra Rhodes and Nitin Sawhney.

Medway was identified as a Priority Place as part of three-year Arts Council England Delivery Plan 2021-2024. Priority Places are those identified as having a particular need for cultural investment, as well as the opportunity for success in raising further investment in the period 2021-2024. Medway is destined for big things and keen to partner across the region. Watch this space…

About the author

Virginie Giles is We are Medway’s Place Manager. She has over 25 years of marketing and branding experience, both agency and client side, ranging from having successfully ran businesses through to working with major FMCG brands.

Virginie joined the Medway Place making initiative in December 2018 and is responsible for delivering Medway place marketing and communication strategy. She believes Medway is a great place bursting with amazing diverse communities and a great underground creative scene.

TOGETHER a new outdoor public art installation by Lucid Creates, along Chatham’s riverside in Medway, Kent © Lea Toby/PA
Virginie Giles, Place Manager, We are Medway