Berwick is set to become a hub for arts and culture with a five-year project, funded by North of Tyne Combined Authority and Northumberland County Council. This initiative will provide financial support to artists and creative businesses in the town, aimed at fostering growth and job creation.
The project, known as Create Berwick, part of the North of Tyne Culture and Creative Zone (CCZ) Programme, aims to establish the town as a ‘distinctive, must-see destination’. This was announced during North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll’s recent visit, where he engaged with the local creatives.
This initiative unites cultural organizations, creatives, artists, businesses, and residents to transform Berwick and its surrounding wards in North Northumberland into a beacon for culture and creativity. Starting with a Creative Action Fund, it offers up to £5,000 for artists and creative businesses for projects focused on skills development, business growth, and public engagement in creative activities. Applications for the fund are open until Wednesday, 31 January.
During his visit to Berwick Barracks and local businesses on Bridge Street, Mayor Driscoll highlighted the project’s significance, saying: “We’ve invested £1.5 million to transform Berwick’s economy – that’s in addition to the £170,000 for the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival. Writers, artists, actors, filmmakers – creatives of all kinds can directly grow their businesses with this long-term funding.
“Local artists get it; they know that culture is everything from guided relaxation sessions to watching a film about the speedway at Shielfield Park.
“We want year-round jobs in culture and tourism – organising festivals and staging events that don’t depend on summer weather. That means more secondary jobs – everything from shops and restaurants to joiners and accountants.”
Create Berwick, in collaboration with town and North Northumberland partners, will fund projects that enhance skills, showcase talent, and create employment opportunities in the cultural and creative sector. The project aims to attract global visitors, artists, and makers to Berwick, fostering creativity and cultural appreciation in the town while expanding spaces for artists and creative businesses.
Upcoming projects include converting high street spaces into community hubs, establishing a Community Radio Station with Berwick Academy students, and partnering with Bridge400 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of The Old Bridge.
Councillor Glen Sanderson, North of Tyne Combined Authority cabinet member for Culture, Creative and Rural and leader of Northumberland County Council, commented: “With Create Berwick we are supporting culture and creativity to make Berwick a thriving town.
“We want a place where artists want to create, where people want to start businesses, where there are creative jobs for local people and where visitors come because they know they will have an unforgettable cultural experience.
“The Creative Action Fund is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses or freelance artists to access funding that can help them establish themselves or develop their work. It’s a chance for the creative people and businesses in Berwick to make 2024 their year!”
Create Berwick is one of three CCZs that have been awarded funding from the North of Tyne Combined Authority for five-year pilot projects, along with Creative Central NCL, Newcastle upon Tyne and North Shields Cultural Quarter, North Tyneside.
Local artist Chloë Smith, involved in the project’s consultation stages, said: “Create Berwick could be transformative for the town.
“Berwick is full of artists who work locally, nationally, and internationally, and with the opportunities provided by Create Berwick like funding, training, networking and spaces, all of this talent could be used to great effect.
“I’ve seen first-hand through my own projects how the arts have a wide range of benefits including improvements to health and well-being, a reduction in social isolation and a strengthening of community. Through Create Berwick we can expand the creativity and culture here in our town, creating new opportunities for artists, residents and visitors.”
For more information and to apply for the Creative Action Fund, visit www.createberwick.co.uk before the 31 January deadline.