Stockport will take on the title of Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture for 2023, securing £50,000 to support arts and creativity in the borough.
Local stars including Mercury nominees Blossoms and Stockport County’s Macauley Southam-Hales joined Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Stockport Council Leader Cllr Mark Hunter, and representatives from across the town’s cultural scene for the announcement at the Hat Works on Tuesday 23 May 2023.
In recent years Stockport has been widely celebrated as an emerging hub of creative activity in Greater Manchester, and last year was dubbed the ‘new Berlin’ by DJ Luke Unabomber.
The town’s bid was centred around the One Stockport vision to support the local economy, connect communities and promote health and wellbeing. It will be underpinned by four elements that celebrate arts and creativity in the broadest sense, as well as the town’s diverse cultural heritage: Stockport Makes, Stockport Moves, Stockport Sounds and Stockport Tastes.
Stockport’s year as Town of Culture coincides with a number of major public redevelopments and investment in the town, including the Town Centre West regeneration, the refurbishment of the iconic Hat Works museum, cutting edge digital arts opportunities to be opened up through the £2.6m Stockport Creative Campus Cultural Fund, and the development of the £14m Future High Street Stockroom discovery centre.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “It’s a real pleasure to be able to announce Stockport as our third ever Town of Culture for 2023. The town put forward a strong case for the accolade, backed up by some really exciting plans for events and activities that celebrate Stockport’s identity, its history, but also shine a spotlight on everything that’s happening right now.
“I think the fact that we’ve got Blossoms coming out to support us today just goes to show the talent that is coming out of this place and the pride they have in their hometown. I’m pleased to see so many cultural organisations and community groups already engaging with the Town of Culture project, because they’re the ones that will really bring this together. There’s a real buzz about the place at the moment – the regeneration taking place through the Mayoral Development Corporation is transforming the town centre, and now this recognition and the funding that comes with it will help Stockport capitalise on all of that.”
Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of Stockport Council, said: “Stockport has a rich cultural history and I’m delighted that we have been recognised in this way. This is the result of much hard work and dedication by many of our cultural organisations getting together under the banner of Culture Stockport to support us with this bid.
“We want our Town of Culture programme to give everyone the opportunity to be active and creative in our town and to ensure we use it to celebrate the people, places and stories of Stockport. It was great to see so many people who are integral to our plans at the launch event, which got us off to a great start. This accolade tops off a busy six months for Stockport, with many of our key projects such as the transport interchange, Weir Mill and the next phase of Stockport Exchange all now well underway.”
Cllr Neil Emmott, Greater Manchester’s Lead for Culture, said: “The Town of Culture title is all about celebrating the unique heritage and exciting potential of places across Greater Manchester. It’s about supporting them to deliver events and activities that showcase all the creativity and talent in our communities, but that also help people to engage with culture in new and innovative ways.
“Bury and Stalybridge put their own unmistakeable stamp on Town of Culture, and now it’s Stockport’s turn. I know that everyone connected to the town’s thriving cultural scene will want to make this a success, and we’re looking forward to what they’ve got in store for the rest of the year.”
The borough boasts a rich cultural history. It’s home to Strawberry Studios, which was co-founded in 1968 by Eric Stewart – later of 10cc – and saw artists including Joy Division, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, and Paul McCartney record there. It’s also the birthplace of leading lights including broadcaster Dame Joan Bakewell, a host of film and TV actors such as Claire Foy, Sally Lindsay and Sacha Dhawan, and Wayne McGregor CBE, currently Resident Choreographer at The Royal Ballet.
Stockport is also home to several historically important public buildings such as the Edwardian Central Library, built with the assistance of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and the impressive Town Hall, which has become a popular filming location for a number of primetime TV shows.
The town follows in the footsteps of Stalybridge, which held the title in 2022, and Bury, which was announced as Greater Manchester’s inaugural Town of Culture for 2020 and held the title through 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic put a number of events and activities on hold.
As part of Stalybridge’s spell as Town of Culture, Tameside Council supported local groups and organisations to run activities including theatre and dance performances, writing, arts and animation workshops, immersive wildlife walks, community events for older residents, and food and drink events.
Bury, meanwhile, curated and delivered a hybrid programme of live and virtual events during its spell as Town of Culture, working with the support of Arts Council England and the Victoria Wood Foundation to host a wide variety of activities in the town.
Stockport’s Town of Culture Programme will be announced throughout the year as the programme is developed with residents, local artists, creative businesses and partners.