Creative co-op launched in a bid to boost Newcastle’s cultural sector

The city launched Newcastle Creates to find ways to involve the arts in sustainable and inclusive local development

Newcastle upon Tyne has launched a new co-op to boost the city’s culture sector and give it a role in local social and economic development.

Newcastle Creates is a ‘culture compact’ – concept created by the Cultural Cities Enquiry, which was commission to find ways for cities to use culture to drive inclusive, sustainable growth.

Noting the value of the cultural sector in to stakeholders, including businesses, the tourism industry, the health and education sectors and local communities, the enquiry proposed culture compacts as cross-sectoral coalitions to optimise the value of culture in each city, and to identify priorities for future development.

In response, Newcastle Creates was formed from stakeholder nominations in 2020, with a vision that by 2030, the city “will be renowned as a one whose culture and economy are built on the creativity, industry and imagination of its people. It will be a city where the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish. It will be a place where identity and cultures are celebrated, and everyone feels they belong.”

Core members representing interests including the public and private sector, education, arts, voluntary sector, makers and creators and more, and is supported by specialist advisory groups in areas such as cultural democracy; talent development and support, climate and sustainability, and diversity, accessibility and cultural engagement.

Rather than directly delivering projects, it will lead the development of the cultural sector in the city and work to shape its thinking to benefit the city. Its launch set out six key themes: inclusion, prosperity, opportunity, place, wellbeing and climate.

Council leader Nick Kemp said: “I’m delighted and proud that we are placing culture at the centre of our city’s future. Newcastle has a brilliant, unique cultural identity, one that is rightly recognised and celebrated around the world.

“Culture is also critical to the success of our local economy and it supports the wellbeing of our residents. Now more than ever, it’s important to recognise the role that culture plays in creating vibrant, successful communities.”

Joanna Chapman, chair of Newcastle Creates, said: “We have ambitious plans to champion culture in the city. Creativity can be a positive force for health and wellbeing and culture should be inclusive and reflect the people, stories and history of the city.

“The cultural sector can also influence, advocate, and inform policy to create change in response to the climate emergency. Culture can be central to an inclusive economy and creates opportunity and shared prosperity for all. To facilitate that, Newcastle should be the best place to develop creative skills and creativity should be central to young people’s lives.”

As a co-op, Newcastle Creates says it “is fundamentally democratic – we want people from a diverse range of backgrounds and organisations to join us and encourage a truly collaborative, cross sector approach to setting the agenda for culture in the city.

“Operating as a co-operative gives us the chance to remove the barriers associated with invitation-only or sector specific networks. We are building a community-based model that will prioritise learning, sharing, exchanging and partnering.”

Members will vote for directors every year and will also be invited to vote on the strategy and vision of the co-op and attend its AGM, with “other opportunities to offer direct feedback throughout the year”.

Vice chair Ben Dickenson said: “We want to encourage as many people as possible to join us. We’re building a community-based model that will prioritise learning, sharing, exchanging and partnering.

“So, whether you’re an artist or a maker, teacher or health professional, a CEO or representative of a cultural institution, we want to know how you think culture could be developed to deliver more benefit for the people of Newcastle.”