Nine of the capital’s councils have been revealed as candidates for the title of London Borough of Culture in 2025 and 2027.
The two winning boroughs will each be awarded £1.35 million from City Hall to deliver a programme of cultural events which celebrate their local people and places.
Launched in 2017, a winning borough is now selected every other year. Previous winners include Waltham Forest (2019), Brent (2020) and Lewisham (2022). 2023’s London Borough of Culture is Croydon.
Justine Simons OBE, London’s deputy mayor for culture, said: “I’m super excited to see such a positive reaction to the mayor’s London Borough of Culture award.
“It shows that across London, our boroughs recognise the importance of culture and believe in the value it brings to communities. We’re looking forward to announcing the winners next year.”
In addition to the London Borough of Culture award, three Cultural Impact Awards worth £200,000 will also be announced on March 11, 2024, by mayor Sadiq Khan.
Barnet has applied for the 2027 title. On its website, the council says: “Despite being a fantastic place to live and work and with hidden gems generally known only to local people, Barnet is not recognised as a hotbed of culture.”
It called on residents earlier this year to share their ideas by joining the borough’s “cultural canvas movement”, with the goal of building “a big canvas of cultural activities – from art, literature, film and theatre through to sport, music, spoken word, events and food festivals – where people can express themselves creatively”.
The council says Barnet has “made great strides over the last year to turn the Borough of Culture vision into a reality”, including by hosting the second-ever Barnet Literary Festival last May – with another planned for next year – and by establishing and extending a ‘creative communities’ programme across the borough.
Ealing has applied for the 2025 title. The council says it has “produced an ambitious bid outlining how the borough would use its year to innovate, transform and promote arts, music and culture across its seven towns and create a lasting legacy for the borough”.
The council adds that the borough has “a rich cultural history to back its bid”. It says: “Ealing Studios is the longest running film studios in the world. The Ealing Blues Club was key to the formation of the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and countless other rock legends. More recently, the borough has become home to the thriving London Mela and British Bhangra scenes.”
Greenwich has applied for both the 2025 and 2027 titles. The council says its “proposed programme is based on the stories of more than 1,000 residents and the participation of many thousands more” and “will be delivered by organisations, artists, young people, famous faces, volunteers and stakeholders who push the boundaries of arts, culture and technology to deliver new and exciting opportunities”.
The council adds that its programme will also focus “on levelling up the disparity between the east and west of Royal Greenwich and celebrates the industrial and working class heritage of the borough”.
Hammersmith and Fulham
Hammersmith and Fulham has applied for the 2025 title. A video produced by the council points out that the borough enjoys “world famous music venues” and was the birthplace of several “classic film and television” shows and “incredible albums”.
Councillor Sharon Holder, the borough’s cabinet member for the public realm, says that the borough today has “great venues like the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Bush Theatre, Fulham Palace, the Bhavan and the Irish Cultural Centre…
“There’s a lot going on, but not everyone in Hammersmith and Fulham is connected to it, and many beyond it are unaware. We could do so much more if we could join up the dots between people across the borough, between our talent and our opportunities.”
Haringey is pitching itself as a “rebel borough” in its bid for the 2027 title, focusing on the area’s “rich history of everyday rebels and radical activists”.
The council says it intends to utilise high-profile cultural spaces in the borough – including Alexandra Palace, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Jackson’s Lane and Bruce Castle Museum, while arranging community-curated events in each of the borough’s 21 wards.
The council estimates that the programme would involve around 600 local artists and partners and see around 300,000 people participating in cultural activities.
Havering is bidding for the 2025 title. The bid has been drawn up by a consortium of groups collectively known as Havering London, who say they hope to unlock the borough’s “hidden stories and showcase the vibrancy of our community”.
They added: “The goal is to empower everyone, offering pathways to creative careers and opportunities for participation that enhance well-being.”
Havering London says that despite having already submitted the borough’s bid, it is still consulting with residents on what they would like to see from the cultural programme until February 2024.
Merton has applied for the 2027 title. “We want culture to be for everyone, celebrating our diverse communities across Merton,” said councillor Eleanor Stringer, the borough’s cabinet member for civic pride.
“Our neighbourhoods may be close geographically, but each with their own unique personality and history – and we want to showcase and celebrate the rich tapestry of that.”
Council leader Ross Garrod said: “Merton is London’s best kept secret, but we are home to a whole host of talent and ingenuity – and we want to take pride in it and show it off to the world.”
Newham is bidding for the 2025 title. The borough’s mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE said: “Newham has a longstanding commitment to celebrating culture, spearheaded by local organisations like Rosetta Arts, East London Dance, 3 Mills Studio, The Line and many more who work collaboratively with us on many programs to ultimately enable greater creative expression which is a key component of our community wealth building agenda to drive growth in the borough.
“We want Newham to be at the forefront of culture across London and beyond, creating lasting change and benefits that will be felt by all our residents as well as making Newham a destination and home for the very best cultural and creative organisations. We are confident that this bid will elevate and cement our place at the heart of London’s cultural and creative future.”
Wandsworth has applied for the 2025 title. The council says: “After six months of listening to hundreds of community organisations, creative venues, schools, businesses and residents of all ages, we have an ambitious plan to improve access to culture for everyone across the borough and drive positive change.
“This is the first time Wandsworth has entered the London-wide competition. We are home to award-winning cultural organisations, freelance creatives and grassroots community groups. We have vibrant neighbourhoods and a thriving arts scene and we want to showcase our local culture to London and the world.”