New Barnet Council culture strategy hailed as ‘huge moment’ for borough

Labour administration claims culture had been left to “languish in obscurity” under the Conservatives, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Ammar Naqvi (inset) is Barnet Council's cabinet member for culture, leisure, arts and sport
Ammar Naqvi (inset) is Barnet Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure, arts and sport

Barnet Council has launched a “long overdue” five-year cultural strategy in a bid to improve “togetherness” and build on the borough’s “hidden” arts scene.

Ammar Naqvi, cabinet member for culture, leisure, arts and sports, led the discussion at a cabinet meeting yesterday (Tuesday 16th).

He stressed the new document was a “vision statement” containing six key objectives to save culture in Barnet from “languishing in obscurity”. 

The priorities are ‘involvement’, meaning increased participation in the borough’s cultural sector; ‘infrastructure’ and developing placemaking; and ‘interconnection’, a bid to promote culture as a connector of people and places. 

There are also aims around ‘identity’, to establish Barnet as a cultural destination; ‘inspiration’, to stimulate its cultural education and engagement with young people; and ‘influence’, by harnessing the power of culture to enrich other services and industries. 

Will Cooper, the deputy head of strategy and engagement at the council, explained that in order to help develop the main themes of the report a rotating “relatively diverse” group of people and organisations from the creative industries, gathered following an open call, and participated in a series of workshops.

Senior Labour councillors reacted positively to the strategy. Alison Moore, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “I’d really like to welcome what I think is a really exciting cultural strategy and one that is, forgive me, long overdue. 

“We’d all agree the role in sharing and understanding each other’s culture through expression, art, music, performance and creativity really contributes to cohesion.”

Cllr Moore added that enhancement of culture contributed to people’s “sense of wellbeing” and the report was “particularly timely” as the council was starting to work on its long-term health and wellbeing strategy. 

Cllr Naqvi added: “This is a big moment, this is a huge moment, it’s the product of a change of direction, an impetus that was sparked into life in May 2022.

“When the new administration came in we said we would be different, we said we’d be better. 

“Among the many things we meant by that is it would be no longer acceptable for culture to languish in obscurity in Barnet, it would be no longer acceptable for it to be unassisted, undiscovered, and uncelebrated – and in many ways that’s what this report is about.”

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