Stalybridge is set to take centre stage as Greater Manchester’s next Town of Culture, after a successful bid for the accolade in 2022.
The Tameside town will receive a £50,000 grant from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) Culture Fund to develop a programme of cultural events and activities celebrating the unique heritage of Stalybridge and bring new opportunities for residents and visitors.
The Town of Culture award is an annual award highlighting the distinctive creativity and diversity of towns across Greater Manchester, with a focus on the remarkable art, culture and heritage that exists across the city-region.
Tameside Council led on the submission – selected by an independent panel judging ambition, impact, and additionality – working in partnership with The Bridge Cultural Consortium.
The Stalybridge Town of Culture Programme 2022 will complement existing work taking place as part of the Stalybridge Heritage Action Zone and the Town Centre Challenge.
The bid focused on promoting projects that will enable people to slow down, connect with the local environment and celebrate cultural value in activities such as artist-led walks and trails, community growing projects, and outdoor activities including theatre and storytelling. These will tie in with existing cultural highlights in Stalybridge, like the town’s popular monthly Street Feast event.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “I’m really pleased to announce that Stalybridge will become Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture for 2022.
“We created this award back in 2019 because we wanted to shine a spotlight on everything that our towns have to offer, support creativity and innovation, and help people discover something new right on their doorstep.
“Despite the immense challenges of the pandemic, Bury was able to put on an outstanding series of events during its extended stint as our Town of Culture. As we move into 2022 I am confident that Stalybridge will do the same, and deliver a programme every bit as exciting, unique, and surprising.”
Tameside Council Executive Member responsible for culture, Cllr Leanne Feeley, said: “I’m so proud for Stalybridge and our local community to receive this recognition. We already know what a fantastic, vibrant and creative place Stalybridge is, but this is an opportunity to showcase our town’s amazing cultural identity even more widely.
“Stalybridge’s cultural legacy spans the decades. It is the birthplace of the world’s oldest brass band, the Stalybridge Old Band; it’s the place where the iconic First World War song ‘A Long, Long Way to Tipperary’ was written; it’s a key location in the film ‘Yanks’ featuring Richard Gere; and it is where Beatrix Potter would often write and draw while visiting her family at Gorse Hall. In the present day it is still a hive of cultural activity, hosting events such as the recent Royal Exchange’s The Den project and the ongoing and resoundingly successful Street Feast.
“The Town of Culture title will allow us to build on this heritage and the wonderful work already taking place, while also creating new opportunities and a new tale in Stalybridge’s story. It’s a really exciting way to start 2022 and I look forward to what will follow.”
Stalybridge succeeds Bury, which became Greater Manchester’s inaugural Town of Culture in 2020 and held the title during 2021 throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. The town curated and delivered a hybrid programme of live and virtual events, including the Happy Festival and the two-week Burrs Live festival.
The £50,000 investment from the GMCA was more than tripled by additional funding from Bury Council, Arts Council England and the Victoria Wood Foundation, and the town is now developing a Culture Strategy to build upon the legacy of the award.
Cllr Martyn Cox, GMCA Lead for Culture, said: “The strength of the bid from Stalybridge, combining its distinct cultural heritage and ambitious plans for community-focused activities, was what really stood out for our independent judging panel.
“Bury exceeded all of our expectations in the way it navigated the challenges of the pandemic to put on a great show as our first ever Town of Culture. This is a chance for Stalybridge to innovate and deliver its own programme of events that really engage residents, not only in the town but across Greater Manchester and further afield. We look forward to seeing the unique twist that Stalybridge will put on the Town of Culture title.”