A programme of world-class events, skills development and community-led activities has received a £1.25m Place Partnership award from Arts Council England through the National Lottery.
Durham County Council submitted the bid on behalf of a consortium of the council, the Culture Durham Partnership and Durham University to support the £7.2m Into the Light programme which is set to begin this year.
The funding builds on the £2m councillors have already pledged towards plans for the enhanced three-year programme of events and activities across the county.
It comes as County Durham looks to cement its place as “The Culture County” after becoming the first county ever to be shortlisted for UK City of Culture status.
And it follows confirmation that tourism contributed more than £1billion to the county’s economy for the first time ever in 2022.
Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Durham County Council leader and portfolio holder for culture, creative, tourism and sport ahead of the formation of the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority, said: “County Durham and the North East are yet again in the spotlight for our ambitious programmes of world-class events and community-led activities.
“The £1.25m awarded is a huge vote of confidence by Arts Council England as we put culture at the heart of our regeneration plans for the county and the wider region.
“2022 marked a historic milestone for the county, with tourism contributing over £1billion to our economy for the first time, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
“We are committed to both culture-led regeneration and activities that directly connect culture to economic and community growth.
“In line with that commitment, we agreed to use the £2m from our culture reserve to support bids for external funding such as this one from Arts Council England.”
Jill Cole, co-chair of the Culture Durham Partnership said: “This is an exciting and ambitious programme that is all about investing in our county by cultivating, growing and connecting people and places through the power of arts and culture.
“It’s a real indication of the commitment of the council and cultural partners to work together in achieving this ambition, and it’s brilliant to have this support from Arts Council England.”
Professor Janet Stewart, Executive Dean (Arts and Humanities), Durham University, said: “This is a fabulous success for County Durham and an exciting opportunity to put culture at the heart of wider regeneration and growth for the county.
“Durham University is committed to working in partnership to support this ambitious and exciting programme.
“Through our degree courses, museums, collections, visitor attractions and cultural activities, we recognise the important role we play in the cultural landscape of the county.
“This programme will also provide a great opportunity to share our research in new and creative ways, to bring arts, science and cultural engagement together.”
The expanded three-year culture and events programme will include a ‘spotlight’ year in 2025, which will involve enhancing existing plans for the 2025 Stockton & Darlington Railway bicentenary celebrations.
There will also be a major new programme of ‘Finding the Light’ events, exhibits and experiences exploring art, science and space.
The Place Labs concept, which saw pilots established in Peterlee, Weardale and Durham City as part of the UK City of Culture bid, will be rolled out countywide.
Under the Place Labs concept, a network of community-based cultural hubs will be established where residents can develop their own creative projects and share ideas.
The place partnership award will also support a long-term international programme with South Africa’s Isango Ensemble, developing local talent and new productions that build on shared mining heritage and community activism.
Skills, training and leadership development projects will ensure that the county and the wider region have better and more varied career opportunities.
The programme has been developed by the council and its partners including Beamish Museum, The Bowes Museum, Durham University, No More Nowt (formerly East Durham Creates), The Forge, Northern Heartlands, Redhills and TIN Arts.