Pasture with Cows
Pasture with Cows is part of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, which started yesterday

Council chiefs have revealed that Greenwich is looking into bidding to be London’s borough of culture in 2021.

The capital’s current pick is Waltham Forest, in east London, but Greenwich Council is considering putting the borough forward for the next round.

At a regeneration scrutiny meeting on Thursday night, councillors were told that the authority was thinking about putting itself forward.

The winner of the project is awarded cash from City Hall to put on cultural activities, with last time’s winners getting a £1.3m handout.

Council officials visited Waltham Forest to learn more about how they can successfully bid as applications are set to open next month.

Takki Sulaiman, the director for community, culture and corporate development, told councillors the authority was considering a bid.

He said: “We are examining the possibility of a borough of culture bid for 2021. That’s why we visited Waltham Forest today. The mayor does not want us to see culture as something that is out there, but as something that is very much a force for intervention, that creates jobs and opportunities. There’s a lot of work that can be done.”

On the bid, he added: “The GLA has just publicised the information for it. The applications start in July and close in mid-October.

“There is a lot of work to be done, we haven’t decided whether a bid is right for us but if we do decide to go for it, you really have to go for it, you really have to go for it. There are no half measures.”

The council unsuccessfully bid for the award last time round, but said a new approach will be worked out for this year. The last Borough of Culture contest also awarded Brent the title for 2020. Lewisham and Bexley also bid, with Lewisham getting funding for a Festival of Creative Ageing, celebrating the talents of older people, which will take place this autumn at venues across the borough.

Greenwich’s culture cabinet member Miranda Williams admitted at a scrutiny meeting on Thursday: “I imagine a fresh sheet of paper will be the best starting point. Culture is something you can never have too much of. We should allow people to define culture.”

It’s General Gordon Square like never before with the ever astonishing @transeexpress transforming #Woolwich into a giant glittering ballroom. We hope you have your dancing shoes ready… 💃

— Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (@GDIFestival) June 21, 2019

The meeting came the night before the launch of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, with the spectacular Cristal Palace show in Woolwich town centre. Visitors to Greenwich town centre this weekend can also enjoy an installation called Pasture with Cows – featuring real cattle – at the Old Royal Naval College as part of the Greenwich Fair.

Greenwich Borough Hall
The Borough Hall (left) is part of the former Greenwich Town Hall complex

At the same meeting, Williams played down concerns that the proposed sale of Greenwich Borough Hall to theatre company Selladoor – which wants to build a 640-seat venue and rooftop bar inside – would detract from neighbouring Greenwich Theatre.

Labour councillor David Stanley said: “I do think it is something we should be treating with caution. It needs serious consideration. There is a real risk that that a new theatre next to Greenwich Theatre could create problems. One thing I want to be taken forward is a dialogue with Greenwich. We need to know that Selladoor is going to be different.

“Saying Selladoor won’t have a pantomime at Christmas is fine, but if they have an all singing, all dancing musical, that will still cause problems. It would be good to facilitate joint working.”

Williams said: “If you look at their programmes, they are very different. Very different, they appeal to different audiences. Working together and working with Greenwich Theatre – we are more than happy. We will have to agree to disagree over who wants to see what, but I believe the audiences that they will be able to attract will be very different.”

Councillors were told that the Borough Hall, which riddled with asbestos, was marketed to 50 companies – but only Selladoor and a light showroom were interested.

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Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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