dancers at Laban centre
Lewisham Council fought off competition from neighbouring Greenwich and four other boroughs Credit: Lewisham Council

Lewisham Council has pledged to “deliver lasting social change” after being declared the London borough of culture for 2021.

The award comes with £1.35 million to stage a 12 month-long programme of cultural events across the borough next year.

Lewisham fought off competition from seven other shortlisted London boroughs – including a bid from Greenwich – with Croydon awarded the title for 2023.

Damien Egan, the elected mayor of Lewisham, said: “I’m delighted we have been awarded Borough of Culture 2021.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Lewisham and I couldn’t be more proud to be Lewisham’s mayor and working alongside so many amazing creatives and artists.

“Our year will showcase what Lewisham has to offer the rest of London and the UK by harnessing the passion and creativity of our cultural sector and the people of Lewisham and channelling this into a programme which will face up to the most significant challenge facing our planet, the climate emergency.

“We want people to come to Lewisham to see our wonderful borough and have a lot of fun.”

Some of the events planned include the world’s first “tag” climate carnival with the borough’s 18 neighbourhoods showcasing the power of culture to highlight social issues and stimulate action within communities.

A mass dance party is in the works which will explore the impact of migration and diversity on London’s dance scene.

The borough will have an outdoor music festival inspired by the Rock Against Racism gigs of the 1970s as well as a national creative careers conference leading a call to action to address inequality.

The London borough of culture competition was introduced by London mayor Sadiq Khan after his election in 2016. The current holder of the title is Brent, with Waltham Forest having been the first borough of culture last year.

Hounslow, Haringey, Sutton, and Hammersmith & Fulham also took part in the contest. Sutton, Hammersmith & Fulham and Haringey won “cultural impact” awards, worth £200,000 each.

Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe said on Twitter: “A massive congratulations to our neighbours & friends at Lewisham Council on their great win! Big love to Damien Egan and the whole team and we can all look forward to the first south London borough of culture!”

Story updated at 1.30pm with new quotes and to clarify the number of other boroughs involved in the contest.

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Grainne Cuffe is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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