|The Fire Within sparks national recognition
Wigan Borough’s ground-breaking cultural hub at The Galleries shopping centre, The Fire Within, has been shortlisted for a national award.
Wigan Council, which is the only organisation in England shortlisted, entered the ‘Best Culture and Arts Scheme’ category in the Town and City Management Industry Awards 2019.
The submission was to acknowledge the council’s partnership work with the cultural sector in creating a pioneering five-year plan to make the arts accessible for all.
The awards have been shaped by the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) to showcase best practice across the UK and Ireland and to identify successful projects.
The Fire Within was officially launched on Saturday 11th May in six formerly vacant retail units in The Galleries shopping centre in Wigan town centre.
The once empty units were transformed into bright, interactive exhibition spaces, ready to showcase performance and displays.
The event, hosted in partnership with cultural organisations and internationally renowned artists, Al Holmes and Al Taylor, was in line with wider plans to revitalise the shopping centre, connect new audiences to culture, showcase talent and create exciting, diverse uses for the town centre.
Since launch day, where more than 23,000 people passed through the shopping centre, many cultural and art related events have been held in The Fire Within HQ, from music performances to poetry and film screenings.
And, over the next five years, the council alongside cultural partners will explore five themes in a bid to engage more people locally with the arts, positioning Wigan Borough as a culturally thriving district in the North West and to encourage further investment in the area.
Councillor Chris Ready, cabinet holder for communities, whose portfolio includes culture said: “To be shortlisted for this award is a fantastic achievement for this borough. To be the only organisation in England to be shortlisted is even more exciting.
“We have worked extremely hard with our cultural partners and the community to create something that is inspiring and relatable to residents.
“Wigan Borough has such a rich history and incredible talent, both of which should be celebrated. We are committed to investing resource into the cultural sphere and building a creative, alternative offer in our town centre as we know that this work has a number of benefits both economically and socially and also from a health perspective.
“The Fire Within has been a huge success, with leaders in the field showing support for our work, so we are optimistic and excited about the possible outcome.
“Although it would be amazing to win this award, we are humbled to have been shortlisted and are proud of the success and hard work that has so far gone into The Fire Within. We look forward to what else our new manifesto will bring.”
Though interested in all aspects of town and city management, the ATCM is specifically keen to explore the ‘future consumer’, how town centres have evolved and how arts and cultural events are paramount in driving footfall into towns and cities.
The Best Arts and Culture Scheme category was one of the most popular for submissions and only two other organisations have been shortlisted: Dumferline Delivers and Aberdeen Inspired, both based in Scotland.
Ojay McDonald, Chief Executive of ATCM said: 'We have received more than 50 award submissions over a wide range of categories so just to be shortlisted is a great accolade in itself.
“The Association of Town and City Management has received some very high quality, innovative and creative submissions for the 2019 Town and City Management Industry Awards that all demonstrate excellence in the industry.
“The judges have said that the fierce competition and standard of entries has certainly made judging a very difficult process and the Wigan Council submission for The Fire Within has been given a very worthy place on the shortlist along with entries from Dunfermline Delivers and the Aberdeen Inspired.”
Winners of each category will be announced on Tuesday 26th June.