In 2021, the towns of Runcorn and Widnes came together to #CelebrateHalton with a series of cultural, creative and community-led events thanks to securing a year of being the Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture.

Working in partnership with ArtReach, a UK based cultural development charity, Halton Borough Council and the local communities created a year-long calendar of celebrations, which are now leading on to bigger ambitions for the local area.

Some highlights from the year of culture include the Music Weekender, which saw crowds gather to enjoy live music again in pubs, parks and venues; the pop-up Liberty UK Festival featuring outdoor theatre, interactive art installations and street shows; plus the Museum of the Moon at Norton Priory created by artist Luke Jerram. There were exhibitions, light shows, free family arts workshops and incredible community events allowing people living in the area to enjoy their own neighbourhood on a new level.

Cllr Paul Nolan, the Council’s portfolio holder for Culture,  takes a look back at last year’s celebrations: “It was a unique year for everyone but more so for the people of Halton. As the nation began to emerge from Covid lockdowns, we were offered a truly fantastic year of different activities to enjoy with friends and family – with more events and activities than the borough would have in any usual year, most of them to enjoy for free.

“This year allowed us to see a new direction for the borough as we want to build on that fantastic year and create a new Cultural Strategy, a creative and community based vision for the years ahead that will continue to bring local communities together to explore, celebrate and create right in the heart of their own towns.”

Halton Borough Council will, once again, partner with cultural development charity ArtReach to develop this strategy, after delivering a great year of cultural celebrations with ArtReach before. ArtReach recently also developed 10-year long Cultural Strategy for Fenland Borough and impressively led the development for the new strategy for the city of York, which includes ambitions for the city to be recognised as a world UNESCO heritage site by 2025.

Dan Williamson, Producer for ArtReach, explained: “We worked really closely with people and organisations across the borough to create a year of really engaging and ambitious events and that news clearly spread. It shows that the area is starting to be seen in a new light, an opportunity to build upon indeed. We’re very excited to be working with the people in Halton again over this new longer-term development.”

A series of public consultations with community groups, local workers, creative and cultural organisations as well as opportunities open to all, will be delivered over the next two months to capture local people’s thoughts, ambitions and hopes for the future.

Jo Dacombe, the ArtReach consultant who will help develop the strategy, explains further: “ArtReach has a long and successful history in developing this type of vision for regional or city-wide development. I particularly enjoy the chance to get around and meet the people that make the area thrive – we really need to know what excites people on a cultural and creative level, what the communities need and learn how people want their own neighbourhoods to develop. This is a very important part of the process – to give the people of Runcorn and Widnes a voice on how they see the cultural future of their borough. Along with the local authority, we’ll be coordinating a series of consultations over the next 8 weeks, some online, some in person, and if the internet’s not your thing, you’ll even be able to call us to take part in our survey over the phone.”

News of public consultations will be announced on Halton Borough Council’s and ArtReach’s websites soon, plus there will be a local campaign to ensure that people who have limited access or interest in the internet will also be able to contribute, so keep your eyes out for local news, posters and social media campaigns soon.