Arts community backs Wigan Council culture plan The Fire Within

Artists and members of the community have spoken about the local authority's five-year arts project.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 4:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 10:14 am
An exhibition at The Fire Within HQ in The Galleries in Wigan
An exhibition at The Fire Within HQ in The Galleries in Wigan

The Fire Within was launched in May 2019 and involves a physical exhibition in The Galleries shopping centre and work being done across the borough involving The Turnpike in Leigh, The Old Courts and other cultural organisations.

The council says £3.2m has been invested in the cultural sector, ranging from supporting artists to working in schools.

However, the project has also attracted some criticism in recent months, with The Fire Within coming under scrutiny at council meetings.

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Culture enthusiasts and those involved in the arts across the borough, though, have given their backing.

Elizabeth Costello, founder of Leigh Film Society, said: “Arts and culture have many forms and we’re all looking for something different that inspires our thoughts and gives us entertainment but it has to be accessible and inclusive to everyone.

"Across the borough there’s a wide range of exciting, varied accessible art and culture to appreciate, enjoy and be inspired every day.”

Visual artist Martyn Lucas said: “The Fire Within is an exciting vision for how art and culture can connect with people’s lives in meaningful ways.

“I have championed The Fire Within as an exemplar of town centre regeneration projects and what can be achieved with artistic vision and financial investment.

“The quality and diversity of The Fire Within exhibitions and events is right up there with what major cities, let alone towns, aspire to.”

Jen Lowe, a volunteer at The Turnpike who helped establish the Leigh Fun Palace last year, said: “The Turnpike means so much to us as a family. It’s a place that welcomes everyone, offers inspiration and creativity, support and a sense of belonging.”

Arts Council CEO Darren Henley has also publicly voiced support for The Fire Within.

One of its projects, called Home In Your Heart, involved 14 people living in the Scholes high-rise flats who were previously disengaged from their communities, living with mobility issues or widowed.

Work developed by the residents was put on display at the Museum of Wigan Life.

The council says more than 100 artists, including bands, visual artists and dancers, have been involved in the project since its launch.

Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities and culture at Wigan Council said: “The Fire Within is a cultural movement we’re pioneering in Wigan borough in partnership with local organisations and artists.

“Overall, The Fire Within is about making arts and culture accessible to everybody, no matter their knowledge or experiences with the sector.

“The exhibition space in The Galleries has given us a base for this work but the benefits have been seen borough-wide as we continue to roll out inclusive projects of that have changed lives.

"Culture is a key driver in social inclusion. Hearing how residents have been positively affected is really refreshing.”

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