National arts boss praises Wigan culture plan The Fire Within

Wigan Council’s five-year arts plan has been backed by Arts Council England (ACE) chief executive Darren Henley

Monday, 15th March 2021, 10:08 am
Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley

Mr Henley attended the launch event two years ago and hailed ACE’s £1.63m of investment in Wigan cultural organisations over the past three years.

He is one of the most prominent and high-profile supporters of The Fire Within, which in recent months has faced criticism and scrutiny from opposition councillors.

The project involves numerous exhibition spaces in The Galleries Shopping Centre as well as work being done in schools and communities and the council says it has attracted £3.2m of investment into the borough.

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One of the galleries at The Fire Within HQ in Wigan town centre

Mr Henley said: "The Fire Within has breathed new life into empty shops in The Galleries shopping complex and has made art a part of more people’s everyday lives.

“At the launch back in 2019, I said that I loved Wigan’s ambition and the sense of possibility and opportunity the cultural manifesto offered, and I have watched with admiration as that possibility has become reality.

“Success lies in the collaboration between local leaders, artists and residents and their collective commitment to put creativity at the heart of Wigan’s future.

“This investment is changing the lives of people of all ages – and it’s getting Wigan talked about on the national stage.

“At the Arts Council, we will continue to support its ambitions, and I can’t wait to get back to Wigan to share in the next stage of the creative journey.”

Mr Henley said the Covid-19 pandemic had provided further proof of the importance of the arts and culture in people's lives.

He hailed the work being done in the cultural sector across Wigan and applauded some of the ways organisations in the borough had found to keep working throughout lockdowns and the other restrictions brought in to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

He highlighted the online programme of events at The Old Courts, Wigan Steam's digital exhibition and a podcast developed by Manchester Royal Exchange’s Local Exchange Leigh Ambassadors celebrating the cultural life of Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley.

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