Seven month cultural festival coming to Solihull

Live music, street performances and public art could form part of a seven-month cultural festival set to get underway in Solihull later this year.

Plans are taking shape for a programme intended as a countdown to next summer’s Commonwealth Games and to help the borough’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

The line-up, which would run from September through to March, is still being discussed but could include open mic nights, outdoor performances and a major art installation.

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A project delving into the borough’s heritage and a photography competition are among the other suggestions.

Although the council has warned some of its plans could still be shaped by coronavirus rules, with uncertainty around whether another wave during the winter months could see certain restrictions reintroduced.

Martyn Sargeant, the council’s head of customer and cultural services, said it was crucial that activities had broad appeal and were truly Solihull-wide.

While The Core would be an obvious choice for certain events, the council is keen to avoid confining the festival to the borough’s three centres – Solihull, Shirley and Chelmsley Wood.

“It will be important that the programme reaches across Solihull’s geography (i.e. not just in Solihull town centre, or even the three main town centres), and also reflects the diversity of the population,” he said.

Discussions around reinvigorating the borough’s arts scene actually pre-date the pandemic.

In late 2019, the council had commissioned a review of what was on offer.

It found that while there was quite a range of activities, the public view of them was mixed.

A picture of Solihull Town Centre

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It also noted that Solihull faces stiff competition from neighbouring areas and that the borough had a “limited number” of venues and only a few galleries and museums.

The coronavirus crisis has given fresh impetus to the effort to bolster the local offer, with the “festival of cultural moments” one of the biggest initiatives planned for the year ahead.

A final budget has yet to be agreed, but the local authority has said it will look to draw on underspends from existing pots of cash as well as seeking additional funds from the likes of Arts Council England and the government’s Covid grants.

The proposals will be discussed by Cllr Joe Tildesley, cabinet member for leisure, tourism and sport, at his decision session next Monday (June 28).

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