Julius Weinberg, Ambassador for the Arts, Culture and Heritage
What is culture? One of those things that is difficult to define, but obvious to all of us. It encompasses language, belief, cuisine, social habits, music and art. It’s those social activities that foster group identity, belonging and cohesion. Cultural activities are good for people’s mental and physical health; bringing people together, singing, walking, playing music, sharing enthusiasms. They are good for communities; creating resilience, fostering caring and sharing. They are good for the economy, catering (sometimes literally) to the cultural needs of people and communities is a large and growing part of the economy.
As Co-Chair of Buckinghamshire Culture, the body charged with supporting the county’s cultural strategy, I hope we can establish culture and access to cultural activities for everyone as central to what happens in Buckinghamshire. In particular, I hope we see culture as something we participate in, not just passively consume. We have cultural gems of national importance in Buckinghamshire, with Waddesdon Manor, the Garsington Opera and Pinewood studios among many other heritage sites and creative hubs. Bucks is also the home of novelist Enid Blyton, children’s author Roald Dahl and poet John Milton, and we are also a stone’s throw from London, one of the world’s most concentrated centres of cultural activity.
We hope that we can develop a sense of pride and identity within the county so that people realise how much there is going on. We want to make Buckinghamshire “sticky”, so that residents stay in the county to enjoy themselves, young people and graduates stay in the county to work and create businesses, and others want to visit, building the reputation of the county as a great place to be.
We think that there are great stories to tell about Buckinghamshire and that storytelling binds many of the cultural activities of the county together. We hope to develop a countywide storytelling festival, which would draw upon the work of Bucks-based writers and artists throughout our history, the story tellers of Pinewood, the modern storytellers of the computer games industry, the traditional stories told by our diverse minority communities and stories of the development of the Paralympic movement.
Buckinghamshire Culture has been in existence for a year and, while our initial plans had to change due to COVID-19, this time has shown us all just how important culture is, not only in helping us get through a tough time, but also as a key component to personal, community and economic recovery. We have established some pilot activities, Buckinghamshire in 100 Objects and Lockdown Stories, and have ambitious ideas which we will be sharing soon.
During the year I have discovered just how vibrant the cultural scene in Buckinghamshire is. However, cultural activities often go unrecognised, and I hope we can change this. If you have ideas on how we can shine a light on the important cultural activities happening in the county, please do get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.