A broad coalition of people passionate about culture and creativity have been democratically elected to York’s new Culture Executive from across the sector: together, they will oversee the future direction of the city’s Culture Strategy, York’s Creative Future.
In 2020, the ambitious Culture Strategy mapping out the next five years of York’s Creative Future was launched. A joint initiative between Make It York, City of York Council and the city’s cultural and creative sector, the strategy aims to create opportunity and make culture relevant and accessible to everyone in the city.
A key priority within the city’s Culture Strategy has been to create more democratic and open structures: the York Culture Forum opened in December 2021, and it now has over 160 members. They represent a broad range of creative freelancers and members of culture, heritage and creative organisations. As the organisation leading the delivery of the Culture Strategy, Make It York has worked closely with City of York Council and the cultural and creative sector to build this process together and ensure robust engagement with it.
Over the summer, nominations were open for any members of the York Culture Forum who wanted to stand for a voluntary elected position on the Culture Executive. The York Culture Executive, who will oversee the future direction and implementation of the city’s Culture Strategy, York’s Creative Future, have been democratically elected by the York Culture Forum this September.
There are seven newly elected members of the Culture Executive group, who will lead on specific Priority Areas of the Culture Strategy, as well as General Members who will support across the breadth of the strategy. They are:
- Barbara Swinn, Head of Strategy and Engagement at York Explore Libraries and Archives, as Head of Priority Area – Cultural Engagement, Participation and Relevance
- Andrew Morrison, Chief Executive Officer of York Civic Trust and Fairfax House, as Head of Priority Area – Placemaking
- Lydia Cottrell, Founder of SLAP and freelance multi-disciplinary artist, as Head of Priority Area – Talent Development and Retention
- Sarah Maltby, Director of Attractions at Jorvik Group, as Head of Priority Area – York’s National and International Profile
- Rachel Cowgill, Professor of Music and University Research Theme Champion for Creativity, University of York, as General Member
- Tom Bird, Chief Executive of York Theatre Royal, as General Member
- Rebecca Newman, Soprano and Managing Director of York Proms, as General Member.
They join the non-elected members:
- Chris Edwards, Chair of REACH, the Local Cultural Education Partnership, as Head of Priority Area – Children and Young People
- Owen Turner, Master of the Guild of Media Arts, representing the UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts designation
- Helen Apsey, Head of Culture and Wellbeing at Make It York, as co-Chair of the York Culture Forum and Head of Priority Area – Culture and Wellbeing
- Councillor Darryl Smalley, representing City of York Council, as Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities.
The Executive will be led by two co-chairs – Head of Culture and Wellbeing at Make It York and a co-chair appointed from and by the incoming Executive. The group will meet bi-monthly to steer the strategy’s future direction. The first meeting of the new Culture Executive will take place in October.
Helen Apsey, Head of Culture and Wellbeing at Make It York and Co-Chair of York Culture Forum, said: “It’s a really exciting time for culture in York. Through the York Culture Forum, we’ve created a new space for people working across the culture and creative sectors to connect, come together to share knowledge, and develop partnerships – and with the newly elected Culture Executive in place, the sector can now really take the lead in shaping the future direction of the city’s Culture Strategy. I’m very much looking forward to working with the new Culture Executive: they’re an incredible group of people, with so much expertise, passion and energy.
Councillor Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities said: “I look forward to working with the newly elected Culture Executive, who will with their experience, creativity and leadership help us bring York’s ambitious culture strategy to life. It’s a really exciting time for culture across the city, and York is leading the way in having an elected executive driving forward the delivery of our culture strategy. I’d urge any interested organisations or people working across the sector to get involved in the Culture Forum and help shape York’s creative future.”
Andrew Morrison, Chief Executive Officer at York Civic Trust, said: “The Culture Forum is a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved in one of the most important parts of life in York to work together to develop and promote the vibrant and enriching creative and cultural community it is. I am excited to have been elected to join the executive in order to help support this development and in particular to help to ensure that opportunities for everyone to experience York’s kaleidoscope of culture are embedded within the fabric of the city as it develops.”
Rachel Cowgill, Professor of Music and University Research Theme Champion for Creativity, University of York, said: “I’m excited to be joining the Culture Forum Executive at such a crucial time in the creative and cultural life of the city. The cost-of-living crisis poses huge challenges, and we all have a part to play, as organisations and individuals working together, in promoting a culture of vitality, inclusion and well-being through creativity, arts and heritage. I’m excited to join as part of the University of York’s commitment as a university for public good to helping create the conditions for all parts of society to flourish.”
Sarah Maltby, Director of Attractions at Jorvik Group, said: “I am delighted to join the executive group to bring the benefits to York; its residents and visitors, through the new Cultural Strategy. We have huge opportunities to work together to enhance York’s impact on a national and international stage and I am very pleased to be able to play a part in making that happen.”
For more information:
Sarah Foster and Brittany Guymer
Make It York Communications Team
Notes to Editors:
About the York Culture Forum
The Culture Forum is open to anyone working within the arts, culture, heritage, and creative sectors, including collections, combined arts, dance, libraries, literature, museums, music, theatre and the visual arts, as well as people’s own creative participation in, and interpretations of, culture based within York. Find out more and sign up to join the Forum here: York Culture Forum (makeityork.com)
About the Culture Strategy
York’s Creative Future has inclusion and participation at its core, and the commitment to ensure that culture is relevant and accessible to everybody in York – regardless of age, background or postcode. It places culture at the heart of activities from major capital developments, to residents’ wellbeing – and will work to ensure cultural entitlement for every child.
The Culture Strategy has the ambition to transform York – and by 2025 we believe York will be known as a city where outstanding, renowned heritage comes together with a cutting-edge and contemporary approach to creativity – reflecting the city’s rich history and its status as the UK’s first UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.
About Make It York
Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally – as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business. Its mission is to grow the economic prosperity and wider wellbeing of York and its citizens. In practice, this means delivering a range of projects and programmes based around our corporate strategic priorities.
- City positioning and profile-raising
- Ensuring an exciting city centre
- Delivering the city’s ground-breaking Cultural Strategy