York's Creative Future:
York Culture Strategy,
2020 - 2025

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.

York's Creative Future:
York Culture Strategy, 2020 - 2025 Launch

Did you miss the launch of York’s Creative Future? Watch again here.

York: Creative City of Media Arts

A meeting point for ideas and creativity for two millennia, York is a city where outstanding, renowned heritage meets a cutting-edge and contemporary approach to creativity. York’s rich history combines with our status as a UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts to act as a powerful catalyst to attract, encourage and help grow York’s cultural and creative sectors.

York is part of a network of 246 Creative Cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor in sustainable urban development. We place creativity and the cultural industries at the heart of our development plans at a local level and we actively cooperate at an international level.

Kaiser Chiefs in the Silent Gig as part of the exhibition When All is Quiet - Kaiser Chiefs in Conversation © York Art Gallery
Kaiser Chiefs in the Silent Gig as part of the exhibition When All is Quiet - Kaiser Chiefs in Conversation © York Art Gallery

We have seen culture and creativity playing an even greater part in many peoples’ lives during the covid-19 pandemic. Artists and organisations have responded to the crisis with collective and community spirit; launching initiatives online and on social media, and through public participation. Here are just a few examples:

York Civic Trust created a gallery of Blue Badges to honour key workers.

York Museums Trust created the viral sensation, the #CuratorBattle on Twitter. They also invited people to explore their vast collections from home with their Museums from home online collections.

York Theatre Royal created Collective Acts, a programme of activities and digital events, to help their community stay connected. They also worked in collaboration with BBC Radio York to bring the York Mystery Plays to life on radio.

York Creatives’ Facebook page – York’s grassroots creative community. (including Mick Liversidge’s Outdoor Poem series)

REACH and IVE ran the Bags of Creativity programme, which supported vulnerable and disadvantaged young people’s learning in York.

York Dance Space have created a video for #REFRESH21 with some wonderful young people in lockdown (who created everything from the movement to the poetry).

and Wellbeing

The arts and heritage can support people’s health and wellbeing throughout their lives: here are some of the fantastic culture and wellbeing initiatives doing just this in York.

Accessible Arts & Media – a charity running arts and creative media learning projects in and around the city, supporting disabled young people and adults, older people living with dementia and memory loss and people with mental ill-health.

National Centre for Early Music’s Cuppa and a Chorus – offers an opportunity to sing in a relaxed environment and enjoy a cup of tea, a piece of cake and a friendly chat!

National Centre for Early Music’s I Can Download and Play – a project that helps deaf children and those with a hearing impairment to access music making opportunities.

Tang Hall Big Local – is a part of a National Lottery Funded programme where it has been given £1m to spend over 10 years to make Tang Hall a better place to live. See Tang Hall Big Local – How has Covid 19 affected us?

CONVERGE (York St John University) – provides courses for adults who use mental health services including in Visual Arts, Creative Writing, Film and Media, Music, Theatre & Performance and Academic Skills.

Using the creative arts for health and wellbeing: a creative forum for GP trainees. This event was made possible by the hard work of individuals from: York GP Training Scheme, York Dance Space, Stonegate Singers, Ways to Wellbeing, Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, & National Centre for Early Music.

National Centre for Early Music’s Music4U community project – Music4U is our Youth Music funded project that seeks to build a more musically inclusive England.

Converge’s Communitas Choir – comprising people with lived experience of mental ill health, students and staff at York St John University.

Live Well York – provides helpful information and advice on local groups, activities and events in York, including information on Health & Wellbeing.


Post-lockdown, the culture sector innovated, to create socially distanced events that people could enjoy safely in the city. Find out more:

York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up on the Patio.

Park Bench Theatre’s Rowntrees Park performances.

National Centre for Early Music and Music Venue Alliance’s Songs Under the Skies.


The show must go on: 2020 brought huge challenges to York’s world-renowned programme of festivals, but it also saw great innovation to ensure these events could survive and thrive in new and exciting ways.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2020 – an international film festival which takes place annually in York, UK, at the beginning of November and this year’s Festival went virtual.

Early Music Festival 2020 (National Centre for Early Music) – The 2020 festival, celebrating the In July 2020 the NCEM launched the first ever York Early Music Festival Online with guest artists including countertenor Iestyn Davies, harpsichordist Steven Devine, the Consone String Quartet and the acclaimed vocal ensemble Stile Antico.

York Design Week 2020 – York Design Week explores a new collaborative, inter-perspective narrative for our city.

York Festival of Ideas 2020 – Featuring world-class speakers, exhibitions, theatre, music, films, guided walks, family-friendly activities and much more, York Festival of Ideas offers a huge range of stimulating and diverse events for all ages and interests.

York Mediale 2020 – York Mediale is an international media arts charity which celebrates York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts. 

made digital

Find out more about the incredible digital activities and virtual content created by the cultural and creative sector, to help people stay connected to the arts and heritage during the pandemic:

Keep up to date with culture in York