AMBITIOUS plans to transform Darlington into a place “where culture enriches everyone’s lives and helps boost the local economy” have been revealed.

Darlington’s cultural strategy 2022 to 2026 sets out the economic and social benefits that a strong cultural offer can bring to the town including boosts to residents’ lives, increased investment and tourism.

The strategy acknowledges Darlington’s strong cultural offer with many enterprises, organisations and volunteers already creating great material for audience members and customers.

It also recognises the array of buildings and other cultural assets including the Head of Steam railway museum; theatres; cinemas; 20 archaeological sites registered as scheduled monuments; libraries; The Forum Music Studios; parks and green spaces; festivals and events and The Bridge Centre for Visual Arts.

Investments highlighted in the strategy include the opening of the Vue cinema; the restoration of the Hippodrome; the opening of The Hullabaloo; Stockton & Darlington Railway Heritage Action Zone; the Enjoy Darlington events programme and the town’s Purple Flag status with our nightlife deemed one of the safest in the North-East.

The Northern Echo: Darlington Hippodrome. Picture: The Northern EchoDarlington Hippodrome. Picture: The Northern Echo

Read more: North East communities will receive share of £75m cultural fund

A statement from Darlington Council read: “Most recently we have secured significant support to establish a Rail Heritage Quarter and invested in refurbishment of the library on Crown Street. The town has also secured £22.3m through the Town’s Fund to support regeneration including the acquisition of key properties on Northgate, to protect heritage assets.”

The vision for Darlington’s Cultural Strategy is to make the borough a place “where culture enriches lives, involves people and is central to identity and prosperity.”

Five priorities are identified to help achieve this vision:

  • celebrating Darlington’s contribution to the birth of the modern passenger railway
  • having an accessible, diverse and vibrant culture, encouraging economic growth
  • championing engagement with culture, particularly amongst children and young people
  • for culture to thrive within the borough and attract visitors to the town centre
  • to have a thriving theatre offer involving people of all ages.

Read more: Plea to invest in Northern culture in levelling up pledge

The Northern Echo: How Darlington's new Head of Steam railway museum could look. Picture: Darlington CouncilHow Darlington's new Head of Steam railway museum could look. Picture: Darlington Council

The statement added: “We will work with partners to implement the strategy including Tees Valley Combined Authority, North East Culture Partnership and organisations such as Arts Council England, National Heritage Lottery Fund as well as residents and local groups.”

Andy Keir, the council’s cabinet member for local services, said: “Darlington has a very strong cultural tradition which we are keen to build on. The pandemic made many of us realise how important culture is to our local economy as well as the way it enriches all of our lives.

“This strategy brings together our plans for the whole of the borough’s cultural offer including the arts, theatre, heritage and outside spaces. It will help us bid for funding and work with other councils and organisations to increase the benefits the culture of the borough can have for us all.”

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