A new culture trust will be created to boost investment opportunities and support cultural venues and activities in County Durham. 

Councillors have backed plans to create the new body, which will open up access to funds, grants and donations that are not available to councils.

It comes as County Durham looks to cement its place as "The Culture County" after becoming the first county to be shortlisted for UK City of Culture status. That bid was lost in 2022 - but Durham County Council said it is committed to promoting and celebrating the region’s cultural attractions.

The local authority added that it was inspired to create its own trust after seeing similar structures elsewhere. 

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “The benefits of doing the same have become clear during our work to develop a fundraising strategy for the new cultural venue on the site of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum and Art Gallery.

"What we're proposing is to set up a new trust with an initial focus on raising funds to support cultural projects and programmes across the county.

"We also see this as an opportunity for the trust to promote arts, culture and heritage in the county, encourage public participation in these areas, support the sector, and build on the legacy of the City of Culture 2025 bid."

Work is ongoing to renovate the former DLI site into a new visitor destination with a exhibition centre, gallery, and a cafe.

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Meanwhile, the council’s plans for The Story at Mount Oswald - a new local history centre for the county - are nearing completion. The centre will provide an insight into the story of the history and heritage of the county, as told through historic records, photographs and objects.

Despite missing out to Bradford in the City of Culture contest, a £125,000 grant was provided by the government and is being used alongside a £2 million cultural reserve.

The local authority has also drawn up a ‘Culture County’ programme to run from 2024-2026 and will offer a combination of extraordinary events, community engagement and education and skills development.