Skip To Main Content

Cambridge City Council

Cambridge's cultural offer to benefit all: culture and public art plans set out council's ambition

25 March 2024

Two new plans have been launched (on Thursday 21 March) as part of Cambridge City Council’s commitment to ensuring arts, sports and culture are thriving in the city and that the local cultural offer benefits all residents.

Making Public Art Work commissioning programme

A new public art commissioning programme has been developed to coordinate emerging public art projects so that they genuinely engage and benefit local people, and to ensure that local communities don’t miss out on funding for public art projects that has to be used within a specific time frame*.

Approval of the new programme will also see funding allocated for a number of new projects, including:

  • up to £60,000 for ‘More playful art, please’. This will be a re-imagining of the popular PlayLaws public art project, which ran events during the summer at which people could play, and create their own ‘playlaws’, to encourage playfulness in public open spaces. The ‘More playful art, please’ project responds to feedback from people who asked ‘why can’t we have projects like this in our area?’. By expanding the project into more parts of the city a network of playful routes and spaces will be created.
  • up to £120,000 for phase one of a city-wide ‘Urban Voices’ project, which will work with young people across the city to develop four urban art projects (with £30,000 allocated per project). £67,000 has also been allocated for the second phase. Urban Voices will support young people who feel their views are not being heard, aiming to engage with those who don’t usually get involved, and supporting those facing challenges such as with mental health.

Cllr Rachel Wade, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “Public art is such an important part of creating shared identities and enriching experiences, and we are committed to working with communities to create projects that are free for everyone to enjoy due to them being free to access, in public spaces.

“We will now be able to be more flexible in our approach to funding – for example having the ability to expand the popular Playlaws project into more parts of the city. And we will be able to ensure projects give everyone an opportunity to be creative and participate and influence project outcomes, in order to represent our city’s diversity and bring social belonging and cohesion such as through the new Urban Voices project.”

Creativity and culture for all: cultural strategy 2024-2029

The cultural strategy approved by councillors sets out how the council will support a broad range of experiences that enrich people’s lives or bring people together, as well as the buildings, structures and spaces that help people to experience culture or be creative.

This could include attendance at sporting events, concerts, or festivals, visiting a museum, local market, or library, or getting involved in creative activities such as public art projects.

The council will consider how it can use its own powers, resources, and assets – such as its venues or public parks – to help create new opportunities, new investment, and a more cohesive cultural offer for Cambridge, working with local partners. The strategy sets out the council’s plans to: 

  • work with creators and arts organisations to develop a shared vision for the city
  • support a varied outdoor events programme
  • provide a variety of funding arrangements to enable the development of the cultural sector
  • support cultural venues and businesses, and investment in the creative sector
  • facilitate a wide cultural programme for the whole community
  • support the inclusion of a youth voice and providing opportunities that reflect young people’s feedback
  • support local community led festivals and events across the city, and more.

Arts and cultural activities, events and establishments already impact Cambridge in a number of positive ways, such as benefitting people’s wellbeing, increasing community cohesion, creating jobs for local people, and attracting visitors which support the local economy.

Cllr Wade continued: “In Cambridge we’re fortunate with the wealth of cultural activities, events and venues already available to us. But what’s important to us is that everyone in Cambridge is able to benefit by having easier access to these enriching opportunities, and that the economic investment they attract is felt by all parts of the city. This isn’t always the case and we know some of our citizens feel excluded from the city centre due to concerns about affordability.

“A positive cultural offer benefits everyone, whether helping to tackle loneliness, or increasing social cohesion by breaking down barriers and creating connections. It is vital that we support the ambition to make culture more accessible to all of our residents, especially at such a time of rapid change for the city, when the population will continue to grow and change, new communities will be developed, and the city centre continues to change.”

These plans were approved at a meeting of the council’s Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 21 March

*Funding for public art projects which the council oversees comes from Section 106 developer contributions. S106 contributions have to be used within an agreed timeframe, otherwise the council would have to return unspent funds to developers.