Kirklees Council’s heritage and culture push to champion the borough
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Experts are aiming to focus on what has been described as the “strong cultural ecology” of the district championing everything from the rural and urban landscapes through to sport, music, festivals, textile heritage, micro breweries and gin distilleries.
The interlinked culture, heritage and tourism strategies aim to champion Kirklees’ links with the Brontës, said to be as strong as those with Haworth, and to reflect the brand of Yorkshire, which has been listed as the second best place in the world to visit.
But the project is not without its obstacles. Consultants are to be hired to provide expertise in tourism. And there was an acceptance that cynicism over the notion of what constitutes culture is high among some people.
Adele Poppleton, head of culture and tourism for Kirklees Council, said there was a drive to attract, accommodate and entertain tourists.
Reporting to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee (Feb 11) she said a formal culture strategy was needed to attract external funders as well as access cash from the multi-billion pound West Yorkshire devolution deal.
And she revealed that organisations such as the Arts Council want to invest in Kirklees.
With museums and galleries manager Deborah Marsland she outlined how the project was drawing together the appeal of environment, landscape, the ongoing impact of textiles and engineering, the “rebels and radicals” of the past and the area’s historical connection to sport, such as rugby league.
Music, “local achievers”, themed festivals such as Woven and the appeal of walking and cycling means Kirklees has much to offer.
There was broad support from the committee.
Coun Andrew Marchington (Lib Dem, Golcar) said it was right that the council was not “wrapping things in aspic” and said a modern approach could break down barriers and combat cynicism.
“Do not gloss over how difficult that could be with some members of our communities,” he said.
That was echoed by Coun Andrew Cooper (Green, Newsome), who said some people would “wince” when culture was mentioned.
But he pointed out that a circular walk tied in to local cafes, coffee shops, micro breweries or gin distilleries could have its own distinct appeal for people willing to discover the area in which they live.
He suggested a year-round calendar of events.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that activity is around and that it’s interesting and exciting.”
Coun Harpreet Uppal (Lab, Ashbrow) praised the “really ambitious” plans and suggested there could be as much pleasure to be found in some urban areas as the hills and valleys.
“They just need a bit of shining up.”
Coun Habiban Zaman (Lab, Batley East) cautioned against reinventing things that had been tried in the past and asked whether what was being proposed was new.
“We are not very good at following things through and sustaining this work.
“Are we really going to put the money where it deserves to be?”
She said projects needed the appropriate level of resource for them to make an impact with a view to a long- rather than short-term delivery, and that a past piecemeal approach had failed.
Committee chair Coun Liz Smaje (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) said a vibrant cultural offer would appeal to all those people whose appetite had been denied during the Covid pandemic.
“Culture is one of the things that will help bring people back,” she said.
Ms Poppleton and her team are looking to hire new staff to help develop the culture project and to oversee the tourism drive.
They are “well underway” with the separate but interlinked strategies and hope to have all three signed off by the council’s decision-making Cabinet before the end of the year.