Draft Cultural Strategy


When we went to the Council Cabinet Meeting about relocating the Tourist Information Centre (in March), another item on the agenda was the first draft of the Draft Cultural Strategy. It’s changed a little bit now, and is being reviewed at meetings along with a consultation document, so a final report can be made.

Invited as part of the Friends of Grosvenor and Hilbert Park, and unable to make it to the Tunbridge Wells Meeting, I took the opportunity to visit Cranbrook, and The Vestry Hall. For all the non-locals reading this, Cranbrook is half an hours drive east (from my house in Tunbridge Wells) but is still in the Borough… and it has free car parking! It also has this lovely Vestry Hall – the ground floor which is now TIC, was the fire station originally. I’m very annoyed that my photos inside have come out very dark, so I have to refer you here.

The plan is – to build on the current cultural side of Tunbridge Wells, and to improve the current Museum, Art Gallery and Assembly Hall – in Tunbridge Wells town. This seemed to be the main stumbling block with this draft of the plan – we weren’t in Tunbridge Wells town, but the plan seemed to be set there. There were alot of very creative and involved people from around Cranbrook and Hawkhurst, and they couldn’t see how this plan helped them at all. Which just opened my eyes to how focused we are in the town on ourselves!! It was pointed out, that once you started travelling out of Cranbrook, you may as well carry onto London than stop in Tunbridge Wells, or travel in other directions to Hastings, Maidstone and Ashford. There are also people who commute from here to London, and will then stay in London and spend their leisure time and money in London. So while being included in all our plans, they are people with different needs – who aren’t very bothered about lots of council tax being spent on the Assembly Hall. To comment on the report we were given coloured stickers (top photo) and post it notes (middle) – using red stickers for ‘alert’, green for ‘go ahead’ and yellow for ‘tell us more’, and luckily, when we had finished, we were mostly using green for ‘good’… But we do need to remember that while we talk about “bringing visitors to Tunbridge Wells” there are other parts of the Borough, not just The Town.

The plan has lots of angles, maybe too many, or is that maybe not enough? In making a list of good things, you need to be sure you include every single one, or none at all! So, have a read, see what’s missing, what there is too much of ( should I hint: there’s a lot of performing art and music, but is there any film, art, sculpture, literature… ??)

The main question in my mind: is the bar set too high at the start: “From a strong base, our ambition is to grow our role as the cultural centre of the Kent & Sussex High Weald, so that in ten years time the Borough of Tunbridge Wells is nationally recognised for its vibrant cultural provision.” See you in Ten Years Time….

(I’ll write a bit more about Cranbrook tomorrow – it was nice there, but was that because the sun was shining?)

Cranbrook Museum is here…


3 thoughts on “Draft Cultural Strategy

  1. Im not sure the bar is set too high. But there is an issue if the action plan doesnt make it an achievable goal. Is there the level of investment and drive and leadership to turn the vision in to reality would be my question. Good point about the focus on T. Wells. In terms of artform again its about focus – if there are existing audiences and provision for performing arts/music then building on this in the early stages would be a good idea. I would also consider the balance between supporting the making of culture and the consumption of culture. What about development of artists studios or maker/designer subsidised spaces to regenerate areas (not just urban but rural too)? Does the strategy encourage young people to engage with the arts? Just some thoughts…

    • Thanks for the comment. There seems to be a plan to try and set up a Cultural Hub as well, which is currently separate to this plan. The young people part is the lacking part, but mentioned… Another problem that came up, which seems to go for everything, is the lack of communication between all the separate groups already doing things! That matter isn’t addressed in the plan – but I suppose if there is a Hub and an improved Museum, Art Gallery, Theatre, then better communications can be set up. I have still got to fill in my consultation form too!!

  2. Mmm, I’m just completing a similar project in my consultancy work with a group of cultural organisations. Getting people to talk together, share knowldge and collaborate is a challenge but surmountable if its considered important and is facilitated. T.wellls deserves a focussed cultural strategy so fingers crossed!

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