Bury, the home to icons such as Victoria Wood, Danny Boyle and Elbow – has been chosen as the first Greater Manchester Town of Culture.
The accolade will see investment in 2020 of £120,000 to unleash creativity in the town, with local people invited to participate in cultural events from festivals and family days to concerts, exhibitions and local heritage.
An integral part of next year’s events will be “Happy”, a six-month programme of arts inspired by the work of the late Victoria Wood. From January to July it will encourage individuals and families to work with professionals and get involved in music, writing, drama and much more, all with the focus on happiness and culminating in a summer Happy Proms.
The news was announced at the Fusilier Museum today (Wed 18 Dec) by the actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones, who is currently appearing in “Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” at The Lowry in Salford Quays.
Griff said: “The Town of Culture accolade demonstrates that the urge to create, to throw one’s imagination wide open and entertain others in your community, stretches right across this part of the world.
“Of all the locations proposed by the ten boroughs that make up this inspiring city-region, Bury’s offer stood out. You are already leading the way in devising and delivering a dynamic cultural offer for local people, and with this new Town of Culture accolade more power to your elbow.”
The award is based on the UK City of Culture concept, which was introduced in 2009 by Andy Burnham when he was Culture Secretary.
Now Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy said: ““Whether you’re visiting the Fusilier Museum, watching a performance at The Met or listening to Elbow, Bury is already an important player on the Greater Manchester cultural scene – long may that continue now the town is officially our city-region’s Town of Culture.”
Councillor David Jones, leader of Bury Council, said: “We are delighted and honoured to be chosen as the inaugural Greater Manchester Town of Culture.
“It’s a fitting recognition of what we have here, coming shortly after we unveiled a statue to Victoria Wood, arguably Bury’s most famous daughter and loved by millions.
“Bury is home to a number of immensely popular and creative venues, such as The Met: named as one of the best small venues in the country, and site of the legendary Joy Division ‘riot’ gig. Another band who played their early gigs there were Elbow, the award-winning band from Bury who now take top billing at festivals around the world.
“We are also proud to call Oscar-winning film-maker Danny Boyle one of ours, while the heritage East Lancs Railway is the location of choice for many film studios and documentary companies.
“We are hugely looking forward to the coming year and using our new Town of Culture status to promote and foster the many talents that we have and will come through.”
Bury town centre has now received Purple Flag accreditation for three successive years, and is the only town centre in Greater Manchester to have received this honour, reflecting the strength of the town’s evening and night time economy.
Cementing Bury’s status as a cultural heartland is the Victoria Wood memorial statue, created by renowned sculptor Graham Ibbeson and unveiled in May opposite Bury Art Gallery and Museum.
Happyisa wide-ranging and exciting six-month arts programme, exploring ‘happiness’. With a festival at its heart, Happy is inspired by the legacy of Bury-born Victoria Wood. It is all about people being able to experience for themselves the kind of work Victoria made, including comedy writing, stand-up, songwriting, performance and musical virtuosity. Above all, Happy aimsto make people laugh.
Working with her friends and colleagues at the Victoria Wood Foundation, as well as partners including Bury Art Museum, The Met and the Hallé, Happy will bottle this love, enthusiasm and pride to excite and inspire all people over six months from January to July 2020.
Happy will launch in January with an outreach and talent development programme, followed by a weekend of events from Friday 15th–Sunday 17th May 2020 – the nearest weekend to Victoria’s birthday on the 19th May. Happy will culminate in an outdoor Happy Proms event in July, an amalgamation of all the work developed across the six-month festival.
Over the six months, Happy will run three strands with an overarching ambition of exploring in-depth the science of happiness and the impact of the arts on health and wellbeing.
A ‘social’strand will provide opportunities across Bury for audiences of all ages to meet, socialise, share stories, learn to dance, sing a song, to play an instrument; to join in with tea dances, en-masse music jams, a ‘scratch’ choir and other social interactions that encourage conversation and learning from each other. There’ll also be the opportunity to learn something in a day: write a silly song, play a ukulele, or write a comedy script.
A talent development strand will offer the chance to work with professionals to create work that focuses on comedy, performance and music.
A programme of performances, Q&A sessions and panel discussions will appear across Bury in different spaces and places over the weekend in May, with a Happy Symposium examining the nature of happiness and well-being. A finale of performances at the Happy Proms event in July will bring the six-month programme to its climax.
Lucy Ansbro, Victoria Wood Foundation trustee, said: “We’re thrilled to be supporting Happy, a festival inspired by Victoria Wood, her work and the work of others that she so admired. We hope that Happy will open up doors of opportunity to people of all ages in Bury and that everyone in the town and beyond enjoys the wide variety of events planned.
“It’s great that Happy has been recognised as a key and integral part of Bury’s successful bid for the inaugural GM Town of Culture award. We wish culture in Bury well for 2020.”
Press release issued: 18 December 2019 by Bury Council