Hounslow has put in a bid to become London Borough of Culture in 2021. A red Routemaster bus took the Mayor of Hounslow and assembled arty types and councillors to City Hall to deliver it last week.
It promises a ‘Culture Superhighway’ from one end of the borough to the other, which will ‘unlock opportunity, connect people, and celebrate the borough’s cultural gems’ if they win the £1.35m in funding.
‘If successful, the borough will connect its communities and journey them through all parts of the borough to access and participate in culture like never before’ says the declaration.
I spoke to Cllr Samia Chaudhary about it – “Bidding for the London Borough of Culture 2021 has occupied a huge part of my life these last few weeks, so it was absolutely fantastic to see all the different threads coming together” she said.
“Great” says I, “so who’s involved from Chiswick?” The internationally regarded Arts Ed which delivers ‘outstanding’ education in musical theatre, whose alumni populate the stages of the West End and Broadway? The Chiswick Book Festival? The Bedford Park Festival? Our two long established amateur dramatic societies, and the five or so choirs?
“I’ll find out and get back to you” she said. She didn’t.
Cllr Tony Arbour, London Assembly member for SW London, with Hounslow Mayor Tony Louki and Cllr Samia Chaudhary, Cabinet Member for Leisure Services.
So I made a few phone calls. The Arts Ed clearly knew nothing about it. “We’d love to be involved” said their Director of Development Sue Sandle.
How about the annual open studios Artists At Home? “We’ve not seen anything about it. Not heard a squeak” said Jill Revie, co-ordinator of Artists At Home.
“No one’s been in touch” said Torin Douglas, Director of the Chiswick Book Festival and one of the organisers of the Bedford Park Festival, which has been putting on the cultural and community event for more than 50 years.
“Chiswick is one of the most culturally vibrant parts of the borough” said Torin. “If you go into a bid without all of the Chiswick culture, you’re going into it with one hand tied behind your back”.
To be fair, representatives of the historic houses with which the council has had a long association – Chiswick House, Gunnersbury Park and Hogarth’s House – were invited to meetings about it.
But as an attempt to represent and unite the borough, ‘to help fund a programme of arts, culture and entertainment for all of us across Hounslow’ it was a piss poor effort.