The London Borough of Culture - part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to support the arts - is a large-scale celebration of the melting pot that is London. Boroughs present their proposals and compete for a £1 million grant, which is used to deliver a year-long programme of activities. Since the birth of this scheme, the Boroughs of Waltham Forest (in 2019) and Brent (in 2020) have demonstrated their historic cultural identity through dynamic performances and local artwork. But what of 2021? 


Enter the Borough of Lewisham. Having been awarded the title back in February of last year, Lewisham’s exciting plans have been put to a grinding halt due to the Coronavirus outbreak. So is that the end of it? Will this pandemic, that has taken so much away from us, take our voices, too? Will all the artists’ and council members’ hard work be for nothing?


Of course not. While the council spends their energy and time supporting the vulnerable people of our community and we spend our energy and time looking after ourselves and our loved ones, we can all look forward to the undoubtedly spectacular celebration that will now take place in 2022, instead. 


Lewisham’s commitment to sustainability and preventing climate change will include a climate festival, along with the designing and building of a new carbon-neutral theatre by young people. One aspect of its identity that the Borough has been particularly passionate to celebrate is its being ‘The Borough of Sanctuary’. As well as commissioning a public dance exploring the impact of migration and diversity on the dance scene in South-East London over the years and the narration of the ‘untold history of post-war Lewisham’, the council intends to strengthen its hospitality in another way. The Borough will welcome 100 refugee families (mainly from Syria) and have pledged to provide care for a furthermore 100 unaccompanied children seeking asylum. The aim is to use culture to change perceptions of refugees. 


Celebrating culture, particularly in an area which has been so moulded by different influences throughout the years, is a powerful thing. Even the recent pandemic hasn’t been able to stop the people of Lewisham from sharing and creating, as many programs like, for example, a camera-less filmmaking course, online theatre and live art streams can be found on the council’s website. 


Now more than ever, a particular quote from Lewisham’s Cultural Borough Manifesto stands out: ‘We are strengthened by our diversity’ not, as some might like to believe, weakened or divided by it. I, for one, cannot wait to see what lies in store for The London Borough of Culture in 2022.