‘art and Soul: Art and Community in the Heart of Burnley

The Role of the Arts in Social Regeneration

In October 2019, North West Green MEP, Gina Dowding, hosted a ground-breaking event in Burney, bringing together local stakeholders to consider the role of the arts within the town. Burnley’s new flagship digital hub – The Landmark – was the location for art and Soul. The event was in conjunction with a successful project from Girona in Spain, which was selected as a twinning scheme to enhance community cohesion through arts in schools.

A section of the event was delivered by Marc Francesch from Spanish group, ConArte, exploring the “Planters” project in Girona and the positive results that the programme had in terms of achievement, wellbeing and community cohesion from facilitating art in schools. He was able to share the role that music and the arts play in schools where more than 60% of students are migrants and the way that the arts support integration.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights that ‘everyone has the right to participate freely in the community’s cultural life, to enjoy the Arts and to participate and benefit from scientific progress.’ 

With this in mind, Jai Redman, Burnley-based artist and business owner, made the case for art as a powerful tool for change. Investment in creativity builds regeneration; artistic commissions locally provide jobs; being a creative centre brings tourism – the potential impacts of being a net-exporter of creative talent are wide-reaching.


Ian Brownbill, an artist, musician and cultural developer, talked about the value of networking as a professional creative and his experiences of re-purposing unused or abandoned local spaces for artistic development.

Waqar Ahmed, a senior leader in cultural education at The Hollins School in Accrington, shared the impact of his work in schools with his ‘Cohesion Through Creativity’ programme – a platform to enable all young people to access the arts. Going beyond race-relations, young people develop skills and create powerful content with tangible outcomes, building well-being, confidence and a sense of self. 

Gina Dowding MEP talked about the event, stating:

“The event was a huge success, allowing us to create a space for stakeholders to explore the important role art has to play in community cohesion, cultural regeneration and economic development, and that those things are inextricably linked. Our suggestion is that art and culture should become intrinsic to a community cohesion strategy: high-quality arts education within schools can help facilitate community cohesion and growth. We look forward to seeing future actions that have been inspired from the event’s exploration.” 

Future Actions 

Representatives from the local Council, arts, community, education and business groups were inspired to take on a range of visions and actions as a result of the event. These included:

 – To establish (in harmony with existing arts and culture organisations e.g. Burnley Creative Alliance) a platform for where arts and creativity is happening, success stories, what works, ways to access new opportunities, people who are willing, interested in supporting artists, collaborating, helping with skill and knowledge sharing, writing funding bids.

 – For the network of all artists here to approach schools in Burnley to make arts a normality in schools – working together to engage at a grassroots level.

– To create something loud, unique and remarkable that involves people from different classes, nationalities and social status.

You can watch the highlights of the event below.