Culture and creativity make life worth living, shape who we are and keep Somerset prosperous.

Somerset has cultural, heritage and natural assets as well as energy, creativity, and community spirit in abundance. We have legions of artists and creatives, designers, artisans, street fairs, wassails, carnivals, and festivals. We have cultural and creative hubs not just in our county town Taunton (with its acclaimed theatre, museum, arts -led University Centre and so much more) but also in Minehead, Dunster, Porlock and Watchet on our beautiful coast, Dulverton, Wellington, Wiveliscombe and the 10 Parishes.

Somerset has the energy and leadership to make a vibrant creative and cultural offer to meet our ambitions. Our Corporate Strategy 2019-23 firmly states this intention to “support the enhancement of arts and culture provision within the district”.

Cultural Strategy

Somerset Council’s Corporate Strategy 2019-2023 states the Council’s intention to support the enhancement of arts and culture provision within the area. This strategy further sets out that strategic commitment to shaping Somerset around a Creative Economy that includes harnessing the power of our Arts and Heritage and supporting local creative industries – with refocused objectives to respond to the economic and social recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

See our Cultural Strategy, which was approved by Somerset Council on 7 September 2021.

The Vision and Themes

The Vision

Through harnessing our creativity and cultural assets we want to create:

  • A place where people of all ages and backgrounds can experience quality culture on their doorstep; be creative, entertained, inspired, and challenged.
  • A place to learn new skills and find rewarding careers; or simply socialise and play, feel fulfilled and breathe fresh air.
  • A place with a distinct and positive identity where people and creative enterprises want to put down their roots, grow and blossom. 

Place – create a sense of place and belonging

Our key challenges and opportunities are to:

  • Harness our natural, arts and heritage assets to define our distinctiveness and increase our cultural profile.
  • Be ambitious for our cultural venues and support them in delivering quality.
    Provide the kind of cultural environment that attracts young people and skilled workers.
  • Provide high quality, sustainably designed buildings that allow new and existing communities to create distinct neighbourhoods.

The priority objectives to address these challenges are to:

  • Articulate a narrative that tells the story of our landscape, independent history and cultural heritage that will give our district a strong identity that people can relate to and find compelling.
  • Germinate and grow sustainable arts and cultural venues as hubs that foster excellence in the region.
  • Enable our creative sector to input influence and shape our built environment and public realm.
  • Enrich our public realm by joining up our green spaces, waterways, parks and play spaces, planting more street trees and woodlands and managing our water imaginatively with wetlands and rain gardens for recreation, tourism, and wildlife.

People – nurture and thrive

Our key challenges and opportunities are to enable:

  • Fair access to culture for all communities across our area and for all people regardless of socio-economic background, gender identity, sexuality, disability, or ethnicity.
  • Young people to gain employment skills for the industries of the future, find creative pathways and fulfilling careers.
  • Everyone to lead an active, healthier, and happier life.
  • Creatively inclined returners or unemployed workers to retrain for work in the cultural sector or creative industries and set up creative micro-businesses.

The priority objectives to address these challenges are to:

  • Support our creative, arts and heritage sectors so they are able to provide quality cultural experiences for people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Provide the cultural activity young people want and need and offer them pathways to creative careers.
  • Attract entrepreneurs to support greater numbers of start-ups and nurture innovation and collaboration amongst the business and cultural community.
  • Encourage healthy, active lifestyles and positive emotional wellbeing by harnessing the power of nature and creativity. For example, we can use the arts to drive engagement with our beautiful landscape and treasured blue and green spaces (many of which are art forms in their own right) – something which can boost physical and mental health, strengthen the desire to protect our environment while also inspiring creativity.
  • Work with and support our creative and cultural sector, enabling input into the design and delivery of projects that enhance the public realm and offer health and wellbeing benefits.

Prosperity – restart, revitalise, and grow

Our key challenges and opportunities are to:

  • Create a dynamic and prosperous area founded on knowledge, culture, and business.
  • Facilitate the growth of the creative industries and arts and heritage sector.
  • Provide better visitor experiences and strengthened evening economy through a broad range of cultural offers.
  • Ensure a better quality of life for people in the round, beyond what can be measured by GDP.

The priority objectives to address these challenges are to:

  • Value health and wellbeing as well as GDP ensuring people can access the cultural experiences they need to bloom and prosper.
  • Ensure that the Covid Economic Recovery and Growth Plan for Somerset supports the Cultural sector and Creative Economy to restart, revitalise and grow – through activities and interventions that: support employment, skills, and economic inclusion; help business and the sector to grow and become more productive; provide the infrastructure needed to enable growth; create attractive places and homes to live in.
  • Be bold, ambitious, and strategic and invest in our cultural assets, and work with other building or land owners to make sure the needs of creative enterprises are considered.
  • Attract entrepreneurs to support greater numbers of start-ups and stimulate innovation and collaboration amongst the business and cultural sector.
  • Ensure equality of access to quality creative and cultural experiences for communities and audiences across Somerset.

Leadership and delivery

To be successful we recognise we have to change minds and working methods and adopt creative ways to support the sector.
To do this we will:

  • Promote understanding and respect for the creative industries and arts and heritage sector and the role they play in creating place, driving economy, health, and wellbeing.
  • Advocate for our outstanding cultural partners across the council, the region, nationally and internationally.
  • Cultivate sustainable working relationships with the creative industries and arts partners.
  • Model and promote joined up working across council and organisations.
  • Establish an internal cultural task-force that will ensure cross-department, strategic implementation, and delivery of our cultural strategy.
  • Adopt imaginative ways to fund and support our creative industries and arts and heritage organisations and employ transparency in our decision making.
  • Advocate for the value and importance of creative and cultural experiences.

Cultural Development Team

We are pleased to introduce our Cultural Development Team.  The Cultural Development Team have been created to support and deliver the Cultural Strategy which aligns with Somerset Council’s Corporate Strategy 2019-23 which firmly states the intention to raise the importance of Arts and Culture within Somerset. The team can be contacted via email at:

Delivery plan 2021/22

Following the Coronavirus pandemic and significant impact on the cultural sector in 2020/21, priority for the cultural delivery plan in the immediate and short-term will be given to activity that enables and supports the recovery of the sector as it re-opens throughout 2021.

Initial projects and initiatives being developed in partnership and in some cases already implemented include:

Communications and Marketing:
  • exhibitions or events promo using vacant shop fronts.
  • co-promotion of a collaborative Taunton cultural programme – Spring ‘restart’ and rest of the year.
  • engage cultural partners in Taunton Garden Town place marketing project, and Inward Investment strategy.
Outdoor events and cultural activity:
  • review spaces availability to encourage the biggest and best possible cultural programme.
  • consider development of an events equipment business case.
Investment in cultural and creative assets and projects
  • Somerset West and Taunton 2021-22 budget – funding or grants allocated aligned to cultural strategy objectives.
Community cultural and arts projects
  • Somerset and new Gov funding, and support for rural touring schemes.
Enhancement of public realm
  • encourage town centre visits and enable cultural events and activities (to enrich lives as well as create commercial opportunity) – linked to Town Centre and High Street Economic Recovery plans.
Some of the longer-term projects to be developed during 2021/22 include:
  • Creative People – develop programme of activities or projects for Youth, and Health and Wellbeing.
  • Creative Industries sector – Recovery and Growth Support, through delivery of Cultural Strategy and Innovation plan objectives.
  • Creative career opportunities for young people: link to employment, skills and education activity, such as employment and skills hubs, apprenticeship and traineeship programmes.

Last reviewed: March 24, 2023 by Naomi

Next review due: September 24, 2023

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