Arts & Heritage Consultant, Jo Dacombe has really enjoyed working on a study towards developing a Cultural Strategy for Fenland. In this blog post, she discusses the inspiring and welcoming people who she’s been meeting with in her trips to the area. 

In January, I was delighted to begin working on a study towards developing a Cultural Strategy for Fenland, Cambridgeshire. The study is supported by Arts Council England and commissioned by Fenland District Council.

We are taking a creative approach to consultation in Fenland, running workshops with people to draw out their ideas and inspire a vision for the future. Throughout February and March, I am conducting sessions around the district, and getting to know the place. The landscape is unique and fascinating, as is the heritage of Fenland, and the more I find out the more I want to know.

I’ve been talking to people in Fenland who are working within the arts and heritage sectors, as well as wellbeing and community development. There is a lot going on in Fenland, once you scratch the surface. I’ve met inspiring artists, filmmakers and writers, people with ideas and ambition, not just in their own artforms, but also about how Fenland can grow a culturally rich offer for residents and visitors to the Fens. 

I particularly enjoyed finding out about Glimmer Theatre, a Cambridgeshire based theatre maker, who has been touring a new theatre piece called River Runner. Inspired by the fens’ watery landscape, it’s a wonderful family friendly show with ice skating, magic and adventure, created by a theatre company that aims to unearth hidden stories that need to be told. 

I’ve discovered a lot about Fenland’s rich heritage too. There is a wonderful network of independent museums in Fenland, with 5 museums across the district. Run by passionate and knowledgeable people, they are constantly innovating to try new things and create opportunities for people to engage with Fenland’s heritage in different ways. A notable recent event was Octavia Hill’s House opening again for the spring season on International Women’s Day, Sunday March 8th. This was a fitting event to celebrate the life of one of Fenland’s great artists and social reformers, born in Wisbech, Fenland. Octavia was one of the founders of the National Trust, as well as a founder of modern social work. They also be unveiled a new stained glass window created by artist Hazel Perry, and launched a new Memory Booth project.

I’ve been working with local artists. Artist Marian Savill is helping us to connect to local people through creative conversations using collage, workshops where people can get crafty and make something to take home, as well as having the opportunity to contribute their opinions to the study. Make sure you follow the Fenland District Council if you want to find out about these sessions.

Young people are always important to consult with when you are thinking about the future. Recently I worked with a group of young people who are involved in 20Twenty productions, a wonderful Fenland organisation that supports young people through creative participation. The young people are helping me with a survey for their age group.

We’ve just launched an online survey too, to collect the views of local people. You can find it at the link below.

It’s exciting to get to know a place and to find out all the inspiring things that are going on. Fenland is full of creative people with ideas who want to grow their ambition and help forge Fenland’s future. My task, then, is to draw a picture of how all these exciting initiatives come together to build a strong, thriving cultural future for Fenland.

To get involved, complete the online survey here and follow Fenland District Council on Facebook or Twitter for updates.