Cllr Abi Brown has been a passionate advocate for Stoke-on-Trent’s bid to be UK City of Culture since it was first mooted in 2015. She pulled together the first stakeholder meeting to support the initiative, bringing together representatives of business, the community, the cultural and creative sector in a grouping that became the City’s Cultural Forum. She continued to chair this group until earlier this year, happy to step aside because maturity of culture in the city, in her words, means the City Council doesn’t need to lead, just support.
Alongside this, she has led the successfully shortlisted bid, chairing the bid team and leading with partner engagement including with businesses and national partners. Her relationships with businesses within the city has secured £m support for the bid, as well as making and sustaining relationships with organisations as diverse as the National History Museum, Canal and Rivers Trust, and Historic England.
Abi has secured support from all surrounding local authorities, as well as from a number of other regional and national organisations. She has also just been appointed to the Arts Council England Midlands Council.
Although Culture is not in her portfolio, Abi has also championed a bigger role for culture within the day-to-day services of the council, including in our £3m Community Investment Fund, where she instigated a focus on culture as part of creating thriving towns and communities. This has led to a number of exciting initiatives around culture that will both support communities as well as making Stoke-on-Trent a great place to live.
Abi also led the successful bid to secure the Tower of London Poppies for Stoke-on-Trent, and will be leading the project team that sees them installed at Middleport Pottery in 2018.
Abi always makes time to encourage culture within the city, supporting a huge range of organisations, from school concerts right through to bigger events, and has worked hard to join up enthusiastic local businesses with groups after support, not just always in terms of funding but also expertise and advice. Her passion and enthusiasm for culture and Stoke-on-Trent have made her a popular choice to address all sorts of gatherings both in Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere, and whether we win City of Culture or not, Abi’s impact on promoting the fantastic offer we have here culturally has changed the city forever.