The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that Lewisham has been awarded the title of London Borough of Culture for 2021, with Croydon winning the accolade for 2023.

Both boroughs will be awarded £1.35 million of funding to deliver a year-long programme of activities that will place culture at the heart of their communities and celebrate local people and places.

The London Borough of Culture award was launched by Khan in June 2017, inspired by the UK City and European Capital of Culture programmes. The award uses culture to empower communities and transform young people’s lives.

Lewisham‘s bid, Cultural Activism, sets out plans to inspire local people to take action on climate change. The borough will celebrate its diversity and build inclusivity with hundreds of events throughout the year including an artist-led tribute to the Rock Against Racism movement, a large-scale dance performance and a climate change carnival.

Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, said: “I’m delighted we have been awarded Borough of Culture 2021! This is an incredible opportunity for Lewisham and I couldn’t be more proud to be Lewisham’s mayor, working alongside so many amazing creatives and artists. Our year will showcase what Lewisham has to offer the rest of London and the UK by harnessing the passion and creativity of our cultural sector and the people of Lewisham, and channelling this into a programme which will face up to the most significant challenge facing our planet, the climate emergency.”

Croydon’s bid, This is Croydon, has sustainability at its heart. Thousands of Croydon residents will enjoy a series of inspirational events along the themes of progress, nature, inclusion and growth including art commissions with local communities, a music festival, a reuse and recycle fashion show and the creation of employment opportunities for young people.

Leader of Croydon Council, councillor Tony Newman, said: “This is fantastic news – this award is for all of Croydon and everyone who has worked so hard in our bid. From Stormzy to our very own Shaniqua, Croydon is the home of talent with a rich musical heritage as the birthplace of punk, grime and more, and an exciting future ahead. We are going to make 2023 a celebration of our town’s wonderful diversity, make everyone proud and repay the mayor’s belief in us. This is Croydon – and we are incredibly proud.”

The inaugural London Borough of Culture, Waltham Forest, was a great success with more than 1,000 cultural events, workshops and activities taking place in 2019, involving every school in the borough. Brent is the London Borough of Culture for 2020 and began its year with a mass participation event with more than 300 local residents and young people performing in front of Wembley Stadium.

“Culture has the power to bring communities together and transform young people’s lives, and I’m very proud of the impact that our programme has already had in Waltham Forest and Brent,” said Khan. “Lewisham and Croydon have set out bold and exciting plans that will use culture to deliver real change in their boroughs, and I’m already looking forward to seeing their plans come to life.”

Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey and Sutton will each receive up to £200,000 to deliver individual cultural projects after being chosen for a Cultural Impact award. Hammersmith and Fulham will run a music training programme for excluded young people. Haringey will host a large-scale, curated feast to raise funds for food banks and Sutton will host a science-inspired laser and light show event, co-curated by the community.

The success of the London Borough of Culture programme has captured global imagination, with Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, now running their own programme, Barrios Creativos, inspired by London.

Image: Welcome to the Forest/London Borough of Culture Waltham Forest 2019