Long gone are the days of trying to convince your mates that Stockport isn’t shit, as the promising home of the seminal Strawberry Studios has just been announced as Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture 2023.
In a star-studded celebration at Stockport’s iconic Hat Museum, Andy Burnham announced the news alongside members of Blossoms and Stockport Council leader, Cllr Mark Hunter. The title means that the borough has secured £50,000 to support local arts and creativity in the area.
Over the past few years, Stockport has welcomed an abundance of indie traders across its burgeoning Underbanks. The once underwhelming Greater Manchester town is now complete with Green Michelin Star restaurants, sprawling plant shops and even a place to grab rare magazines from across the globe.
More recently, Katie Ogden, the wife of Blossom’s frontman Tom Ogden opened a second space for her Hazel Grove Bohemian hair salon in the town. Bohemian Arts Club officially opens to the public this Saturday and is complete with a cocktail bar inspired by the couple’s travels, which you can even order from your seat while you’re in for a trim.
The town’s bid for the title was centred around the One Stockport vision, which aims to “support the local economy, connect communities and promote health and wellbeing”. Underpinned by four elements that celebrate the town’s innovations; Stockport Makes, Stockport Moves, Stockport Sounds and Stockport Tastes, the title also coincides with some major redevelopments in the area.
Digital arts opportunities are set to be opened up through the £2.6m Stockport Creative Campus Cultural Fund, and the development of the £14m Future High Street Stockroom discovery centre is also underway. Developers are also setting their sights on various plots in the town for new housing. As well as this, trains will return to Cheadle for the first time since the 1960s after plans for a £9m station were approved last year.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “It’s a real pleasure to be able to announce Stockport as our third ever Town of Culture for 2023. The town put forward a strong case for the accolade, backed up by some really exciting plans for events and activities that celebrate Stockport’s identity, its history, but also shine a spotlight on everything that’s happening right now.
“I think the fact that we’ve got Blossoms coming out to support us today just goes to show the talent that is coming out of this place and the pride they have in their hometown. I’m pleased to see so many cultural organisations and community groups already engaging with the Town of Culture project, because they’re the ones that will really bring this together. There’s a real buzz about the place at the moment – the regeneration taking place through the Mayoral Development Corporation is transforming the town centre, and now this recognition and the funding that comes with it will help Stockport capitalise on all of that.”
Anyone who’s made the trip to the town recently will be more than aware of the aforementioned ‘buzz’. The town’s cultural heritage is rooted in bands such as Joy Division, The Stone Roses and 10cc, who recorded influential records in the town’s Strawberry Studios.
It also kick-started the careers of many TV legends, including Claire Foy, Michelle Keegan and Sacha Dawan, alongside making its own appearance in shows such as Life On Mars, The Stranger and Coronation Street. Now, Stockport’s charm is in its cosy community of charming independents that Manchester DJ Luke Unabomber dubbed as the ‘new Berlin’ last year.
Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of Stockport Council, added: “Stockport has a rich cultural history and I’m delighted that we have been recognised in this way. This is the result of much hard work and dedication by many of our cultural organisations getting together under the banner of Culture Stockport to support us with this bid.
“We want our Town of Culture programme to give everyone the opportunity to be active and creative in our town and to ensure we use it to celebrate the people, places and stories of Stockport. It was great to see so many people who are integral to our plans at the launch event, which got us off to a great start. This accolade tops off a busy six months for Stockport, with many of our key projects such as the transport interchange, Weir Mill and the next phase of Stockport Exchange all now well underway.”
Stockport's win follows in the footsteps of Stalybridge, which was awarded Town of Culture for 2022 and Bury, that took home the award in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 putting events and developments on hold.
Stockport’s Town of Culture Programme will be announced throughout the year as the programme is developed with residents, local artists, creative businesses and partners.