Credit: Rebecca Cresta

London Borough of Culture: Merton’s bid chairman seeks to unite borough

The chairman of Merton’s London Borough of Culture bid  has revealed the proposal’s ambitions to unite the people of Merton.

Merton Council launched its bid on Friday December 1 to become the inaugural winner of the Mayor’s new award, which aims to put culture at the heart of the community and bring Londoners together.

Bid chairman John Merriman described how, by connecting people from all over Merton, the proposal offered a unique opportunity to bridge both physical and metaphorical divides within the community.

He said: “The only thing we have in common is a common.

“Which is why we’ve based the bid on the theme of common ground.”

He added: “The whole bid, from the top to the bottom, is about the people of Merton and what they have in common.”

Mr Merriman highlighted the socio-economic disparities between east and west Merton, and how the project was a way for different identities to uncover shared cultural assets.

He said: “To win the bid would be an amazing success of pulling together what is quite a disparate borough.”

In this spirit, he explained if Merton was to win the bid, one of the plans was to emphasise the cultural successes of the borough’s often overlooked eastern area.

Mr Merriman also believes Merton lacks the same identity as other London boroughs.

He said: “Because that is definitely the side of the borough that gets forgotten – Morden and Mitcham.

“The name Merton doesn’t really mean anything to anyone.”

He emphasised how the bid therefore offered the opportunity to redefine what it meant to be from Merton.

And he insisted it should be about bringing out the best in the borough, and not about celebrities and well-known venues.

He said: “We are going to use the money wisely in putting this bid together, to make sure Merton ends up on the world map, ensuring the culture of Merton begins to grow and shine, and come out of the grassroots.”

Merton will hear next month if the bid has been successful – but Mr Merriman confessed he was frustrated about not receiving an exact date for the big announcement.

He said: “It doesn’t matter how many times I tweet, or phone City Hall, they are not announcing the date.”

This is the first time a London mayor will award the accolade, which has seen bids from 22 London boroughs.

Two winning boroughs are due to be announced next month, one for 2019 and one for 2020.

Optimistic about the result, Mr Merriman said: “Everything is just under the surface ready to explode.”

He added: “Merton has some really strong assets.”

Merton’s bid will use 12 community-led commissions to decide what the borough needs.

Mr Merriman said: “We looked at which community groups are currently doing amazing things and asked them: ‘what is the culture in your area lacking? – because we trust you already.’”

These groups include the LGBT community, Sustainable Merton, Polka Theatre and The Common Side Trust.

Merton Council leader, councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: “We are all very excited about our bid.

“A huge amount of work from people in all parts of the borough has gone into make it a stand-out piece of work.

“It is a demonstration of how amazing our borough and its people are and of the huge potential that is here waiting to be discovered.”

Photo: Credit Rebecca Cresta

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