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New era dawns for Southampton’s aim to be a leading centre of culture

A new era is dawning in Southampton’s ambition to become recognised as one of the country’s leading centres for culture.


With backing from major organisations within the city, the newly focussed Southampton Culture Trust has announced a new Chief Executive and interim chair to take forward its cultural ambitions.

The new CEO is Claire Whitaker OBE, who led Southampton’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2025, although it was Bradford which was ultimately awarded the title.

Laura Read, General Manager of Westquay, takes over the role of interim chair.

The first task of the new team is to organise a conference in the New Year with the aim of bringing those involved in the original bid back together and planning for the future.

It will be held on Thursday February 9th at MAST in the Culture Quarter,

A number of partners, many of which were founding partners of the bid, have agreed to support the Southampton Culture Trust. They include Southampton City Council, the city’s two universities: the University of Southampton and Solent University; Go Southampton, the city’s Business Improvement District; theMayflower Theatre and law firm Paris Smith.

Claire Whitaker said the Trust would have three main priorities: culture, festivals and events together with destination and tourism.

She said: “We are delighted to be driving forward this new era for culture in the city. The momentum created by our UK City of Culture bid was astonishing — we joined together and walked to the top of the mountain, and we had a choice — to tumble back down or go forward.”

Laura Read said: “I am delighted to be asked to be Interim Chair of the Southampton Culture Trust. Following the tremendous work that went into the Southampton City of Culture 2025 bid, I feel we are standing on a true turning point for our city. We have a unique opportunity to harness all the drive, ambition, collaboration, and spirit that went into the Bid and focus it on unlocking Southampton’s potential.”

The leader of Southampton City Council, Satvir Kaur, said: “I am delighted that the city has again come together to ensure the delivery of a legacy for our UK City of Culture bid. The appointments of Laura Read as Interim Chair and Claire Whitaker as CEO, ensure there is strong leadership for the Southampton Culture Trust. I would like to thank the partners for all their support, which ensures we can maximise the economic and social impact of culture, tourism, festivals and events for Southampton.”

Shaun Williams is the Executive Director Engagement & Advancement, University of Southampton and Southampton Culture Trust Trustee. He said: “The University of Southampton is proud to continue its active support for the City of Culture bid by becoming a founding partner of the Southampton Culture Trust. Ours is a remarkable city, with so much potential still to be unlocked. We will play our part in building on the extraordinary energy, inspiration and pride that the City of Culture bid unleashed, and ensure we deliver for and include every part of our vibrant community.”


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