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‘Lambeth culture is absolutely fabulous’

Joanna Lumley is the latest Lambeth celebrity to give her support to the council’s bid to become London Borough of Culture, heralding it as “exciting”.

The Absolutely Fabulous and Avengers star, who has lived in Stockwell for more than 20 years, came up with the idea for the controversial Garden Bridge and protested proposed Lambeth library closures in 2016.

The titles of London Borough of Culture for 2019 and 2020 will be announced on 27 February. Following additional funding commitments by the Mayor, the winners will receive £1.35 million in funding from City Hall and the City Bridge Trust, and a further £850,000 is available to be divided between up to six runners-up for individual projects. “We want ideas that recreate locally, that tell local stories and involve everyone in the borough” says deputy mayor for culture Justine Simons.

While “blown away” by the ambition of the entries in general, she adds she was particularly impressed by Lambeth’s bid book.

Lambeth’s bid is rooted in the borough’s radical history, and seeks to use culture as means to address social and economic inequalities.

Planned events include outdoor screenings by the BFI, a Rebel Rebel concert in Brockwell Park and a day of street parties across the borough. Author and psychologist Mick Finlay, who used to live in Stockwell and writes the south London-set historical detective series Arrowood, says he wholeheartedly supports the bid. “If this ambitious bid wins, it would be great to see it achieve its many goals such as the campaign to create a more equal cultural workforce and to celebrate the extraordinary musical history of the borough”, he says.

Herne Hill resident Vincent Osborne, founder and artistic director of the Black British Classical Foundation, queries that the Assembly Hall at the newly refurbished Town Hall will cost up to £800 to hire at weekends. “How many black organisations can afford that?” he asks.

“A lot of good work comes out of the area but there is no Black Power!” Osborne says. “Work that has a black cast and issues is still determined by the white man”.

Push the Button promoter Rob Holley says, “It was Lambeth residents’ commitment to culture and heritage that saw 1,200 people submit evidence to Lambeth Council to secure the Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s sui generis status.

“We’re so lucky that we get to showcase Push The Button in Lambeth – it wouldn’t be the same anywhere else.”

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