Best Arts Champion – Councillor WINNER – Councillor Janet Emsley

Rochdale Borough has some of the most economically deprived communities, is within the 1% lowest culturally engaged regions in the UK, and external investment into the arts has been stubbornly low.  However, Councillor Janet Emsley is a committed and energetic supporter of the arts, and a constant presence on the local cultural scene. Her support is often active: at any given event you might find Janet warmly welcoming audiences, stewarding, handing out leaflets or rallying the ‘troops’ at rainy outdoor festivals.

Councillor Emsley has been selected as the winner of Best Arts Champion – Councillor in the 2021 Hearts for the Arts Awards. In the words of our judges, here’s why:

Janet sounds like an incredibly passionate and dedicated champion of the arts in Rochdale. Her vital role in ensuring the Dippy Tour came to Rochdale shows the huge impact her work has on her community. I was really impressed by the myriad of ways Janet made valuable contributions and her willingness to adapt to whatever task needed doing. It’s great to see that such an economically-deprived area has someone like Janet who fights for the arts so doggedly. I’m sure she is instrumental in opening up creativity, increasing positive mental health, and sparking inspiration in communities who have not had much access to the arts before. Francesca Martinez: comedian, writer, actress

What a fabulous contribution to both the arts and the local community! It’s both reassuring and inspiring that there are people like Janet out there, and that she’s making sure that her voice and influence as a Councillor is used to the max to make the world a better place. Really good leadership is always that bit better with a strong dose of raw enthusiasm, and Janet clearly has that in spades. Helen Czerski: physicist, oceanographer, television presenter

Firstly, it was so wonderful to read of Janet’s efforts AFTER being blown away by the Dippy tour project. It’s no surprise that someone of this calibre was part of the team that delivered Dippy to Rochdale. She seems to be at the heart of EVERYTHING cultural or artistic and that level of commitment is inspiring. When art and culture are personified by a passionate and ebullient person things happen even in the most deprived places. They become beacons of light that illuminate everything which is even more impressive with limited resources. Le Gateau Chocolat: drag artiste and cabaret performer

So impressed by Janet’s efforts and obvious talents at motivating her staff , creating collaborations and developing connections that ensure projects get off the ground. She sounds like an incredible asset to have in any community and an ambassado0r for creativity who’s prepared to battle against the odds. Mariella Frostrup: journalist and broadcaster

Janet is part of the scene, participating in all aspects. She seems to have an un wavering conviction in what she believes is the right way to go and just goes ahead and makes it work. Paul Hartnoll: musician, composer, founder member of Orbital

It is great to see such passionate advocacy and support from a Councillor on the arts and culture in Rochdale, and someone who puts in such genuine time, support and passion for their local arts and cultural institutions. Petra Roberts: Cultural Development Manager, Hackney Council (2020 Hearts for the Arts Winners for the Windrush Generations Festival)

The scale of the job Janet Emsley has committed to could hardly be overestimated, but she’s clearly smashing it with energy, devotion and commitment. One person can really make a difference, and Janet’s nomination is a sign of the regard she’s held in by her colleagues and peers. Samuel West: actor, director, Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts

Read more about Councillor Emsley’s nomination here

Councillor Janet Emsley. Photo Credit: Rochdale Borough Council, Alan Hamer Photography

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