As Mayor, and later as Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Karen King tirelessly advocated for arts and culture and particularly for access for traditionally excluded and isolated individuals. She has recently stepped down from the role and will be sorely missed by all in the cultural sector and well beyond in Redcar and Cleveland and the Tees Valley
Cllr King brought a voice of calm when explaining the benefits of arts engagement to those who have not yet seen or experienced the value – be they constituents or councillors – and cited her own journey from businesswoman to celebrant as one which allowed her to see how creativity can be beneficially central to everyone’s lives.
Her business background meant that Cllr King has made sure that culture is embedded within the Council’s agenda not just within the culture portfolio. She has advocated for culture and creativity to achieve corporate objectives across other service areas in particular around children and young people.
Cllr King has encouraged the people of Redcar and Cleveland to think that culture is for everyone, and that it includes everything from the local fishing heritage to classical music via bonfires, scarecrow dressing and food festivals. During the pandemic, she encouraged and supported a range of projects: reaching out to communities with doorstep performances, light up windows and hyper local activity.
What the judges said:
“Karen is committed to the belief that the arts can benefit her community; she offers strategic support to arts organisations, and has overseen exciting, non-digital projects during Covid lockdowns, which bring the arts to a more diverse audience.”
“It’s clear that Councillor King has made an enormous difference in terms of convincing others in the authority of the power and impact of the arts, and it’s lovely to hear that she cites her own journey to becoming an arts lover in that argument. She has successfully made the case for the arts to feature in the objectives of other council departments, and has secured a seat around the table for local arts leaders.”