Hearts for the Arts Shortlist 2021 – Councillor Jonathan Simpson

London Borough of Camden's Councillor Jonathan Simpson has been shortlisted for Best Arts Champion - Councillor in the 2021 Hearts for the Arts Awards.

Jonathan has been a Councillor for nearly nineteen years championing Camden and London’s arts community. He has been Mayor of the Borough twice and advocates for the the local music scene – raising large amounts of funds for the work of the Roundhouse Trust.

For the last two years, Cllr Simpson has been leading on the ambitious arts and communities project ‘Camden Alive’. Camden Alive is a programme of arts and cultural events that celebrates the people of Camden. Sharing the stories of diverse heritage through creativity, Camden Alive captures the sights, sounds and spirit of the borough and what it means to live and work in Camden. Through music, dance, food, fashion, design, performance and visual art the stories of local neighbourhoods unfold and will be showcased by the creation of the virtual Camden People’s Museum. Presented through web-based augmented reality the museum will illuminate and animate these stories, revealing the vibrant individual and collective culture of Camden. An ambitious, broad project of this kind requires the participation of much of the local community – from schools to local football teams – and provides opportunity for a wide range of local artists.

The project was funded by the Mayor of London as part of the London Borough of Culture competition. Camden won the largest Cultural Impact Award. All of this was made possible by Cllr Simpson.

During the pandemic, Cllr Simpson has led a series of workshops to ensure that local arts organisations are aware of and applying for the relevant government funding. He has continued to lobby for organisations that have missed out on funding and, most notably, freelancers that have fallen through the gaps of support schemes. He has provided invaluable support during this year.

What the judges said:

“Under Jonathan’s leadership, Camden Alive has valued and promoted diversity of audiences and art forms, with exciting and engaging participant-led projects demonstrating an ambitious and community focused outlook, and an understanding of the many ways the arts can bring economic and social benefits to the area.”

A proper connector of people and projects, both commercial, charity and not-for-profit – resulting in useful, tangible things for individuals and the community. He clearly also understands arts in its widest sense and how it is connected to other departments.”