Kirklees Council – Kath Davies

Shortlisted for the Best Local Authority Arts Champion - Officer in the Hearts for the Arts Awards 2019


Kath Davies manages Kirklees Council’s Creative Economy Team. Her tireless energy and determination during a period of substantial budget cuts has meant that the arts continue to thrive. She has a reputation for her creative thinking and confidence to challenge the norm which has led to demand from colleagues across the council to influence their thinking e.g. she is part of the Huddersfield town centre masterplanning team and has established a collaboration between the Markets service, traders and the University of Huddersfield to improve Huddersfield’s indoor market.  The Market needed more customers and art and design courses needed gallery space and to reach new audiences.  Kath brought them together to work with the traders to develop solutions which has seen the development of Temporary Contemporary – new gallery spaces, a cultural information point and an artist commission to design a social space –

This initiative recently won the Innovation Award at the National Markets Awards and is attracting other initiatives e.g. Parlour, an independent advice service for creative businesses. The Market’s profile has been raised locally as the arts activities provide daily opportunities to promote the venue. Kath’s initiative has turned one complaining trader in to an advocate by turning the videos he sent to her to complain about the noise in to promotional opportunities for his stall. He now videos every pianist and puts them on social media.

Kath’s passion for the arts inspires others and her ability to communicate how the arts contribute to a wide range of outcomes means that she is able to influence others to use the arts within their work e.g. she is presently working with Social Care to develop an arts on referral programme. She is an avid user of social media constantly using various platforms to promote what is happening in the arts and encourage people to debate issues.

Kath was quick to realise that with cuts to cultural budgets, she needed to develop different approaches and that partnership was key. One such partnership is the Huddersfield Marketing Group which she calls a Think and Do Group as she was determined that it would not be a talking shop. She invited marketing officers from cultural and education organisations to promote culture and the town by sharing expertise and resources. Their first project is presently decorating the town centre with flags demonstrating what a diverse cultural offer Huddersfield has:

Kirklees has a strong music heritage which Kath is now building on to develop the district’s reputation as a place of world class music.  She has brought together those active in the music sector to develop and implement a music development plan which has been awarded £300K from the regional Business Rates Pool:

Her work has been noticed by Sound Diplomacy who invited her to speak at the World Music Cities Convention in Lafayette, USA in October 2018, providing an opportunity for Kath to promote Kirklees on a world stage and make new connections.

What the judges had to say:

“A passionate advocate for the arts, responsible for some innovative and highly successful collaborations”

“Kath’s work to integrate culture into every part of Kirklees life is remarkable, changing attitudes, creating new partnerships, and raising the profile of the local authority in the process.  This is no mean feat in these difficult times of public sector cuts, and should be applauded.”

“Kath’s strategic focus on finding creative solutions has enabled the local community to find innovative ways to respond to new local challenges whether around place making or health, offering win-wins for everyone involved.”