Margaret Dewsbury is a dedicated and passionate Councillor with more than 20 years’ experience of local government in Norfolk. Since joining Norfolk County Council in 2013, her portfolio has grown to include Chair of the Communities Committee and the Norfolk Arts Forum along with involvement in a wide range of additional Council work. Established in 1984, Norfolk Arts Forum is one of the largest cultural networks of its kind in the UK with over 1000 members, an annually elected Executive Committee and a highly regarded Professional Development Programme. As Chair, Cllr. Dewsbury works tirelessly to lead its work to promote and develop the arts across Norfolk and to advocate, internally and externally, for the vital role of the arts in the cultural, social, educational, environmental and economic life of the county.
She is a passionate advocate for the ‘massive contribution that arts and cultural activities make to the health and wellbeing of people in Norfolk whether it is aiding relaxation, building confidence, providing valuable work experience, stimulating ideas, encouraging people to be part of a community event, or just giving them a reason to get up in the morning and ‘do something’ creative. This is in addition to the contribution the arts make to the tourism industry and the local economy.’ The Forum acts as a powerful strategic voice for the sector and Cllr. Dewsbury’s commitment, enthusiasm and skill is key to its ongoing success.
Her leadership is also pivotal in advocating for and safeguarding Council investment into Norfolk’s arts sector in the context of severe and ongoing budget pressures. This includes overseeing the annual allocation of arts grants to the NCC portfolio of 17 regularly funded arts organisations. Of these, 6 are Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations including the newly rebranded National Centre for Writing; Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the fourth largest Arts Festival in the UK; Seachange Arts, Gt Yarmouth which delivers Out There, the largest annual festival of Circus and Street Arts in the UK; Norwich Arts Centre, an internationally recognised contemporary arts venue; Creative Arts East which brings professional theatre, music, cinema and opportunities to rural and disadvantaged communities throughout Norfolk and Curious Directive, pioneering international theatre company.
This ongoing support is critical to ensuring that Norfolk continues to be recognised for its vibrant and growing world-class arts offer and that the sector can continue to attract significant external investment into the local economy. In 2016, Norfolk County Council was awarded £1.2 million by Arts Council England and the European Regional Development Fund for StartEast, a transformative business support programme for the cultural sector. Managed by Norfolk County Council in partnership with Suffolk County Council, and on behalf of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership Cultural Board, her support and guidance was critical to the success of both bids.
Cllr. Dewsbury passionately believes in ensuring that people from all walks of life have access to high quality arts provision in their local communities. She is a regular presence at arts events and activities throughout the county, providing much appreciated encouragement, leadership and support.
What the judges had to say:
“A clear example of a local champion for the arts with the vision to engage with wide-ranging partners at all levels of the community.”
“Great to see that Councillor Dewsbury appears to have a real understanding of the instrumental value of the arts. She is pivotal in maintaining council investment in the arts despite financial pressures, and in an area of the country where there are pockets of really low engagement with the arts.”