WINCHESTER City Council is inviting local artists and creative businesses to the inaugural meeting of a new Cultural Network.

The council is keen to foster the creative arts as a way of boosting the local economy.

The creation of a local network was a key recommendation in the Council’s Cultural Strategy approved earlier this year, called Culture, Innovation and the Creative Economy.

It will provide opportunities for information-sharing, collaborative working, joint funding bids and lobbying.

Meetings will take place once every two months, and each will be organised by a different cultural organisation such as the Theatre Royal, Umbrella, the university and Winchester School of Art are among those who will be hosting future meetings.

The first meeting takes place on Monday September 15 at 6:30pm at Abbey House.

It will take creative workspace as its theme, with many local artists keen to find space for production, rehearsal, work, shopping and display.

The council will give an overview of initiatives that may provide some of the much-needed solutions.

The first meeting will also, coincidentally, be a send-off for the Council’s former Arts Advisor, arts and heritage consultant Stephen Boyce.

Mr Boyce has been commissioned by the Council for nearly three years to work with arts businesses and organisations helping them with grant applications, business development and capacity-building. He and his wife are now moving to Dorset – although he will still be very much in touch with Winchester through his professional, cultural and social links, including the new Poetry Festival from September 12-14.

He said: “Working with Winchester’s artists, theatre-makers, dancers, writers, musicians and others has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding assignments I’ve had. This pool of richly creative and enterprising talent is of extraordinary value to the city and district, and it has been a privilege to help build the conditions in which, hopefully, Winchester’s arts community can flourish. Thank you to everyone who has let me into their creative world.”

Cllr Rob Humby, city council leader, said: “Stephen has been very popular with our artistic community, who have even referred to him as ‘Magic Stephen’ at times. He has helped many practitioners to develop more sustainable business models, contributing to a strong and dynamic creative economy for the Winchester District.”

The council is currently putting in place a number of new forms of support for the sector, including not-for-profit expertise from Community First, direct support from Council officers and special arts ‘clinics’.

The Cultural Network itself offers a new forum for peer support and advocacy. The Council’s Economy and Arts team can be contacted in the first instance via Carol Hussey on 01962 848 303 or email