The recruitment process for Wrexham’s City of Culture Interim Board is now complete, with individuals being appointed to the Board whose aim is to make key decisions, develop strategies and steer the direction and narrative of the #Wrecsam2029 City of Culture campaign.
‘UK City of Culture’ is a competition run every four years by the Department for Digital, Culture and Sport (DCMS), where the title ‘UK City of Culture’ is awarded to a city, town or region within the UK for a period of one calendar year, during which the successful bidder hosts cultural festivities through culture-led regeneration for the year.
The purpose of the competition is to utilise culture as a catalyst for positive change in the community and has significant social and economic benefits for the area.
Last year Wrexham reached the final stages in the competition ending runner-up to Bradford who will host City of Culture 2025.
Having seen the cultural, social and economic benefits in competing and gaining this title, it was agreed that Wrecsam would run again in 2029.
One of the key objectives for the early stages of the next bid was to establish an Interim Board to oversee and steer the work for Wrexham’s City of Culture campaign from Early 2023 through to the establishment of a new Cultural Community Trust anticipated to be in Early 2024.
The stewardship, ideas and decisions of the Interim Board will help raise the ambitions on what can be achieved as a community, and we set out to recruit individuals with relevant skills and experience in the following fields:
- Arts & Culture
- Individuals with International Connections
- Business, Industry, Hospitality & Tourism
- Education & Skills
- Public Bodies
- Media Professionals
Cllr Hugh Jones, Lead Member for City of Culture, Wrexham County Borough Council comments: “We have been impressed and delighted with the number, calibre, enthusiasm and experience of the applicants to help steer the Wrecsam2029 bid to a successful winning entry. Many of the appointed members have high profiles across Wales and beyond, and, most importantly from within our community in Wrecsam. We came so close to winning last time and I have every confidence that we will host City of Culture 2029.”
After an initial expression of interest phase followed by interviews, we are delighted to announce the membership of the Board:
Joanna Swash (Chair)
A mother, local business leader, governor and recent member of the PM’s Business Council, Joanna Swash is Group CEO of Moneypenny, which has grown and globally expanded, based on a unique award-winning culture, placing people and technology at the heart of everything. Moneypenny answer outsourced calls and live chats for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Richard has 25 years’ experience of funding in the arts, heritage and education sectors. As Director of Operations, Arts Council Wales, he leads the Investment & Funding Services team distributing £40million annual arts funding. Previous roles have included Development Director, National Museum Wales, and Deputy Head of Development University of Liverpool.
Professor Uzo Iwobi
Professor Uzo Iwobi CBE is Founder & CEO of Race Council Cymru, former Specialist Policy Adviser to Welsh Government on Equalities and former Commissioner to the Commission for Racial Equality. Uzo is the founder of the Black Lives Matter Wales Policy Forum, ZeroRacismWales campaign, founder of National Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Youth Forum for Wales and one of the founders of Black History Wales. She heads up Black History Wales programming and has worked with Tŷ Pawb to establish the Multicultural Hub in Wrexham – the first of its kind.
Dawn is Chief Officer for the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW), the Welsh Government appointed County Voluntary Council, representing Third Sector interests in the county, large and small. Dawn brings to the table extensive leadership experience not only in her current role but from her former career as a diplomat for the U.S. Foreign Service.
A lifelong Wrexham resident, for over a decade, Mike has worked to support the region’s cultural development, holding voluntary governance and advisory roles with organisations and initiatives including FOCUS Wales, Undegun and Wrexham Science Festival amongst many others, and he currently serves as a Trustee of NEW Sinfonia. As a Visiting Researcher at the Faculty of Art, Science and Technology at Wrexham Glyndwr University, alongside his work as an independent consultant, Mike specialises in creative engagement practices, participatory evaluation and co-production, elevating citizen voices and ensuring every person’s value is recognised. Outside of Wrexham, he has worked with organisations of all shapes and sizes, from start-ups to governments, across the UK, and as far afield as China, Australia and the USA.
Neal is a fluent Welsh speaker and freelance consultant who has worked in the live music industry for the past twenty years. He is the artistic director of Llangollen Fringe Festival and co-founder of FOCUS Wales, an annual international showcase festival and conference, held in Wrexham, Wales. Now in its twelfth year, FOCUS Wales hosts over 250 live acts and 400+ music industry professionals from across the globe and welcomes 20,000 festival goers to the city centre, each year. Neal is an advocate for the arts and is also a founding member of the Events Industry Wales Advisory Group which was set up in 2020 to represent the interests of live music and cultural events, directly to the Welsh Government.
Graham is a Director at Sport Wales, the national agency responsible for sport and physical activity in Wales. Current work responsibilities include developing strategies to support communities to be active through sport. He is also responsible for a wide range of service areas including digital and communications, research, policy, public affairs and community grants. Graham lives with his family within the Wrexham area.
Devinda de Silva
Devinda is former Director of Collaboration at National Theatre Wales (NTW) and currently serves as Interim Vice Chair of Arts Council Wales, where he Chairs the Equalities Committee, and is a member of the Welsh Governments Overarching Steering Group to develop a new culture strategy for Wales. Additionally, Devinda is a Board member of Disability Arts Cymru and holds advisory roles at Counterpoint Arts, The Baring Foundation and The Gulbenkian Foundation amongst others. Devinda has worked extensively in Wrexham over the past eight years or so, culminating in A Proper Ordinary Miracle in November 2022, a large site located piece of co-created theatre.
Gwennan Mair Jones
Gwennan Mair is the Director of Creative Engagement at Theatr Clwyd and is a trained Drama Facilitator and Director. Gwennan’s passion for community arts and engagement came at a young age growing up in Llan Ffestiniog. Community and accessibility is the heart of all of Gwennan’s work and how through the Arts we can provide opportunity for change within communities.
In addition to full Board members, we will be calling on the expertise of specific individuals to attend meetings as special advisors on a range of topics which include play, heritage and education. Standing advisors to the Board have also been appointed; Ian Bancroft (Chief Executive WCBC), Amanda Davies (City Centre, Arts and Events Lead WCBC), Cllr Hugh Jones (Lead Member for Environments with responsibility for Tŷ Pawb and Arts) and Liam Evans-Ford (Executive Director, Theatr Clwyd).
Chair of the Interim Board and Group CEO of Moneypenny Joanna Swash said: “Being a City of Culture is all about people. Whether the conversation is about business or community, it’s so important that we engage with as many members of the local area as possible and get their ideas and opinions on what Wrexham’s year as hosts should look like.
At its heart, our bid will be about ensuring culture will act as a catalyst for change – reinvigorating public spaces, shopping areas, the infrastructure and much more. Wrexham has a huge amount to offer and shout about. The award’s mission is to celebrate our varied and diverse culture to ‘level up’ areas of the UK, bringing increased productivity and opportunities both economically and socially.
I am looking forward to listening to all the voices and feedback, and working together to showcase how every single one of us already so proud of Wrexham can work together to achieve our area’s full potential.”
The first Board meeting will take place in mid-April and we’re excited to get underway with our plans during a very exciting moment for Wrexham County Borough.
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