Lewisham pledged to deliver “lasting social change” – and “a lot of fun” – as it was named the London Borough of Culture 2021 on Tuesday (February 11).  

The award, from the Mayor of London, aims to support the arts across the capital and comes with £1.35 million to stage a year-long programme of cultural events across the winning borough.   

Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, said: “I’m delighted we have been awarded Borough of Culture 2021.   

“This is an incredible opportunity for Lewisham and I couldn’t be more proud to be Lewisham’s mayor and working alongside so many amazing creatives and artists.   

“Our year will showcase what Lewisham has to offer the rest of London and the UK by harnessing the passion and creativity of our cultural sector and the people of Lewisham and channelling this into a programme which will face up to the most significant challenge facing our planet, the climate emergency. 

“Lewisham has really traditional, fantastic grassroots cultural institutions and this is a huge opportunity to showcase them. 

“And the biggest beneficiaries of this will be Lewisham’s young people – it will create so many jobs in the arts and we want to make sure they have access to that.” 

He said tackling inequality is a very important issue for Lewisham.  

“First of all, we want people to come to Lewisham to see our wonderful borough and have a lot of fun.  

“We will also have events looking at the resettlement of refugees and events around climate change and how we can save the planet.” 

Lewisham will be working with the Greater London Authority (GLA) from Wednesday (February 12), while events will kick off in the borough next January.  

Plans include the world’s first ‘tag’ climate carnival with the borough’s 18 neighbourhoods “showcasing the power of culture to highlight social issues and stimulate action within communities”.    

A mass dance party is in the works which will explore the impact of migration and diversity on London’s dance scene.   

The borough will have an outdoor music festival inspired by Lewisham’s Rock Against Racism gigs as well as a national creative careers conference “leading a call to action to address inequality”.   

Lewisham fought off competition from Greenwich, Hounslow, Haringey, Sutton, and Hammersmith and Fulham, with Croydon awarded the title for 2023.  

Sutton, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Haringey were named cultural impact award winners, which comes with around £200,000.  

Local London Assembly Member, Len Duvall AM, said: “Both Lewisham and Greenwich put in fantastic bids, and either would have been worthy winners.

“I’m really happy for Lewisham on their success, and obviously disappointed for Greenwich too.

“This funding will help to tap into Lewisham’s diversity and provide a platform for creative talent from across our community.

“Based on the success of Waltham Forest’s pioneering year as the first-ever Borough of Culture, and the buzz around Brent being this year’s Borough of Culture, local people have a lot to be excited about and I would encourage everyone to get involved wherever they can”.