At age 18, Charlotte Bowen left her hometown of Grimsby to study Design and Media in London. It was here that she got to experience all kinds of rich, vibrant arts and culture – ultimately bringing that passion and inspiration back to our area for all the community to enjoy.

Charlotte is the chair of the CultureWorks Culture Consortium, the Coastal Culture Network Lead, and in 2017, worked with Hull City of Culture to bring a number of events, including a large festival, to life. Through her ventures theculturehouse and Birdhouse, Charlotte is the curator of some of the area’s most loved events – Cleethorpes Jazz Festival, A Wonderful World and Picnic in the Park at Grimsby’s People’s Park, and the Birdhouse Family Festival, to name just a few…

Where does your love of the arts and culture come from?

It was while I was in London that of course many cultural experiences were opened up to me and I used to love soaking it all up. I lived in Ealing and used to go to the Ealing Jazz Festival, which was outdoor in a lovely park – and hosted some world class talent, as well as up and coming London musicians – I think this inspired me a lot. I never knew at the time I’d be organising Cleethorpes Jazz Festival in the future bringing some of the artists I’d seen in London to the area!

When I moved back to Grimsby there was obviously a noticeable lack in terms of culture and I eventually found myself developing and heading up Cleethorpes Jazz Festival and the Lit.Com Literature and Comedy festival – I was convinced Grimsby could be as good as any other town or city in the country. There is also a lot of talent that exists here that maybe wasn’t being recognised or that was ‘under the radar’, so it soon became a mission to champion our local talent too.

Tell us a little bit about the work of The Culture House and Birdhouse.

The Culture House is basically about bringing more opportunities to experience and be inspired by arts and culture, to more people. Given our coastal location this isn’t always easy because of our geographical ‘disconnectivity’. However, we work hard to bring quality experiences to local people who may have little opportunity to engage in culture. This is mainly through outdoor performance and music programmes. What helps is being in awe of and appreciating the talent! There is some fantastic work out there and we are currently working to develop Scandinavian connections so that we can host European work in Grimsby too.

Birdhouse is an arts organisation specifically for children and families, which hosts quality touring theatre, story-telling, music activity, street theatre, workshops and more for younger audiences, again working to ensure that location or geography isn’t a barrier to accessing inspiring and engaging cultural experiences. We’re currently developing our plan for the next two years and are excited about what we can offer to families in the region, without them having to travel to other towns or cities. We hope all we do contributes to North East Lincolnshire being a better place to live, work and play. I think my work is my contribution to the area in a way.

Why is culture so important to a place like Grimsby?

I guess for me, arts and culture bring life to life! On one level it can entertain, on others it can touch the soul, help to express feelings, be educational and promote relaxation and enjoyment, or simply just create a buzz and positive atmosphere. I also believe that creativity is really important. It’s unfortunately being stripped from schools but actually underpins everything, from the clothes you wear to the music you listen to, to the films you watch and enjoy. We need it in our lives – it’s natural!

Most people that know me know that I’m a strong advocate for arts and culture in the region and together with other members of the CultureWorks consortium we’re now at the stage where the council has now started to recognise this and incorporate culture into development plans, so I believe exciting times do lay ahead for the area. There’s lots to celebrate about Grimsby and its heritage and we now have the opportunity to do this in ways that have never been done before, through the delivery of bigger and better cultural programmes. Watch this space!