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Two years ago, prompted by a symposium convened by the Surrey Lieutenancy, a group of people from the creative sector, higher and further education, our local authorities, museums and the heritage community came together to discuss how best to nurture and champion Surrey as a vibrant, creative set of communities. 

This group, who became Surrey Cultural Partnership, quickly identified three priorities in support of that vision: to strengthen the county's creative ecology, to produce a document that expressed our shared ambitions and to attract new investment. 

Since then the Partnership has continued to meet regularly.  We have led a programme for future leaders, talked to local, regional and national funders, looked at what others are doing across the country and set about shaping a strategy for the county.  

Led by the consultant, Marilyn Scott, we have engaged in hundreds of conversations with individuals, organisations and interested parties across every part of the county in order to identify the particular character, opportunities and challenges that need addressing for Surrey to continue to flourish. The result of these conversations has informed the creation of Surprising Surrey, a ten-year strategy with the ambition that ‘by 2034 Surrey will be recognised as a confident, vibrant county that celebrates its rich cultural heritage and the creativity that shapes individual and community prosperity.’ 

To achieve this, we know we need to involve everyone, encourage new makers and audiences and attract new investment into cultural activity. This is not an exercise in bringing ‘culture to the people’. Surrey is brim full of creative ambition with communities and individuals expressing who they are in all sorts of ways. Culture, in all its forms, breathes life into our towns, cities and countryside, creating places where people want to live and invest, supporting social cohesion, generating community identity and a sense of place. 

Surprising Surrey is about championing what is already happening, recognising that the county has much to celebrate whilst acknowledging that, despite its reputation for affluence and privilege, there are areas of deprivation, marginalisation, disenfranchisement, and disconnection which need addressing; all the more so given the parlous position of many of our local authorities. 

This strategy, which we would argue belongs to us all,  is a response to those needs to promote, encourage and expand the arts and culture across every part of  Surrey. In every street, village, town and city access, inclusion, participation, and sustainability need to shape our strategy and actions. We intend that every person from every community can find pride in themselves and their town or village. 

Perdita Hunt and Gavin Stride
Co-chairs, Surrey Cultural Partnership 


Cultural Strategy for Surrey

Image: Luxmuralis © Grahame Larter

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