Skip to main content

Our CEO Matt Salvage has been heavily involved in the City of Culture bidding process. Here he reflects on what winning could mean for us.

Through my work with SoCo Music Project for the last ten years and more, I’ve seen just how much creativity there is in our city. It’s in every district, every culture but somehow it feels like it never quite makes critical mass, never quite takes hold. I believe that City of Culture can change that. I believe that the legacy City of Culture could create is a web of connections, the networks to support creatives and their development, and a belief that culture is something we all have a part in creating, not just consuming.

Southampton’s population is much younger than the national average, and I want to see them being part of blowing the cobwebs off what some may perceive as arts and culture. Culture isn’t just an art gallery opening or a subtitled film – it’s where and how we spend time, and for younger people that increasingly means digital spaces. It was interesting to observe through lockdown that many young people retained rich connections with their friends through multiplayer gaming, or connecting to watch movies online together – this is an increasingly normal part of socialising, and whatever we think culture is, it needs to include these new online spaces.

At SoCo, through one project, we are exposing bedroom DJs and part time rappers to opportunities for progression in a music career. They are getting studio time, connections with promoters and video makers. It’s not that there’s no talent, no drive – there’s tons of it. What these young creatives need are networks, connections, career pathways and role models to follow. Everyone carries a camera with them now – you couldn’t say that 20 years ago – and we’re seeing creativity pouring out onto Instagram feeds and TikTok – from musicians to stylists, storyboard artists to hairstylists – it’s all there in those short videos. And then if you think about the scale of the games industry – it’s bigger than the film industry

You don’t have to go to a gallery to engage with art. All the images in gaming are created by artists, and that’s a job market that is only going to grow. All these young people are creating, all the time. We want to support them to take their creative instinct and the stuff they are interested in or passionate about and show them that they can truly turn that into a career. 

Here at SoCo we’ve been embedded in the City of Culture bidding process from day one. We’ve chaired the music sub group, and we’ve been involved as a key partner. What I’ve seen so far with City of Culture is that it’s brought people together and that gives me hope that the networks I want to see would develop from us winning. The process has given us a shared spirit of enthusiasm, its nurtured partnerships in the city, and also created new partnerships and collaborations. It’s reached out to a lot of communities and brought together things like health, volunteering, arts and creative practice, music, commercial arts, voluntary sector and charities  – it really has brought a lot of people together. 

As part of our involvement we’re looking forward to being part of the Judges Visit on Friday 13th May – we want to help them get under the skin of the city. We want to showcase what Southampton has to offer, and also to show them that we’re currently just scratching the surface. We want to raise aspirations.

City of Culture could help make Southampton a world class centre for creativity. Let’s Make It So.

Leave a Reply