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Improving Watford through arts, culture and fun

This weekend sees the start of the seventh Imagine Watford festival, consisting of free outdoor dance and theatre performances by an impressive array of British and international artistes and groups.

The festiva is part of a long-term vision of Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and Liberal Democrat councillors to use arts and culture to promote the regeneration of Watford town centre and make it a more enjoyable place to visit.

This has centred on an area of the High Street that had become primarily for the evening economy (a euphemism for bars and nightclubs). While successful enough of itself, the area had gained an unwanted reputation for late-night anti-social behaviour, while struggling to find a daytime role.

That is why Dorothy promoted the idea of a family-friendly town centre – as somewhere not just for shopping at one end and clubbing at the other, but as a place for cultural and social activity. We carried out a major environmental improvement scheme, which included creating a space where arts and community events can take place. As television retail guru Mary Portas, who grew up in Watford, commented at an event to mark the completion of the scheme:

High streets aren’t just about shopping, they’re about encouraging us to engage in where we live. We can never underestimate what the high street means to us.

Alongside that, we launched our Big Events programme of which Imagine Watford is part. It includes an urban beach and outdoor film screenings during the summer holidays, ice skating over the Christmas period. Other events, including a variety of music performances, are held at nearby Cassiobury Park, itself subject of a major lottery-funded restoration scheme, These events are enjoyed by thousands of local people, helping to create a sense of pride and wellbeing as well as offering people access new cultural experiences, and providing a chance for people from Watford’s diverse communities to come together. 

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