It's hearts all round today with a Valentine's Day surprise for the city's top culture councillor who has just been announced a national winner in the prestigious 'Hearts For The Arts' Awards 2020.
The National Campaign for the Arts' annual 'Hearts For The Arts' awards celebrate the unsung heroes of local authorities who are championing the arts - often within a climate of financial challenge.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Manchester City Council's Executive Member for Skills, Culture, and Leisure has been declared winner of the Best Arts Champion in the Councillor category, after beating off stiff competition from other councillors nationally.
This year's awards were judged by high-profile figures in the arts and sciences including Susie Dent, Gary Kemp, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Alom Shaha, Errollyn Wallen, Kirstie Wilson and Samuel West.
Between them they judged Councillor Rahman the worthy winner of the 'Best Arts Champion - Councillor' award.
Here's what they said:
‘As someone who has experienced Manchester City Council’s commitment to the Arts up close, I am no stranger to Councillor Rahman’s complete and joyful passion for Manchester, its artists and its cultural capital. That he has been nominated twice comes as no surprise to me. A true Champion of the Arts and, crucially, a huge believer in celebrating the diversity of the city he loves’ - Julie Hesmondhalgh: actor, activist
‘Luthfur Rahman is to be treasured’- Errollyn Wallen CBE, composer
‘Luthfur Rahman believes in the glory of Manchester in all its multicultural differences under one sky. He has promoted the beauty of its myriad of languages in the great poem he commissioned. A worthy champion of the Arts.’ - Gary Kemp: actor, musician, songwriter, founder member of Spandau Ballet
‘Manchester has a national and now a growing international reputation as a cultural powerhouse. It’s clear that Councillor Rahman is an enthusiastic and energetic driver of that reputation. Although his background is not in the arts, he champions the cause beautifully, making connections and bringing joy with festivals, awards and new partnerships. Look after him – he’s a diamond!’ - Samuel West, actor, director, Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts
‘Luthfur Rahman has conceived and organised major new initiatives in Manchester for the recognition and enjoyment of the arts, which are set to flourish for years, if not decades. Above all, he is dedicated to the promotion of careers in the arts, which are too often overlooked.’ - Susie Dent: lexicographer, etymologist, host of Countdown’s ‘Dictionary Corner’
‘Councillor Rahman is an impressive advocate for the arts and for the communities of Manchester. He has kept a clear focus on the local people, importantly highlighting the needs and interests of the previously disengaged. He has kept a grassroots focus while operating at the highest levels of cultural development.’ - Kirstie Wilson: Kirklees Council, winner 2019 Hearts for the Arts Best Local Authority Arts Champion – Officer
Councillor Rahman's award recognises his role as a passionate advocate for the arts and the positive impact of cultural investments on Manchester.
This includes proactively encouraging the involvement of his fellow councillors in the arts by ensuring there are members acting as board representatives on the city's major cultural institutions.
He also regularly challenges officers and cultural partners to work harder to change, adapt and better promote the city's cultural offer to reach all residents, particularly those who don't usually participate.
The award acknowledges the work he has done to establish a local cultural education partnership; helping the city to achieve UNESCO City of Literature; setting up the Festival of Manchester to celebrate the diverse cultural life of the city's many different communities; and also founding the now annual Manchester Culture Awards to recognise the very best of culture, cultural organisations and partnerships in the city.
Councillor Rahman is also praised for his recognition of the significant contribution culture plays in the growth and economic success of the city, as well as the wider benefits to residents from the significant growth in the tourist industry, creating jobs and opportunities, and making Manchester a vibrant place to live.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure, Manchester City Council, said: "Everyone who knows me knows that when it comes to culture and the arts I wear my heart on my sleeve and what better day to find out I'm a winner than Valentine's Day.
"I don't think I've done anything special, but what I do know is that the arts are what help keep the heart of Manchester beating.
"Young or old, the arts offer people far more than mere entertainment - they improve mental health, create jobs and opportunities to get involved and learn new skills, help make and shape communities and bring them together, and help bring in new investment and spending. Perhaps more than anything, however, they help make our city a better place to live, work and play in.
"It's a real honour to have won the award and I promise that I will continue to shout loud and push even harder for culture and the arts, and for access to it for all."
For the full list of winners visit forthearts.org.uk/