Merton wins Cultural Impact Award

“Merton will deliver a performance trail for residents and tourists, with six new theatre and dance works telling stories of Merton’s town centres.”

The London Borough of Merton has been awarded a £200k Cultural Impact Prize that will be instrumental investment in to an ambitious area of London, supercharging its story about culture, sport and community.

The always possible team, led by Sam Hawkins and Joanna Goodey, were the architects of the consultation and bid making the case for Merton. We’re delighted to see this investment as a result.

Huge congratulations to Wandsworth Borough Council and Haringey Council for their Borough of Culture titles. We are excited to see their programmes unfold.




The project story

In 2023, the London Borough of Merton embarked on an ambitious journey to become the London Borough of Culture for 2027. The project aimed to celebrate the borough’s rich cultural heritage, foster civic pride and create new opportunities for residents to engage in cultural activities.

The bid was seen as a unique chance to highlight Merton’s identity, aligning with the Council’s objectives of Civic Pride, Sustainable Futures and Borough of Sport.

From the outset, Merton sought to ensure that its bid was inclusive and reflective of the community’s diverse voices. The always possible team was brought on board to provide the necessary resources for bid writing and to spearhead stakeholder and community engagement and shape the direction and focus of the bid.

In August 2023, the bid process officially kicked off.

We organised a number of events throughout September and October to gather input from residents and stakeholders. These events included in-person meetings, online sessions, and surveys designed to capture a wide range of perspectives on Merton’s cultural assets and future opportunities.

185 residents participated in a community engagement exercise at the Big Sports Day with input from different cultural sector representatives.

The consultation revealed four key themes that became the backbone of the bid.

First, the concept of “connectedness” emerged strongly, highlighting the importance of physical, interpersonal, and professional connections within the borough.

Second, the unique value of Merton’s outdoor spaces was recognised, with a call to leverage these areas for cultural and heritage events.

Third, the intertwined nature of sports, culture, and heritage was noted, underscoring Merton’s identity as a borough of sport.

Finally, the diversity and multiculturalism of Merton’s population were celebrated, reflecting significant cultural changes over the past 50 years.

We ensured that these themes were woven into a cohesive narrative for the bid, titled Merton United. The bid focused on seven strategic strands:

    1. Connected to Culture: Increasing resident participation in cultural activities.
    2. Connected by Culture: Enhancing social cohesion through shared cultural experiences.
    3. Connected through Culture: Fostering civic pride via innovative cultural initiatives.
    4. Connected up Culture: Growing Merton’s creative economy and promoting cultural resources.
    5. Connected around Culture: Strengthening the cultural sector in Merton’s east.
    6. Connected towards Culture: Empowering youth through culture-led programmes.
    7. Connected “Outside” Culture: Combining sports and culture for a holistic community offer.

The bid proposed a variety of programme ideas, such as extending the Wimbledon Bookfest to new locations, creating the Merton United Trail to celebrate local geography and organising large-scale music and theatre festivals.

The goal was to present a compelling case that could go some way to secure the title of London Borough of Culture,  but more importantly create a roadmap towards ambitious cultural enrichment and community engagement.


Talk to the always possible team about building your story of inclusion, ambition and connection.