BASILDON has been handed a £1.28million arts boost to be ploughed into cultural and artistic projects in the borough.

It is the first time a borough in Essex has been awarded with the such funding and coincides with the town marking its 70th anniversary.

Basildon was chosen by Arts Council England after evidence showed the town had a low engagement with cultural activities.

Gavin Callaghan, leader of Basildon Council, said: “This is great news for Basildon as we celebrate our 70th year as a new town. This funding will unlock and create opportunities for our residents to get more involved in cultural and creative activity and will help us work more collaboratively with our community on projects that will inspire and bring people together.”

Led by Things Made Public CIC, the project has been named BasildON Creative People and Places programme and will develop seven core projects which organisers say will change the cultural and business landscape in the borough forever.

These projects will include Open Lab – where vacant shops will be given to creative individuals and groups to run pop-up activities from.

Another project – called Connect – is a business support programme which will encourage businesses to commission cultural activity by showing them the benefits.

A new festival called Future Festival will also bring together a programme of innovative activity including installations, exhibitions, performances and workshops.

Sarah Walters, founder of Things Made Public CIC said: “This year, 70 years ago, the New Town was born and we’re over the moon to be celebrating by looking to the future with BasildON Creative People and Places.

“Our programme aims to bring art and culture to everyone, and is underpinned by the belief that Basildon is a borough of 180,000 artists, each capable of contributing to the cultural vitality of the place. We’re absolutely thrilled with the news and truly believe this opportunity will be transformative to Basildon.”