A GROUP seeking to act as a cultural 'catalyst' for Portsmouth and generate millions of pounds in funding is set to launch with a 'surprise' public display next week.
Independent organisation Portsmouth Creates will officially begin work to boost culture and the arts in the city, with a spectacle following the Christmas lights switch-on in Commercial Road.
It comes as stakeholders - the Arts Council England, Portsmouth City Council, the University of Portsmouth and Victorious Festival - contributed £200,000 to the body to act as seed money for its first year with another £200,000 pledged for a second year.
The money will then be used to unlock grants and investment to benefit a range of groups, individuals and events in Portsmouth.
Tim Rusby, chairman of Portsmouth Creates, said: 'Culture is not just about ballet, art galleries, sculptures and high theatre. It's everything; the food we make, the music and even skateboarding.
'We are aiming to be a catalyst and launchpad for cultural investment in the city. We are not trying to be a deliverer but a conduit to draw in funding.
'We need to change the hearts and minds of people in the city, so that they know culture belongs to them.'
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For the council's culture boss, Councillor Steve Pitt, it was important to raise the profile of the city's achievements. 'People say nothing ever happens in Portsmouth - that's rubbish,' he said.
'Just as many people work in the arts, creative industries and leisure in Portsmouth as they do in the dockyards but not many people know that.'
Cllr Pitt was hopeful Portsmouth could be in the running to be city of culture in the future.
He added: 'When we bid for city of culture it should be at a time when everyone says “now that Portsmouth has entered, we have no chance”.'
The Christmas lights switch-on event will take place from 4pm to 6pm on November 21 in Commercial Road.
A private launch of Portsmouth Creates will also take place on November 21 for residents involved in culture and the arts. To attend email firstname.lastname@example.org.