Landmark Memorandum of Understanding Signed

27th September 2022

Arts Council England and National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty sign landmark Memorandum of Understanding

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England and Philip Hygate, chair of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB), signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding on 23 September. It represents their commitments to working together to nurture new links between arts and cultural organisations, and England’s 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Working in partnership under this Memorandum of Understanding means both organisations deliver on their own priorities, underpinned by joint ambitions to see more people engaging with culture and landscape, promoting opportunities, prosperity, and wellbeing for rural communities, and contributing to conversations around tackling the climate emergency.

For years, AONB teams around the country have commissioned or partnered on awe-inspiring art installations and activities, and the Memorandum symbolises a step change in their commitment to partnering with culture organisations to develop high-quality, ambitious art that will reach and move people and communities across England.

Surrey Hills Arts is a partnership between Surrey Arts, Surrey County Council and the Surrey Hills National Landscape. It aims to engage  and  inspire  people  in  the  outstanding  natural  landscape  through  an imaginative programme across the arts, promoting heritage, health and tourism. Over the past fifteen years, they have delivered innovative landscape projects engaging local communities and developing emerging artists. Surrey Hills Arts is an excellent example to how connecting to the countryside via the arts can create a deep respect and understanding, as well as the promotion of mental wellbeing when in the landscape.

The Board of the Surrey Hills AONB has signaled its commitment to creating greater links with arts organisations by endorsing the AONB Network’s Art in the Landscape Strategy. We are excited to see how the project develops nationally and locally over the coming years and we will be building greater links with our local cultural organisations.

The signing was hosted by Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership at Samphire Hoe Nature Reserve, as part of AONB’s Salt + EARTH: Festival of Landscape, Seascape and the Environment. The festival saw artists, creatives and scientists explore everything from geography to geology, sounds to sculptures, food to Deep Time. The festival is an exemplar of how when art, science and landscape come together, our understanding is deepened, but more importantly, our enjoyment and curiosity is fired.

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England said: “The natural environment has inspired artists and writers through the ages. Today, awareness of our environment feeds our imagination, greatly benefits our wellbeing, and broadens our understanding of the climate challenges we face.

“Today’s signing represents further ambitions to deepen our appreciation and engagement with England’s rural landscapes, and their surrounding communities. Reflected through the Arts Council’s commitment to environmental responsibility, this Memorandum highlights the important, crucial connection between culture and the landscape.”

Philip Hygate, chair of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty said: “England’s 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are deeply committed to working with art and culture organisations. We have seen that when AONB Partnerships and artists come together, the results add up to far more than the sum of their parts, creating experiences that will live long in people’s memories. This agreement with Arts Council England provides a framework for us to do more of this invaluable work and enable more people to develop a relationship with the landscapes on their own terms.”



A video commissioned by Arts Council England and the National Association for AONBs