THE leader of Bournemouth Council says the launch of the area's 'cultural enquiry' will put south east Dorset "on the cultural map."

Councillor John Beesley, speaking to residents at a meeting of the Boscombe Forum on Tuesday evening, made his assertion after concerns were aired about the lack of a 'firm and clear arts and culture strategy' locally.

These concerns, aired by members of the audience, came after the conurbation had been compared to other centres – comparable in population numbers –such as Bristol and Brighton.

Cllr Beesley said: "In terms of culture, we started a cultural enquiry about six months ago, and that cultural enquiry was some time in the making.

"It involves the existing councils; it involves both Bournemouth Arts University and Bournemouth University; it involves a lot of our cultural offer, such as Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Pavilion Dance, plus a lot of other participants.

"It involved the venues across the area, but most importantly is supported by Arts Council South West, based in Bristol.

"It is something we have worked hard on and Arts Council England has been involved in. They are very, very enthusiastic about what we have in mind."

The project, which aims to develop a long-term vision for arts in the area, was officially launched in January and included an address by the chief executive of Arts Council England, Darren Henley.

It will look at the role culture plays in people's lives and how it can be expanded in the 'city region' that will be covered by a merged Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council from April.

Cllr Beesley said: "We started this early, before BCP began, because we wanted to hit the ground running, and to begin to lever in the kind of resources we need to make this thing work. We are working hard on it and I think the Cultural Enquiry will put us on the cultural map."