London’s first Borough of Culture was “successful beyond our wildest dreams”, the Deputy Mayor for Culture has said.

Justine Simons said Waltham Forest delivered on a “bold vision and ambition” that benefitted residents and the city as a whole.

The borough received £.1.35 million funding from the Mayor’s office last year to hold festivals, theatre, art and community shows.

There were over 1,000 events, attended by more than half a million people, and every school in the borough was involved – a total of 88.

At the ten biggest gatherings, visitors spent £4.1 million – and 70 per cent of creative businesses reported an increase in revenue.

Ms Simons said: “Waltham Forest as Borough of Culture has been successful beyond our wildest dreams.

“It’s shown that culture isn’t just for people in Zone One. It’s for all sectors of society. It’s for absolutely everyone.”

She added: “This was a bold idea for London – but we’ve tested it out and we’re really happy with what’s happened.

“It’s tremendously successful as a flagship for London.”

The Local Democracy Service previously reported that less than a quarter of Londoners knew about the new scheme, according to a YouGov poll last year.

But Ms Simons said within the borough 78 per cent of residents were aware of the programme by the end of the year – up from 60 per cent.

She added: “It’s a brand new scheme so we’re starting from a baseline of zero.”

Lorna Lee, assistant director of culture and heritage at the borough council, said: “Waltham Forest didn’t start off with a blank sheet of paper.

“Culture was already recognised as being a really important means of improving the quality of life in the borough and boosting the local economy.”

Ms Lee said it gave the borough “a chance to boost what we were doing, to put a spotlight on Waltham Forest and to give everyone a real opportunity to demonstrate what an outer London borough could do for its residents and for London as a whole.”

Brent is this year’s Borough of Culture, and hosted its opening ceremony outside Wembley stadium earlier this month.

Phil Porter, strategic director of community wellbeing at the council, said the 2020 programme aimed to put the borough on the map.

He said: “People don’t know where Brent is often – they know Wembley, but they might not know Kilburn, they might not know Alperton, and all the others places in Brent.

“So people actually wanting to tell the story of Brent was very strong and passionate.”

The next two winning boroughs for 2021 and 2023 – now awarded every two years, to allow councils more time to prepare – will be announced later this year.