Look who Lancashire is up against for UK City of Culture crown

Lancashire will compete against 19 other parts of the country in its bid to be crowned UK City of Culture 2025.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 2:32 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 11:01 am

The government has revealed the record number of entrants who will battle it out for the accolade, which has been opened up to counties and groups of towns for the first time.

Lancashire confirmed its intention to enter the race for the title last month after its long-planned bid looked set to collapse after a last-minute wrangle over funding earlier in the summer.

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Lancashire hopes to make the most of its cultural assets - from Blackpool to Burnley and Clitheroe to Preston

Amongst the county’s competitors are traditional city bidders such as Derby and Southampton, fellow counties like Durham and also broader sub-regions including the Scottish/English borders area.

However, chair of the Lancashire 2025 bid team, Tony Attard, is undaunted by the "impressive" and lengthy list of areas in the hunt for the honour (see below).

"We are confident in the uniqueness and far-reaching engagement potential of our bid, as well as the cultural transformation, regeneration and legacy that our vision of a virtual city of Lancashire would bring about.

"We believe Lancashire's time in the national spotlight is long overdue and, without a doubt, we are in this competition to win it.

"Lancashire is a place that inspires invention and creativity, a place of talented, imaginative and hard-working people whose diverse culture has built a county like no other.

"Lancastrians can now help to make Lancashire 2025 a reality, by signing the bid and taking every opportunity to become involved. We believe that together we can redefine Lancashire's cultural landscape for years to come - and in 2025 deliver a UK City of Culture like no other, " Mr Attard added.

Lancashire County Council withdrew its financial support for the project in June, claiming that the risk of having to foot the full estimated £22m bill for delivering the year-long series of events was too much for it to bear, should the bid be successful.

However, an eleventh-hour agreement saw Preston, Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen Councils offer their support for the title attempt - along with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. Exact details of the revised financial arrangements - which includes a previous £620,000 contribution from County Hall to fund the development of the bid - have not been published.

It is understood that Lancashire’s pitch will focus on all corners of the county, creating four distinct “hub” areas - all centred around the concept of a “virtual city”.

The 20 places that have submitted so-called “expressions of interest” will next be reduced to a long list of entrants in the coming weeks, each of which will receive £40,000 from the government towards their formal bid costs. Previous winners have had the vast majority of the programme delivery costs covered by grants from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and organisations like the Arts Council.

A shortlist will then be drawn up by early next year, with those areas making it to that final stage each receiving a visit from officials who will decide which bidder secures the title, which is awarded once every four years. That announcement will be made next May.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden welcomed the record number of applications, describing it as “testament to the huge success of City of Culture in generating investment, creating jobs and boosting local pride”.

“This prestigious prize creates a fantastic opportunity for towns and cities to build back better from the pandemic and I wish all bidders the very best of luck.”

Sir Phil Redmond, chair of the City of Culture expert advisory panel, added that even just bidding for the title can bring benefits - whatever the final outcome.

“The three previous title holders have demonstrated the transformative and catalytic effect culture can bring about, even within places that have been ultimately unsuccessful but have gone on to develop collaborative and sustainable partnerships.

“From Derry-Londonderry to Hull and Coventry, it has been a difficult and rewarding challenge to select the next UK City of Culture, and the list of potential candidates for 2025 indicates that life in the immediate future is going to be even more challenging.

“The list for 2025 also demonstrates the breadth of ambition, aspiration and innovation that exists from coast to coast and nation to nation across the UK and I am looking forward to that challenge of immersing myself once again in the UK’s rich seam of creativity,” Mr. Redmond said.

The 2025 City of Culture will take on the baton from Coventry, which holds the crown this year.

WHO ARE LANCASHIRE'S CULTURAL COMPETITORS?

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

The City of Bangor and North West Wales

The Borderlands region, comprising Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle City

Bradford

Conwy County

Cornwall

Derby

County Durham

Great Yarmouth & East Suffolk

Medway

City of Newport

Powys

Southampton

Stirling

The Tay Cities region

Torbay and Exeter

Wakefield District

City of Wolverhampton

Wrexham County Borough