Lancashire sets out City of Culture bid - but which bits of the county should be bound together?

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If Lancashire’s bid to be crowned UK City of Culture in 2025 is successful, it could help the county “bounce back” from the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.

That was the message from Lancashire County Council after the authority committed £620,000 towards the total £3m cost of putting together the pitch for the title.

Documents presented to the authority’s cabinet claim that the work needed to produce the bid “is essential in itself” and will help develop the county’s cultural and creative sectors in the long-term, whatever the outcome. It is described as a “culture-led” programme of regeneration.

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“[The bid] will connect the identities of Lancashire to reshape a better, creative and more sustainable way of living,” said County Cllr Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning.

Lancashire is bidding to be crowned UK city of culture in 2025Lancashire is bidding to be crowned UK city of culture in 2025
Lancashire is bidding to be crowned UK city of culture in 2025

“It will help us to drive cultural, social and digital skills, attract additional investment and visitors into the county – and raise the profile of Lancashire at a national and international level.

“At a time of clearly unprecedented change, progressing and winning this bid could form a key part of our bounce back from the current crisis.”

The creative programme for the bid states that it will focus on what unites the diverse county – “dissolving our real and imagined borders to build a truly representative view of Lancashire” – while still allowing room to reflect the “cultural personalities” of the four corners of the county around which the proposal will be designed.

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These will be based on areas described as “downtown” (Preston, Chorley and South Ribble), “uptown” (Lancaster, Ribble Valley and Pendle), “light coast” (Blackpool, Fylde, Wyre and West Lancashire) and “the valley” (Blackburn, Burnley, Hyndburn and Rossendale).

However, deputy Labour opposition leader John Fillis said that there was “nervousness” in some areas about which districts had been deemed appropriate bedfellows.

“West Lancashire isn’t a coastal area, yet we’re linked with Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde. There are no public transport or cultural links [between us] – we are an inland area and to put us apart as some sort of Punch and Judy show on steroids, I don’t think fits in with West Lancashire.

“Similarly, Lancaster is mixed up with Pendle, which is a bit of a stretch.

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“We’ve got to try and sell this to our communities [because] we’re putting all this money in,” County Cllr Fillis said.

County Cllr Green said the idea was to promote Lancashire as a whole, but accepted that all areas had to feel that they were a part of the process.

Council leader Geoff Driver said the issue would be revisited by the board behind the bid.

It is the first time that a county has put itself forward for the city of culture accolade and it was revealed last year that Lancashire’s submission will be based on the concept of a “virtual city of the future”.

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The county will pitch itself as being the home of the “non-industrial revolution” through which we are now living – having been at the heart of the nineteenth century industrial revolution for which it is most famed. The bid will not be “mired in nostalgia, but future-focussed”.

So far, three other areas have announced their intention to bid for the 2025 crown – Bradford, Medway and Southampton.

Lancashire’s initial application is expected to be submitted to the government next April.