Organisations around Lancashire are teaming up to put the county up for the UK City of Culture 2025, but what could the bid bring to Preston?Advertisement
Lancashire is up against Bradford, Medway and Southampton who have also indicated their intention to bid in 2025.
In the past the bid has been won by Hull in 2017, while Coventry won the bid to host in the City of Culture 2021.
The UK City of Culture title was created following the success of Glasgow and Liverpool as European Capitals of Culture in 1990 and 2008 respectively.
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Tony Attard, Chair of the Lancashire 2025 bid, said: “We believe that bidding for UK City of Culture status in 2025 will have a transformational impact on the county, and have set out a bold new vision that will engage all the people of Lancashire and deliver the most ambitious and inclusive cultural plans ever proposed in response to the competition.
“From the very beginning we were focused on constructing a bid that would include the whole of Lancashire, not focus in on just one urban centre and then try to spread the impact out into the rest of the county.
“For Preston, this presents an opportunity to position the city and its cultural assets as the urban hub of one of four ‘neighbourhoods’, hosting a season of events and activity that will not just shine a light on the area in 2025, but deliver genuine legacy for the organisations and individuals who live and work here.”
Lancashire 2025 expects to present the initial application to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in April 2021
Previously the competition has only been contested by individual cities, but the Department of Culture Media and Sport has since indicated that a county-wide bid for Lancashire would be welcomed.
“Lancashire’s county-wide bid for UK City of Culture is the first of its kind; a response to criteria that requires bids to have a clear urban focus, but addressing widely voiced criticism that this focus has often alienated rural communities,” Tony added.
“Lancashire is 80 per cent rural, with 137 miles of coastline, assets that add immense value to our cultural landscape and that we want to emphasise, not underplay.
“Scoping work was undertaken to assess the potential for Lancashire to bid, including extensive consultation with the cultural sector, which led to the decision being taken in early 2019 that Lancashire should bid, but should do so at full county-scale.
“Lancashire has the chance to do something completely different and at an unprecedented scale.”
Previous holders of the UK City of Culture have all benefitted from increased investment, enhanced infrastructure, job creation and more visitors compared to previous years.
In 2017, Hull attracted six million visitors, generated 800 new jobs, and boosted the local economy by £60 million. Tourism in Hull for that year also exceeded £300 million.
The bid can also be helpful to arts and culture, with this being a big reason for areas applying.
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Ruth Heritage, Artistic and Exec Director They Eat Culture and Board Member, Digital Lancashire said: “The message from County Council is clear: investment into the county’s arts and culture is a priority.
“The county has taken heavy cuts in arts funding as we have travelled through the last 10 years of austerity.
“This investment means that for Preston and the rest of the county’s vibrant and resilient arts and culture sector – from artists and creatives to festivals and venues – we can dream big and be ambitious. We can make our way out of Covid, where we’ve had no option but to rethink creating arts and culture into new experiences.”
Ruth has been at the forefront of arts and culture activity in Preston and Lancashire for over a decade by kickstarting the Continental and then the Ferret venues.
“Ultimately it’s a journey. No matter the outcome in 2025, and I truly hope and believe it’s Lancashire for the win, the real winners will be our communities across the county who will see more opportunities to be part of making and experiencing world class arts and culture on our doorstep,” she added.
“Maybe six months ago the vision of a county-as-a-city would have been harder to talk about, but now we have all experienced life online it seems so much more natural for everyone, from digital innovators to my aunty who didn’t do Facebook until a few months ago. The county is ready for it, and so is the world.”
The University of Central Lancashire is a partner in the bid which will bring together all the towns and cities across the county, including Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool, as well as Preston to form one virtual city.
Ruth Connor, Chief Marketing Officer for the University of Central Lancashire, said: “Every year we attract thousands of visitors to cultural events at the University so we are delighted to be a founding strategic partner of the Lancashire 2025 City of Culture bid.
“Lancashire is a county bursting with creative and cultural potential and that is evident for us on a daily basis through the work and achievements of our talented students, graduates and staff.
“We are looking forward to working with the Bid team as they develop an ambitious and innovative submission, focusing on the ‘Virtual City’, which highlights ground-breaking ways to experience and enjoy culture and the arts countywide.”
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Councillor Peter Kelly, Cabinet member for culture and leisure at Preston City Council, said: “It’s exciting to be a partner in the Lancashire bid for City of Culture 2025. What a fantastic opportunity for the county and Preston and great to see the plans developing.”
Lancashire County Council has recently reaffirmed its support for the bid, making a £620,000 contribution towards the support team and programme development costs.
Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: “At a time of unprecedented change, progressing and winning this bid could form a key part of Lancashire’s bounce-back from the Covid-19 crisis.
“My Cabinet colleagues and I are supporting this bid, which aims to produce an ambitious and inclusive cultural programme to integrate the urban areas, the coast and the countryside as a virtual city of 1.5 million inhabitants. This would connect the identities of Lancashire to reshape a better, creative and more sustainable way of living.
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“It would help to drive cultural, social and digital skills development programmes, attract additional investment and visitors to our county, and raise the profile of Lancashire at a national and international level.”
The increased investment over subsequent years that bidding cities gain from bodies including the Department for Culture Media and Sport, Arts Council, National Heritage Lottery Fund, BBC, plus attention from national press and media, is regularly quoted as one of the main benefits of bidding for UK City of Culture status and other cultural titles.
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Do you back the bid for Lancashire City of Culture 2025? Let us know in the comments.