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Preston ‘has robust cultural strategy’ say leaders as Lancashire withdraws bid for UK City of Culture 2025

Posted on - 30th June, 2021 - 2:25pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Campaigns, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News
County Hall in Fishergate Pic: Tony Worrall
County Hall in Fishergate Pic: Tony Worrall

Lancashire County Council has withdrawn its support for the UK City of Culture 2025 bid.

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County Councillor Alan Vincent, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said after carefully considering the potential costs and benefits of the bid, the council can no longer underwrite it.

He said: “We know this will be disappointing to those who have worked so hard on this project over the past couple of years, but we feel it is the right decision.

“Whilst the proposal was strong and ambitious, we felt that underwriting the bid to the tune of up to £22m created too great a financial risk to the council at a time when there are significant pressures on services and continuing financial uncertainty following the pandemic.”

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He said the council remains committed to an ongoing programme of arts and culture, which is both good for residents and the local economy. They will continue to work towards sustainable and reinvigorated offers for Lancashire’s museums and remain committed to cultural services across Lancashire.

Tom Stables, Creative Director of 3manfactory and Chair of Digital Lancashire, tweeted: “Absolutely gutted. Having seen, experienced and met the brains and ambition behind this (and how it was starting to be realised). It’s such a massive shame!”

The council will continue to invest in libraries and support schemes like the Re-imagining the Harris project in Preston. They are seeking to adopt elements from the proposal for the council to develop a new culture and sport strategy in the coming months and years.

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Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader at Preston City Council, said: “We are disappointed to hear of Lancashire County Council’s decision to cease support of the Lancashire-wide bid for City of Culture 2025. We hope they will reflect on the decision and consider its implications.  

“However, we are reassured that Preston has a robust cultural strategy and continue to be committed to supporting the delivery of high quality, diverse cultural offerings in the city, bringing out talent and creativity in our communities.” 

He said this is demonstrated through the council’s significant investment in cultural assets and destinations, such as the Harris, Animate, and other Harris Quarter developments, supported by an annual programme of events and pop-up Harris Quarter activities delivered through the Town’s Fund.

The council said they are committed to an ongoing dialogue and engagement with the Cultural Framework Board and the wider arts and culture community in Preston.

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Tony Attard, Chair of Lancashire 2025, said: “Without Lancashire County Council acting as the accountable body, the bid is simply untenable.”

“A significant amount of work has been undertaken by the many people involved, including talented people from the private sector. We have undertaken research and liaison with DCMS at a high level to create a compelling,
innovative and original bid.”

The idea for Lancashire to become City of Culture 2025 matured over four years and included councillors and officers from Lancashire County Council, the district and unitary authorities, and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

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Tony said: “Bidding for the City of Culture is a competitive process because the rewards for winning are so significant. Lancashire has five of the most deprived areas in the UK within its boundaries, and we have been hit harder than most places by Covid-19. The people of Lancashire should not be denied these rewards. 

“We had a strong chance to win this prestigious title. We have put in the work and created partnerships that put us ahead of the competition. That we are being forced to pull out now, just three weeks before we were due to submit our formal expression of interest, is devastating.”



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