Co Durham bids to be City of Culture

Published: 20 August 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Durham City of Culture bid
Durham County Council
UK City of Culture

In the first year in which regions and groups of towns were encouraged to apply, Co Durham has submitted a bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2025.

The bid was submitted by Durham County Council, with principal partner Durham University, on behalf of Culture Durham. This is a partnership of organisations, including Beamish Museum, the Auckland Project and other public, private and voluntary organisations that share the same belief in the power of culture to transform lives, and business leaders, arts organisations and individuals from across the region have voiced their support.

According to the partnership driving forward the campaign, the county's bid has the power to bring transformational social and economic benefits to the entire North East.

“Becoming UK City of Culture 2025 would not only enrich the lives of our communities by creating new and exciting cultural activities,” said Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, “it would boost our economy, significantly increase visitor numbers, both in County Durham and the wider region, and lead to additional investment and new employment opportunities.

“Hull was UK City of Culture in 2017 and the figures speak for themselves. City of Culture was directly responsible for almost £90 million of investment in the city and a ten per cent increase in tourism.

“In County Durham, we know that if we increase the number of visitors staying overnight from eight per cent to 16 per cent, we can boost our economy by £415 million.

“We recognise that culture and tourism will play a crucial role in our recovery from the impact of the pandemic, and we have a longstanding commitment to culture-led regeneration.

“UK City of Culture status would support these efforts by raising our profile nationally. In fact, this is already happening, with the #Durham2025 campaign providing a platform for us all to shout about what makes our county great.”

A statement from Durham 2025 said, “we want to be at the centre of the nation’s cultural life in 2025 and to make sure that people from across the county and beyond reap the benefits that this status would bring. Culture has long been the beating heart of life in Durham. Our communities are built on the strong foundations of industry, a tradition of independence and the desire to come together to celebrate and create. Our heritage is the source of our present day pride, our innovative spirit and our ambition for the future.

“Durham is home to breathtaking landscapes, outstanding cultural attractions, unparalleled grassroots sport, world-first heritage, spectacular events, world class research and a growing sector of artists, entrepreneurs and creatives that help make it all happen.

“We believe that culture belongs to everyone—we are equally proud of our internationally recognised festivals and heritage, as well as the culture we create in our daily lives. Success would place our local communities, and our international cultural ambitions, at the heart of a year-long programme of events and activities that would lead to a long-term boost for our economy, our people and our cultural infrastructure. We already have such a lot planned for Durham—the additional attention and investment that UK City of Culture status brings would provide a catalyst that has a lasting impact on our future. Durham is the county where everything happens, and this is our time to show just why it is the source of our spirit and our inspiration.”

The full list of areas bidding for the title is:

  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon
  • The City of Bangor and Northwest Wales
  • The Borderlands region, comprising Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle City
  • Bradford
  • Conwy County
  • Cornwall
  • Derby
  • County Durham
  • Lancashire
  • Medway
  • City of Newport
  • Powys
  • Southampton
  • Stirling
  • The Tay Cities region
  • Torbay and Exeter
  • Wakefield District
  • City of Wolverhampton
  • Wrexham County Borough
  • Great Yarmouth & East Suffolk