Lancashire prepares county-wide bid to be the UK’s Capital of Culture
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 June 2019
Stuart Whipps (photographer) and Spike Island
Red rose county aims to win the 2025 crown.
When Hull was named as the UK City of Culture for 2017, there were plenty of sniggers and some puzzlement, much of it from the locals. But once the city's year in the spotlight began, the laughter quickly died. In the weeks following the announcement, journalists from all the national papers scurried onto trains and headed north to produce patronising features accompanied by pictures of pound shops, chippies and market stalls, none of which they have in the capital, apparently.
Many column inches were given over to expressing astonishment that a city they assumed was a byword for all that was grim up north had been given the honour - and to compound the irritation their features caused, almost all of them used the excruciating 'To Hull and Back' headline. But when they did come back they found a very different city.
During its year in the cultural spotlight, Hull reached an estimated audience of more than five million people, brought in about £220 million and created nearly 800 new jobs. The cultural landscape and ambition of the city has been transformed.
Now, it is hoped we can see a similar boost on this side of the Pennines. Representatives from Marketing Lancashire and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership are working on a bid to bring the City of Culture crown to Lancashire in 2025.
Although the title is 'city' of culture, the Lancashire bid would be for a year-long cultural celebration across the county council area, something competition organisers the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, have always said they would consider.
Coventry will hold the crown in 2021 and among the areas reportedly considering rival bids for 2025 are Aberdeen, Bradford, Luton, Ipswich and the Tees Valley.
Cultural expert Andrew Dixon, was one of the masterminds behind Hull and Coventry's successful bids, and he was commissioned by the LEP to research what a bid would mean for Lancashire.
Rachel McQueen, the chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, said: 'Andrew has made it clear to us that we have both the ambition and the capacity to put a compelling bid together.
'Counties and dual cities have bid before but not been successful but I believe we can put together a compelling bid. It's a very competitive process and we are at the early stages so we don't want to disclose too much but it will be truly countywide and will embrace all aspects of the county as well as celebrating culture in its broadest sense, not just art and performance, but also for example, coastal walks can be a cultural experience.'
The UK City of Culture programme was developed by the government to build on the success of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture 2008 and the Cultural Olympiad in 2012, by creating a national cultural event spread over a year, focused on a particular city or area.
Tony Attard OBE, the High Sheriff and chair of Marketing Lancashire said: 'Ours will be very different to the usual bid, it will be very much a pan-Lancashire bid. In our opinion, cities have had a disproportionate amount of regional government assistance at the expense of rural communities. We need to redress that balance and we can do that. Our bid would not just be for the towns and cities, it would bring in the rural communities across Lancashire.
'We have got phenomenal cultural assets in Lancashire with buildings like Lancaster Castle and Blackpool Tower, events like the Festival of Making and the British Textile Biennial which will be held in East Lancashire later this year. Just going for the bid makes a big difference - it brings people together and shows a sense of belief and pride in your cultural assets - but we don't just want that, we want to win. It will help to make sure Lancashire is on the map for cultural events, not just for people in the North West, but nationally and internationally.' The bid window will open at the end of this year and needs to be submitted in 2021. The winning entry will be announced in December 2021.