Lancashire bids for 2025 City of Culture title

PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 March 2020

Lubaina Himid Photo: Denise

Lubaina Himid Photo: Denise


A look at the county-wide bid to be the UK’s City of Culture in 2025

Debbi Lander at Burnley's Singing Tree landmarkDebbi Lander at Burnley's Singing Tree landmark

Andrew Dixon thinks Lancashire has a good chance of being named the UK’s City of Culture - and he should know, he’s been behind the last two successful bids.

Hull in 2017 and Coventry who will hold the title next year both benefitted from Andrew’s input and he helped shape Lancashire’s vision for their bid for the title in 2025. But despite his Lancashire roots, Salford-born Andrew has also given advice this time to Luton, Medway and Bradford.

Although the title is ‘City’ of Culture, county-wide bids are permitted, but none has been submitted before.

‘There’s nowhere big enough or strong enough culturally here to bid individually, but there’s an excitement for rediscovering what makes Lancashire Lancashire,’ Andrew said. ‘Sometimes when people have tried to do bids beyond a single city, they have watered down their story,’ Andrew said. ‘We are starting from the premise that we are bidding together and I think that puts Lancashire in a strong position.’

Andrew, who now lives in Edinburgh, enjoyed having the opportunity to return to Lancashire and to explore its current cultural offerings.

‘It was clear from the outset that if Lancashire got the bid right, the impact could be enormous,’ he said. ‘We could feel the appetite for a Lancashire bid that taps in to the county pride.

‘There is terrific cultural talent in the county and Lancashire has a strong bid. I think the bids from Medway and Bradford are strong too, though. It’s very difficult tell who will win the process.

‘It can make a difference. A successful bid from Lancashire will introduce people to places they don’t realise are therew. Individual parts of Lancashire will get as much out of it as they put in.

‘Hull is a city transformed – they have seen a sustained growth in tourism and there are two new hotels and new arts venues but it’s not just about the winning, it’s about the journey. Even if it’s not a winning bid, it can have a transformative effect – Paisley lost out to Coventry but has gone on to raise £40m for a museum.’

The bid is a joint initiative between the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, the County Council and UCLan. At its helm is Bid Director Debbi Lander who was responsible for the North West’s programme of regional events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. ‘The bid has been better received than I coud have hoped for in Lancashire,’ she said. ‘There is a very strong appetite for developing the cultural life of the county. It’s about giving the county a new identity and we are now getting into the planning about how we are going to get it happening.’

The bid was launched on Lancashire Day last year and is centred on re-imagining the county as a virtual city.

Debbi said: ‘When we started this process we thought about what a city of the future would look like, what shape it would be and how it would work.

‘Cities are changing form and are de-centralising and we no longer have to think of them purely as urban.

‘The idea of a virtual city isn’t too complicated, it’s about connecting the county’s cultural landscape through technology.

‘I have travelled around the county and there are some amazing things happening across disciplines and locations. The virtual city is about connecting those things together.’

Debbi co-founded arts festivals Abandon Normal Devices, Blaze Arts and Lakes Alive and worked in Liverpool during its year as European Capital of Culture in 2008. And she added: ‘It’s now about us doing the best bid we can, I’m not a fan of worrying about the others because that can create a distraction. Having said that, I think Lancashire’s offer is very different and others do keep dropping out of the race.

‘I think we have a really good chance. We have the vision and the will to deliver it. This is a real opportunity for Lancashire.’

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