UK City of Culture is an event, held once every four years, highlighting one location in the UK and promoting arts and culture as a means of celebration and regeneration.
It was launched by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to “build on the success of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture 2008, which had significant social and economic benefits for the area”.
The number of areas across the country vying to be named UK City of Culture 2025 is the largest in the competition’s history.
A total of 20 locations are bidding for the title to succeed Coventry which is currently hosting the near year-long event.
Other previous winners have included Derry-Londonderry in 2013 and Hull in 2017 while the title holder for 2025 is due to be announced by the Government in May 2022.
The title was first awarded almost a decade ago, but how much do you know about the UK City of Culture?
Below, BusinessLive explains all:
The early days
The roots for the UK City of Culture trace back to the start of January 2009 when then Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, now Mayor of Greater Manchester, announced it was considering such a prize.
At the time, it was discussed that the winning city might possibly host events such as the Turner Prize, Brit Awards, Man Booker Prize and the Stirling Prize.
Sir Philip Redmond, who helped create the likes of Grange Hill, Brookside, Hollyoaks and The Courtroom, was asked to chair a panel to look into the proposals.
A working group was established in March and reported in June 2009, suggesting that the designation be given to a city once every four years starting in 2013.
The group stated in its report that the same calendar of events, such as hosting the Brit Awards, should not be staged by each designated City of Culture.
Instead, it suggested the events held in the city should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Liverpool’s time as European Capital of Culture in 2008, held jointly with Stavanger in Norway, served as the inspiration for the UK City of Culture.
As a European Capital of Culture, a city organises a series of cultural events with a strong pan-European dimension for one year.
The Commission of the European Union manages the title and each year the Council of Ministers of the European Union formally designates European Capitals of Culture.
More than 40 cities have been designated so far and since the UK left the European Union, its cities can no longer apply to be European Capital of Culture.
Liverpool’s staging of the event was the first by a city in the UK since Glasgow in 1990.
In 2018, a study by the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC) said the national and international reputation of Liverpool continued to be influenced by European Capital of Culture a decade on.
Analysis of media coverage, assessment of the city’s cultural assets, its government and leadership, as well as focus groups and door-to-door surveys in selected representative neighbourhoods, position 2008 as the year when external narratives changed and citizens’ sense of pride substantially improved.
The first UK City of Culture
Derry-Londonderry became the first UK City of Culture in 2013 after Mr Burnham’s successor, Ben Bradshaw, launched a competition in July 2009.
The deadline for initial bids was set for December 11, 2009, with shortlisted cities having until May 18 to make their final bids.
A total of 14 cities applied, with four – Birmingham, Derry, Norwich and Sheffield – shortlisted.
At a televised ceremony in Liverpool in July 2010, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced the winner.
Officials from Aberdeen, Dundee, Colchester, Derby, Leicester, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Swansea, Hull, York suggested they would bid for the 2017 title while Portsmouth and Southampton planned to make a joint bid.
There was also a bid from East Kent (Canterbury, Ashford, Folkestone, Dover and Thanet), and another from Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea, supported by Graham Norton.
In June 2013 the shortlist of four bids from Dundee, Hull, Leicester and Swansea Bay was announced.
Hull was named the winner on November 20, 2013, and in July the following year Martin Green was announced as chief executive of the team.
Mr Green was previously head of ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and organised the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ ceremony in Yorkshire.
On 1 January 2017, the Hull event opened with a fireworks display over the Humber Estuary and a series of sound and light installations collectively known as Made in Hull.
The event included multimedia sound and light projections onto landmark buildings in the city’s Victoria Square as well as a display of ‘Hullywood Icons’ featuring local people recreating famous scenes from film.
A report by Hull University in March 2018 found Hull’s status as the UK City of Culture attracted more than five million people, £220m of investment and 800 new jobs.
The shortlist for the City of Culture 2021 title included Swansea, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Sunderland.
Coventry was named the winner by Arts Minister John Glen in Hull and broadcast live on The One Show in December 2017.
At the time Mr Glen said it was “an incredible opportunity for Coventry to boost investment in the local economy, grow tourism and put arts and culture centre stage”.
However, the event was pushed back in July 2020 to May 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The race for 2025
The locations who declared they would be bidding to become UK City of Culture 2025 included Bradford, Chelmsford, Medway, Southampton, Cornwall as well as a joint effort from Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk.
The likes of Northampton, Norwich, Tees Valley, Luton and Lancashire dropped out of the running before a longlist was announced.
However, after local authority discussions, a new bid from Lancashire was submitted to the Government before the deadline.
The initial bidders were announced on Friday, August 20, and includes:
- 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
- Conwy County
- County Durham
- City of Newport
- The Tay Cities region
- Torbay and Exeter
- Wakefield District
- City of Wolverhampton
- Wrexham County Borough
- Great Yarmouth & East Suffolk
The 20 bidders will be reduced to an initial long list of bidders in the coming weeks and then cut down further to a final shortlist in early 2022. The winner will be announced in May 2022.