County Durham submits bid for 2025 UK City of Culture status

By Waseem Mohamed

County Durham has launched the Durham 2025 campaign, which marks the formal submission of their bid to become the 2025 UK City of Culture.

With Durham University as a principal partner, the bid hopes to see County Durham as the first county to achieve UK City of Culture status, by using “the power of culture to transform lives.”

As many as 15 million people generating £700 million in revenue could visit the county

The bid brings together the views of over 500,000 local residents, who have been invited to contribute to the County’s ambitious economic strategies and provided ideas on the bid’s developments, ranging “from the quirky to the more serious.”

As part of the bid, Durham has set out plans for a year-long programme of events. These include “spectacular opening and closing events, celebration of Durham’s 1,300-year history of space science, international celebration of the bicentenary of the railways and a travelling fair that asks big questions about the local economy”. A range of broadcast programming from the county and the biggest Lumiere festival so far have also been planned for 2025.

County Durham has stated the potential economic benefits should the county win City of Culture status. As many as 15 million people generating £700 million in revenue could visit the county, which would create 1,800 jobs in the tourism sector and a further 2,500 jobs in the creative sector. Over 1,000 businesses can expect to be supported by the City of Culture title.

“We look forward to being part of a rich and drivers programme in 2025”

Professor Karen O’Brien

Reacting to the bid, Durham University Vice Chancellor Karen O’Brien said “We are proud to be principal partners of the Durham 2025 bid for UK City of Culture. Durham University is integral to the cultural vibrancy of the city and county… and we’re committed to sharing our learning and facilities to the benefit of the whole region.

“We think Durham would make an excellent UK City of Culture. We hope the judges agree and we look forward to being part of a rich and diverse programme in 2025.”

Cllr Amanda Hopgood express her delight about the bid, saying that “County Durham has such a huge potential, and we are determined to bring together our extraordinary people, places and ideas to help transform not just the county, but the whole of the north east… We want everyone who lives and works in County Durham to be a part of our journey and to reap the benefits of a successful bid.”

Tony Harrington, the chair of Culture Durham, who are managing the bid, said: “A vibrant cultural offer can truly transform communities… it also raised aspirations and helps to create long-lasting opportunities… we have a unique opportunity, through the bid, to demonstrate how culture can help skill and employment levels to soar, businesses to grow and high streets to thrive.”

The bid comes in the face of the Government’s Levelling Up announcements, which aim to reduce economic inequalities between UK regions. It is hoped that Durham’s City of Culture bid can be part of efforts to raise living standards and opportunities for local people, as well as showcase the breadth of history and culture of the region.

County Durham is one of eight areas bidding to become the 2025 City of Culture. An announcement on the winner is expected for later this year, with the winners taking over from Coventry as the City of Culture from 2025 to 2029.

Image: Durham County Council

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