UK City of Culture 2025 shortlist revealed

Bradford, County Durham, Southampton and Wrexham have been unveiled as the four areas shortlisted to be UK City of Culture 2025.

The four locations were approved by Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, based on independent advice made to the government by a panel of experts, led by Sir Phil Redmond.

The finalists were whittled down from a record 20 bids to eight longlist applications, which also included Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Cornwall, Derby and Stirling.

All bids were asked to explain how they would use culture to grow and strengthen their local area, as well as how they would use culture to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The vast benefits of winning the title, which is organised by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, include attracting millions of pounds in additional investment to help boost regeneration.

As well as this, it also gives the winner a year in the cultural spotlight with hundreds of events encouraging long-lasting participation in the arts and growth for local tourism.

Commenting, Arts Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said:

“The UK City of Culture competition shows the important role that culture can play in levelling up our towns, cities and rural communities, bringing investment, great events, thousands of tourists and opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds.

“We have seen a huge positive impact in this year’s host city, Coventry, with millions of pounds in investment and thousands of visitors.

“This has been a record year for bids, which is great to see. Congratulations to the four shortlisted places, I wish them all the best of luck.”

Coventry, the UK City of Culture 2021 has seen more than £172m invested in funding music concerts, public art displays, the UK’s first permanent immersive digital art gallery, a new children’s play area in the city centre, the new Telegraph Hotel and improvements to public transport.

More than a third of event tickets (43%) issued to Coventry’s residents as part of City of Culture went to financially stretched people or those facing adversity and a third of the cultural programme were co-created with local communities.

A further £500m has been ploughed into the city’s regeneration since it was confirmed as the UK City of Culture.

More than £150m of public and private sector investment was invested into 2013 winner Derry-Londonderry, while the 2017 winner Hull saw a 10% increase in visitor numbers during its tenure.

Chair of the City of Culture Expert Advisory Panel, Sir Phil Redmond added:

“Culture can act as a catalyst for community engagement, civic cohesion and a driver for economic and social change as previously seen not just in Derry-Londonderry (2013), Hull (2017) and Coventry (2021), but all those other places who went on a journey to develop their own cultural strategy.

“Simply taking part has proved a catalyst in itself. We have had a great longlist to select from, which made the shortlisting difficult, but I am now looking forward to visiting each of the shortlisted places with the panel to witness culture’s catalytic effect in action.”

The eight longlisted bidders received, for the first time, a £40,000 grant to strengthen their applications, which were scrutinised by the expert advisory panel against published criteria.

The unsuccessful areas will each receive detailed feedback on their bids and Ministers and officials will also engage with them on how best they can maintain momentum and realise their ambitions in the future.

The winner will be announced later this year in Coventry.

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