Durham is no ordinary county, and we would be no ordinary winner either. Here are 25 reasons why Durham should be the first countywide holder of the UK City of Culture title in 2025…
1 Our bid is for the whole county
It’s time for the next City of Culture to be a county, and there are very few counties as diverse as Durham. We have so much to offer and so much potential.
2 Our partnership approach
Durham has a proud history of working together to achieve incredible things, and our UK City of Culture 2025 bid is no exception. Durham County Council, Durham University and Culture Durham – a partnership of more than 20 cultural organisations from across the county – are spearheading the campaign and hundreds of local residents and creative professionals have helped to shape the bid.
3 We are forward thinking
Our bid is called Into the Light: The past we inherit, the future we build. This grasps the proud historic motto of the Durham Miners’ Association and places it at the heart of a deep-rooted and dazzling cultural programme.
4 Our UNESCO World Heritage Site
Durham Castle, former home of the powerful Prince Bishops, and Durham Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the world, along with historic buildings that nestle between these two iconic attractions, was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites to be designated, in 1986. It’s no wonder people travel from all over the world to see it.
5 Our dark skies
The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and UNESCO Global Geopark not only boasts spectacular scenery during the day but it has more dark sky discovery sites than anywhere else in the UK. Marvel at the night skies in all their glory at the Grassholme Observatory or annual Stargazing Festival.
6 Our vibrant communities
From urban to rural, big to small, our towns and villages are certainly diverse, but they all have one thing in common – they are all extraordinary places and home to extraordinary people who are sure to give you the warmest of welcomes. Securing UK City of Culture 2025 would empower our residents further and enhance civic pride.
7 Our supporters
Thousands of residents, businesses, artists, performers, writers, broadcasters, academics and more have backed our bid. We even have the support of North-East music icon Sting who said: “For Durham to be selected would provide a much-needed spotlight on the unique and important culture that is the North-East.”
8 We are a place of light
Lumiere illuminates Durham every other year, bringing a spectacular programme of artworks and installations, with work by internationally recognised artists as well as local and emerging talent. More than one million people have attended Lumiere since its launch in 2009, attracting visitors to the county, boosting local businesses and placing Durham in the world’s spotlight.
Picture below: Chronos by Epsztein & Gross, in collaboration with Durham University, Lumiere 2021, produced by Artichoke, photograph: Matthew Andrews
9 Our world-class visitor attractions
From Beamish, The Living Museum of the North and Auckland Castle, to the surprising sight of the French château-inspired grandeur of The Bowes Museum, our extraordinary county has a wealth of incredible attractions to discover.
10 Our proud industrial heritage
Beautiful stone for quarrying, along with coal, lead and iron ore for mining, positioned the county on the international industrial map. Durham’s unique and inspiring ‘Big Meeting’ annual gathering celebrates our community spirit and working-class culture, foundations on which the area’s thriving new industries of science, technology and engineering have been built.
11 We champion diversity
Inclusivity is at the heart of our bid. We’re grasping the opportunity to celebrate difference, challenge preconceptions about art and champion the artistic talent of people of all abilities and backgrounds. We believe it’s vital that culture is accessible to all and that as UK City of Culture we can lead by example.
12 Our fantastic festivals
Whether it’s the many mouth-watering delights of our food festivals, the bestselling line-ups at Durham Book Festival or the toe-tapping sounds of the Brass Festival, prepare to be entertained.
13 We are the cradle of the railways
Hundreds of people gathered in Shildon to wave off Locomotion No. 1 on its first journey in 1825 and, in 2025, we will be at the heart of international celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Thanks to a £5.9m redevelopment, Locomotion museum in Shildon will soon house the largest museum collection of historic rail vehicles in Europe. The legacy of the railways continues today in Durham with a new generation of high-speed trains being built at Hitatchi Rail Europe’s Newton Aycliffe factory.
14 Our culinary heroes
From freshly baked bread and cakes to artisan cheeses and fine dining experiences, our county boasts some of the finest chefs and producers in the UK. Our annual food festivals, along with our award-winning eateries and producers, provide a real taste of Durham.
15 Our young people
Young people are our future and that’s why they are at the heart of everything we do. Whether it’s developing an inclusive economic strategy or contributing to the county’s cultural offer, we want young people’s voices to be heard. As UK City of Culture 2025, we will build on this and create opportunities for young people now and in the future.
16 Our international connections
Our county may be unique but it does not stand alone. We have strong regional, national and international connections which have shaped the county we are today. Through twinning arrangements, festivals and activities in schools and community venues, we celebrate other cultures. The Durham Global Alliance, launched last year, will create even more opportunities to broaden our horizons.
17 We are building a prosperous future
Durham County Council is working with residents and businesses to develop an inclusive economic strategy for the county. Culture-led regeneration is a key part of this and will play a crucial role in boosting our creative and visitor economies. Securing UK City of Culture 2025 would support these ambitions and the government’s levelling up agenda.
18 We think outside of the box
Always expect the unexpected in Durham. Whether that be Victor Pasmore’s iconic Apollo Pavilion in a Peterlee housing estate that inspired Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North; a brass band rave in a Durham City car park, or the Old Cinema Launderette – a traditional launderette by day, a quirky live music venue by night – our creativity and ambition know no limits.
19 We support North-East talent
We want to create as many opportunities as possible for North-East people to shine. Gala Durham does not just stage touring shows, it also produces its own, drawing on North-East actors, writers, directors and more. Our festivals, meanwhile, see international acts perform alongside North-East talent. As UK City of Culture, Durham can truly take centre stage in a global arena.
20 Our sporting spirit
When it comes to being active, we’re on a mission to get more people moving – from investing in our leisure centres and parks to improving cycling lanes and supporting grassroots sports. Add the Durham City Run Festival, Tour Series, Durham Regatta and international cricket ground into the mix and it’s clear we are top of the league.
21 A place of big thinkers
Durham University is one of the most prestigious universities in the UK, well known for its academic excellence, pioneering research and the quality of its graduates. Its contribution to the county’s cultural offer is also substantial, which is why it’s a key partner in the Durham 2025 campaign.
22 A green powerhouse
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humankind and culture has a part to play in tackling the issue. After declaring a Climate Emergency in 2019, the county set itself ambitious environmental targets. Our UK City of Culture bid seeks to celebrate our journey from coal mining juggernaut to green powerhouse.
23 Our literary links
Our landscapes, industry and people have inspired poets and writers throughout the ages. Charles Dickens visited Barnard Castle when researching his novel, Nicholas Nickleby; a poem about Durham by Sir Walter Scott – a frequent visitor to the county – graces the city’s Prebends Bridge, and prominent Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in Coxhoe Hall in 1806. Now, the annual Durham Book Festival brings a vibrant mix of new and bestselling authors to the county.
24 As seen on screen
Durham has appeared in big screen blockbusters such as the magical Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; coming-of-age drama, Billy Elliott; superhero epic, Avenger’s Endgame, and Sam Mende’s Oscar winner, 1917; as well as TV favourites including Downton Abbey and detective shows Vera and George Gently. But the county has so much more to showcase. A new North East Screen Industries Partnership will help grow our film and TV industry, unlock creative talent in our region and offer opportunities for jobs and training.
25 The beginning of something epic
Durham 2025 will put in place the foundations for a remarkable future. It will spark belief across our county and our communities. By illuminating what we have and what we are capable of together, it will create a long lasting conviction that we deserve success, that we’re ready for anything and that we have the energy to try the unusual, do the unexpected and be exceptional. Durham 2025 is the beginning of something epic.
I Love Durham, Jacques Rival, Lumiere 2019, produced by Artichoke.
Please use #Durham2025 to share your reasons why Durham should win.