County Durham is now a step closer to being named UK City of Culture 2025 and securing the colossal social and economic benefits this would bring.
Today, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced the county was one of just four locations from across the UK to be shortlisted for the prestigious title out of the 20 places that originally applied.
The impact of securing UK City of Culture 2025 cannot be overestimated. As well as creating thousands of jobs and boosting the county’s creative and visitor economies by millions of pounds, it would empower residents and help to improve community wellbeing.
And these benefits would spread beyond County Durham to the wider region, with the title supporting levelling up aspirations by acting as a catalyst for further government and private sector investment across the North East.
Following the announcement, Durham County Council, Durham University and Culture Durham – the partners spearheading the Durham 2025 campaign – expressed their thanks to the thousands of individuals, businesses and organisations that have not only backed the campaign, but helped to shape the bid itself.
They also issued a rallying cry to the entire region, urging people to continue to support the campaign as it moves into the crucial final stage.
Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “We are absolutely thrilled County Durham has been shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2025. Our success at making it this far is of course testament to our county’s incredible heritage, landscapes and vibrant cultural offer. However, I think it is our ambition, and our tradition of coming together to achieve something incredible, that really set us apart.
“Securing this title would place our extraordinary people and places at the heart of an unforgettable and inclusive programme of events and activities. It would attract more visitors, boost our economy and strengthen our reputation nationally and internationally as a place to live, work, visit and invest – all of which are crucial for levelling up.
“County Durham’s bid recognises all of this, and we are proud it incorporates the ideas and ambitions of hundreds of residents, creative practitioners and cultural organisations. It is thanks to them that we have made it this far and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has backed the Durham 2025 campaign. Together, we can bring this title home to County Durham.”
The council submitted the bid, with principal partner Durham University, last month, on behalf of Culture Durham, a partnership of more than 20 cultural organisations from across the county including Durham Cathedral, Beamish and Locomotion. The shortlisted locations will be visited by the judging panel in May ahead of the winner announcement later that month.
Tony Harrington, chair of Culture Durham, said: “All of our partners are delighted County Durham is a step closer to being crowned UK City of Culture 2025.
“If successful, we will make history as the first county to secure the title – a title we truly deserve. County Durham is no ordinary county and there is a strong feeling across the region that the time is right for the UK’s City of Culture to be in the North East. It truly is our time to shine.
“As we move into this critical final stage, it’s vital we keep the momentum going and shout from the rooftops about the talent and ambition that exists in all corners of our county.”
Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We are thrilled Durham has been shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2025. Gaining City of Culture status would be transformative for the County and open up new opportunities for us to foster and build relationships between the university and communities across County Durham.
“Being shortlisted is a wonderful achievement which recognises the wealth of cultural opportunities Durham has to offer. As a principal partner on the bid we are proud that the university’s museums, collections, visitor attractions and cultural activities form an important part.
“We are excited to continue our work with Culture Durham Partnership, Durham County Council and other partners over the coming weeks as the judges visit the shortlisted cities and make their final decision. We look forward to welcoming them to see everything that County Durham has to offer.”
Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “I’m delighted that County Durham is on the shortlist for UK City of Culture 2025. This has been a tough competition with a record 20 initial applications and eight outstanding longlist candidates, so this accolade is a real tribute to the quality of creativity on display in the region. I look forward to seeing what County Durham’s bid has in store next!”
Durham 2025 will centre around themes that will illuminate and energise the county and inspire people to congregate. It will build on Durham’s track record for major events such as Lumiere, the UK’s leading light festival, which will be bigger than ever in 2025.
At the heart of County Durham’s bid is a year-long programme of arts, culture, sport, science and economics, including: spectacular opening and closing events; an international celebration of the bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway with events at Locomotion in Shildon and other locations across the region; and a travelling fair that asks big questions about the local economy.
Lightyear, a 12-month space programme, will celebrate the region’s 1,300-year history of astronomy and space science. And a series of broadcast and digital programmes will bring the county and its stories into front rooms and festivals across the whole of the UK.
The impact on the region’s economy would be significant and long lasting. This includes the creation of an additional 2,500 jobs in Durham’s creative industries and an extra 200 creative enterprises in the county by 2029; directly supporting almost 1,000 businesses and organisations; and creating a £41.5 million spend with at least 50 per cent of contracts going to local suppliers.
It would attract more than 15 million visitors to the region, many of whom would stay overnight, helping to bring an additional visitor spend of £700 million and supporting the creation a further 1,800 jobs in the tourism sector.
And with the county’s profile and appeal raised nationally and internationally, the benefits of being UK City of Culture 2025 would be felt for years to follow.
A rich and vibrant cultural scene is also a key factor in the council’s inclusive approach to the economy. The authority is asking more than half a million residents to join its big econ-versation on issues which matter to them most, helping to create a new and ambitious economic strategy for the future that provides opportunities for everyone. To take part, visit www.durhamecon-versation.co.uk/