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  • Durham OnAir

County Durham finalises its bid for UK City of Culture 2025

Being named UK City of Culture 2025 will attract millions of visitors to County

Durham and the north east, create thousands of jobs, and significantly support the

region’s leveling up.

Today, Durham County Council has outlined its plans for the Durham 2025

campaign, submitting its bid for the next stage of the competition with principal

partner Durham University on behalf of Culture Durham – a partnership of

organisations united by their belief in the power of culture to transform lives.

Uniquely, the bid aims to secure the title for Durham – both the county and the city –

and if successful, it would be the first ever county bid to achieve UK City of Culture


A rich and vibrant cultural scene is a key factor in the council’s inclusive approach to

the economy. This week the authority has asked 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


In order to celebrate the submission of the bid, award winning County Durham artist,

Steve Messam, has created a giant Durham 2025 inflatable artwork which is being

displayed at a number of different locations across the county.

The bid aims to bring people and communities together, centring around themes that

will help people to congregate, and illuminate and energise the county. It builds on

Durham’s track record for major events such as Lumiere, the UK’s leading light

festival, whilst also creating new opportunities to meet the county’s aspirations for

levelling up.

Hundreds of residents have been involved in the bid’s development, contributing a

range of ideas, from the quirky to more serious, with many of those ideas featured in

today’s submission and highlighting the collaborative nature of Durham 2025.

The bid also demonstrates the significant, sustained impact that the accolade could

have on the region’s economy: it will help to create an additional 2,500 jobs in

Durham’s creative industries and an additional 200 creative enterprises in the county

by 2029; almost 1,000 businesses and organisations will be directly supported by the

title; and, it will create a £41.5 million spend with at least 50 per cent of contracts

going to local suppliers.

It would also 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.

At the heart of the bid is a year-long programme of arts, culture, sport, science and

economics, including spectacular opening and closing events, a 12-month

celebration of Durham’s 1,300-year history of space science, an international

celebration of the bicentenary of the railways and a travelling fair that asks big

questions about the local economy.

Meanwhile, 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 and Lumiere

2025 will be bigger than ever before, all helping to create a lasting legacy of jobs,

new creative industries and a visitor economy that will continue to grow.

County Durham’s bid has had the backing of businesses, residents and even high-

profile supporters, including Fiona Hill. Fiona credits the county for supporting her

journey from Bishop Auckland to the White House, where she acted as an advisor to

three US Presidents, and believes it is time for the region to shine.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “It’s fantastic to be

able to finally share our exciting plans for Durham 2025. 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


“This is a bid on behalf of the whole county. 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. Our plans will involve every person, town and village in County Durham.

Whatever your age or background, there will be a whole host of events and

opportunities for you to get involved in during Durham 2025 so please do continue to

get behind the bid.”

Tony Harrington, chair of Culture Durham, said: “A vibrant cultural offer can truly

transform communities. Not only does it help to bring people together, but it also

raises aspirations and helps to create long-lasting opportunities for communities to

get involved with cultural activities.

“We know that we have so much to offer already here in County Durham. But we

also 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.

That is also something that so many other towns, cities and countries can also use

for their own growth.”

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, 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. We are

home to world-class museums and collections, our student music, theatre, sport and

volunteering enriches our community life immensely, 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.”

County Durham is one of eight locations to have already made the long list for UK city

of Culture 2025, with a shortlist expected to be announced next month. It is

understood the overall winner will be declared in May.

The winning location will then take on the baton from Coventry, UK City of Culture

2021, which has so far attracted more than £100m in capital investment to support

cultural projects.

To find out more about the bid, submit ideas and leave messages of support, visit or follow the Durham 2025 social media accounts at


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