County Durham launches bid to become UK City of Culture 2025
County Durham has today launched its bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025 – with the
hope the accolade will provide a major boost for the whole north east region.
The initial bid is being submitted by Durham County Council on behalf of Culture Durham,
a partnership of organisations, including Beamish Museum, Durham Cathedral, Durham
University and Locomotion. The partnership is also backed by businesses.
Uniquely, the bid aims to secure the title for Durham – both the county and the city –
meaning people and communities across the county would benefit from a national spotlight
being turned on the area’s vast and varied landscape, heritage and cultural offer. This
follows the announcement that, for the first time, groups of towns are able to work together
to submit joint bids.
Those involved in the bidding process believe that success would bring a significant
increase in visitor numbers to the area and increased investment, with the opportunity to
create and develop new economic and employment opportunities.
Alongside a UNESCO world heritage site; a globally renowned university and the North
Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is also a UNESCO Global Geopark,
County Durham already boasts a growing calendar of events including Lumiere, Kynren,
Seaham and Bishop Auckland Food Festivals, Durham Book Festival, Durham BRASS
and first class cricket.
This offer will be boosted over the coming years, with a wide range of additional events
activities planned to take place between now and 2025, including:
Launch of the 1950s town at Beamish Museum
Programme of events around the display of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the northeast
Opening of a new dedicated history centre for the county in 2023
Relaunch of Redhills, the Pitmens’ Parliament and home of the Durham Miners’ Association, in 2023
200th anniversary in 2025 of the first passenger railway – created by George and Robert Stephenson’s line and starting in Shildon
International artistic collaborations with new and contemporary artists working across genres
Cultural events that explore economics, science and the environment
Community-based events, activities and initiatives
Projects that will use digital technology to create and inform cultural experiences
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and
partnerships, said: “Gaining UK City of Culture status would have untold benefits for the
county, and the wider region, giving us a platform from which to demonstrate all that is
great about our area – from our fabulous landscapes and rich and diverse heritage to our
optimism, innovation and economic ambition. It would also place our communities at the
heart of a year-long programme of events and activities and lead to longer-term benefits
for our economy, our people and our cultural infrastructure.
“We already have such a lot planned now, and in the future, for the county. However, the
added catalyst City of Culture status would bring, and the attention and investment in our
area it would attract, would be immeasurable.
“We have already shown that we are more than capable of making our case for County
Durham, having only recently secured funding through the government’s Future High
Streets, Recovery and Towns funds. Furthermore, we are also making a strong case to attract money to the area through the Levelling Up fund. I am more than confident that we
can present an incredibly robust and persuasive case for the area to be named UK City of
Culture for 2025 and that the combined impact of these will be a game-changer for the
“Finally, and perhaps most crucially, we are submitting this bid in the hope that everyone
across County Durham can benefit – and that those benefits will also be felt right across
the wider region. We really want to secure UK City of Culture not just for County Durham,
but for the entire north east, highlighting the work that is already going on across the
region to make culture accessible to all.”
Tony Harrington, Chair of Culture Durham, said: “Culture Durham is a diverse collective
representing the large institutions, the smaller companies and individual artists who deliver
great work. We are here to create more opportunities for culture to change lives for the
better across the county to the benefit of residents and visitors alike. We want more people
to engage with the amazing cultural assets the county has, and to support organisations,
large and small that create new and exciting ways of celebrating and being inspired by all
the county has to offer.
“It has been a hard time for so many people and organisations, but I feel there is a desire
from us all to make things better and a real appetite for something like this to happen. A
successful bid to be UK City of Culture would be a fantastic way to demonstrate the
ambition we already have in County Durham.
Rhiannon Hiles, Chief Executive of Beamish Museum, said: “We are thrilled to be
supporting this countywide bid for the UK City of Culture 2025 title. There’s such a rich
range of culture and heritage assets right across County Durham, including our wonderful
museum, plus unrivalled and often little known about coast and countryside, as well as
everything Durham City has to offer, so we can absolutely get behind this opportunity to
share and celebrate this fantastic county with the world.
“Front and centre of the bid is a commitment to ensure people and communities across the
county would benefit from the increased investment, profile and tourism impacts City of
Culture would bring to the area.
“The bid comes at an exciting time for Beamish as we work towards launching our new
1950s developments and innovative additions to our existing Georgian area. This is a
fantastic opportunity to attract even more visitors to Durham and the North East, at the
same time as developing a range of initiatives that will boost skills, jobs and growth, and
strengthen our culture and tourism sector further, leaving a lasting legacy.”
While the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), which runs the UK City of
Culture scheme, does not provide direct funding for successful cities, previous and current
title holders – Derry/Londonderry, Hull and Coventry – have received substantial awards
from public funding bodies – the National Lottery Heritage Fund has already committed to
provide a £3 million award to the City of Culture 2025.
The title also acts as a catalyst for driving government and private sector investment,
attracting national sports and cultural events and increasing visitor numbers.
Evaluation of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture in 2017, shows the programme was directly
responsible for at least £89.3 million of investment in the city and contributed to an
increase in tourism that year of almost 10 per cent. More than 80 local and national
funding partners provided £32.8 million in funding – more than double the original
fundraising target. Meanwhile, a total audience of 5.3 million attended more than 2,800
events, cultural activities, installations and exhibitions.
DCMS has requested initial Expressions of Interest be submitted today (Monday, 19
January). Six locations will then be shortlisted by an 11-member national panel chaired by
Sir Phil Redmond, with the successful applicants being announced in September. They will
then have until January 2022 to submit their full bids. The successful city will be
announced in May 2022.