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  • Durham OnAir

UK City of Culture 2025 judges arrive in County Durham

Ambitious plans to drive growth, spark creativity and celebrate the extraordinary

people and places of County Durham will be showcased to the UK City of Culture

2025 judging panel today.

An exciting and immersive timetable of activities has been arranged for the judges’

eagerly anticipated visit, which follows the shortlisting of Durham’s countywide bid in


County Durham is vast and varied and the aim is to shine a light on the county in all

its guises, while demonstrating how the pioneering and inclusive cultural programme

being developed for 2025 would reenergise the entire region.

Historic Durham, wild Durham and industrial Durham will all be represented during

the visit, with the judges splitting into groups to allow as much of the county as

possible to be showcased.

The day will begin in Durham City at Redhills, the historic home of the Durham

Miners’ Association whose moto inspired the title of County Durham’s bid – ‘Into the

Light: The past we inherit the future we build.’

As part of the visit, some of the panel will then head to Dawdon, on the east coast,

where they will meet local people who have engaged in a community arts project

called Beaches of Dreams.

The judges will be able to immerse themselves in an

outdoor installation the group has created featuring handmade flags They will also

hear how the installation ties in with Black to Green, a project being developed within

the bid that explores the county’s evolution from coal mining juggernaut to green


Other members of the panel will travel to Bishop Auckland to find out about the major

regeneration projects underway in the area. This will include learning more about the

work of The Auckland Project, with a visit to the Spanish Gallery and No.42, where a

community lunch will be taking place. The judges will also be introduced to

representatives from local tourism businesses.

The third group, meanwhile, will see Durham City, where they will explore the

county’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes Durham Cathedral and

Durham Castle. Other highlights will include a visit to Prebends Bridge to enjoy a

view captured by the world-renowned painter JMW Turner, a glimpse inside a secret

garden and a presentation about the county’s bids for levelling up funding.

The judges will reunite for lunch at New Durham Working Men’s Club in the city.

Here they will enjoy the warm welcome and spirit of camaraderie the region is

famous for, as well as experiencing a slice of County Durham culture immortalised in

the works of the Pitman Painters. However, there will be a 21 st century twist, with live

performances and guests representing the heart and soul on the county. The judges

will hear how this links to No Frills, Thrill Me, a Durham 2025 project that will

challenge performers to entertain audiences in simple venues without the aid of

props and special effects.

Food will be provided by REfUSE, a social enterprise committed to reducing food

waste, while serving up imaginative dishes at its ‘pay as you feel’ community café in


The visit will culminate at the Ogden Centre, where the judges will hear about the

work of Durham University’s cosmology and astrophysics departments. They will

also discover how this important research has helped to inspire Light Year, a year-

long cultural programme celebrating the region’s 1,300-year history of astronomy

and space science.

The Durham 2025 campaign is being driven by Durham County Council, Durham

University and Culture Durham, a partnership of more than 20 cultural organisations

from across the county.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Durham is such a

diverse county and, while it’s impossible to show the judges everything during their

visit, we really want to give them a flavour of the variety that exists here.

“It’s also important for us that the judges meet the people who will benefit if County

Durham is named UK City of Culture 2025. Whether that be our communities who

will be able to access exciting new opportunities or our businesses, which would

benefit from the increased visitor numbers our 2025 programme would attract.

“County Durham has a rich heritage, beautiful countryside, a spectacular coastline,

world class festival and events and award-winning cultural venues and attractions.

However, we also face challenges. The development of our bid has provided hard

evidence that the cultural, economic and well-being changes that we need to fulfil

our huge untapped potential can be achieved or catalysed through UK City of

Culture 2025.”

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We’re thrilled

to be able to give the judges a glimpse of the wonderful places and people in our



“As a university, we pride ourselves on being very much a part of our regional

community and Durham University’s museums, collections, visitor attractions and

cultural activities are an integral part of what County Durham has to offer.

“Gaining City of Culture status would be a game changer for our region which is full

of innovation, opportunities and passion to help our communities thrive.”

Tony Harrington, chair of Culture Durham, said: “Today we have the chance to

showcase our amazing county to the UK City of Culture judges and share our

ambitious plans for the future. The visit will shine a light on just some of our

extraordinary people and places, but if our bid is successful, we will spread the

opportunities it creates across all corners of the county.

“Being a part of the UK City of Culture 2025 competition is such a privilege and we

are incredibly proud to have come this far. We are ready to go all the way and show

our nation and the world the potential that exists here.”

This year, for the first time, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

broadened the UK City of Culture competition to allow counties and districts to apply,

resulting in a record-breaking 20 entries. In March, County Durham was one of just

four locations to make it to the shortlist. The winner is due to be announced later this


If County Durham secures the title, it would bring colossal social and economic

benefits to the entire region. This includes creating thousands of jobs, boosting the

creative and visitor economies by millions of pounds, empowering residents and

helping to improve community wellbeing.

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.

To find out more about Durham’s countywide bid to be UK City of Culture2025, visit ,

visit and follow the Durham 2025 social media accounts at, or


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