Durham's Year of Culture a 'fantastic success'

The Northern Echo: The Lindisfarne Gospels The Lindisfarne Gospels

DURHAM’S ‘Year of Culture 2013’ has been a fantastic success – attracting 500,000 visitors and injecting many millions into the economy, organisers have said.

When Durham missed out on the UK City of Culture 2013 title, council and culture chiefs vowed to stage a bumper year of arts and sporting events regardless.

The last 12 months has seen Durham City host a three-month loan of the Lindisfarne Gospels and a third Lumiere light festival and nearby Chester-le-Street stage the North-East’s first Ashes Test match.

The Gospels exhibition attracted 100,000 visitors and was worth £8.3m, Lumiere attracted 175,000 and was worth at least £5m and the Ashes attracted 70,000 and was worth about £20m.

Reflecting on the year today (Wednesday, December 11), Durham County Council leader Simon Henig said: “It’s been a really successful year. We’ve had around half a million people at our events. That’s a fantastic total.

“The programme we’ve run would be the envy of some of the bigger cities in the country. And we’ve managed it all despite the difficult economic times.”

Visit County Durham chief executive Melanie Sensicle added: “We set out to deliver a year of culture and we’ve certainly done that.

“It’s had a significant impact nationally and internationally. It’s brought Durham to the fore and reinstated it as an important place, an imaginative place and a place capable of hosting great spectacles.”

Looking ahead, Coun Henig said 2014 would see the county’s annual events return, including the Bishop Auckland Food Festival, the Durham Book Festival and Brass: Durham International Festival, but any other events would be dependent on funding and, with public consultation on next year’s budget ongoing, no promises could yet be made.

However, he restated his commitment to culture and events, saying they boost the economy, attract people to live and work and make people smile.

Ms Sensicle said 2013’s full impact would be seen over the next 18 months to two years.

Durham’s failure to land the UK City of Culture title, which eventually went to Derry, was initially feared to have cost the county around £120m in lost revenue.

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