A GROUP of MPs have joined forces to announce their support for a potential bid to have Durham crowned the UK County of Culture for 2025.

North West Durham MP Richard Holden, Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell have written to the Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture Media and Sport to highlight the”proud cultural heritage” of County Durham.Crowned as the UK’s City of Culture this year, Coventry has kickstarted the country’s cultural recovery from Coronavirus.

Asking the cultural secretary for a meeting, the MPs of County Durham believe they have a stronger case by bidding for County Durham as a “County of Culture” and are keen to put it to the minister.

Mr Holden said: “County Durham has a proud cultural history, from the fascinating National Railway Museum in Shildon, to the recently restored Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland, to the Seaham seafront, the Bowes Museum in Teesdale, our Museum of Mining in Killhope, through to the ancient Cathedral City of Durham itself.

“In the past, the award has proudly showcased the best of a city but we are making this a broader bid because we want to recognise our rich culture in the towns and villages spread out across county.

“To be honoured with the award would be unique as our proposal would help open County Durham to the rest of the country and showcase our entire county, not just a city.”

He added: “Obviously the city is beautiful and is the heart of the county, but it’s only a small part of what we have to offer. We want to push the levelling up to the entire county.

“We have a huge array of great towns as well. We want to make sure the bid is broad enough to encompass all of that we are offering.

“We also want to use it as a driver for other things, such as the DLI Museum, which we want to get back on its feet.

“Coronavirus has really whacked our hospitality sector and if we we can get something like this moving it can be a real driver for economic growth going forward.”

The bid would have to be led by the county council.

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, the council’s cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “County Durham has so much to offer residents and visitors. It is incredibly rich in terms of culture, heritage and innovation and we are determined to showcase what we have to offer and encourage more people to visit our incredible county in the north east of England.

“The beauty of our coastline, hills and dales and our remarkable city, alongside world class events, festivals, a global university and UNESCO world heritage site with our centuries old history, marks us out as a fantastic place to live, visit and do business. This is a great base to build on and we are ambitious to develop a unique and vibrant offer that will place creativity and innovation at the heart of our growth, boosting our visitor economy and regenerating our towns and villages.”

“We will work with MPs, stakeholders and government to consider opportunities that will further help us to encourage people to visit what we believe is a county which has a unique mix of culture and heritage.”

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