A BID to name County Durham as the UK City of Culture 2025 is being launched today with the hope the accolade will provide a major boost for the North East.

The aim is 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.

READ MORE: Why we love telling County Durham stories 

The Northern Echo:

Durham's stunning skyline over the River Wear 

Durham County Councillor Elizabeth Scott 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.”

The 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.

The Northern Echo:

Impressive scenes from Kynren 

Tony Harrington, chairman 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.”

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.

The Northern Echo:

Beamish Museum is one of the region's most popular visitor attractions 

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.”

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 North East

• 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

The Northern Echo:

Lumiere brings crowds into Durham city centre and has become a firm fixture 

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.

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.

The County Durham has won the cross-party support from local parliamentarians.

Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland Dehenna Davison said she was ‘thrilled’ to be supporting the bid.

She said: “Everyone knows Durham as one of our most beautiful ancient cities, particularly with its skyline crowned by the enormous cathedral.

“But the beauty of our region doesn't end at the city limits.

“Here in south-west Durham, we have so much history just waiting to be discovered.

“From the newly-restored Auckland Castle, home of the Prince-Bishops of Durham as far back as the 12th Century, to our rich artistic heritage and connection with the world of Spanish art and the annual Kynren show.

“I am looking forward to working with Ric, Paul and all of my colleagues in County Durham to make this bid a reality.”

Labour’s Durham City Mary Foy said she was grateful to the Durham Cultural Partnership for all the work they have already done to make the bid possible.

She said: "Durham is a county that is absolutely brimming with culture, and with so much to offer, but has too often been left behind.

“This is a fabulous opportunity to highlight and share this with the whole country.

“Just in the city alone we have a world class university, one of the first great Norman churches in Durham cathedral, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site to name just a few, and as you head out across the county, there are artists, musicians, community groups and others all taking inspiration from our rich heritage to create something new.

To win the County of Culture bid would be a huge boost to the whole county.

“It would raise the profile of the area and, I hope, serve as further inspiration to people in the region that their history, heritage and culture is worth celebrating and sharing.

"I can't wait to get involved in making this a success.”

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