Culture has long been recognised as a force for economic and social change. Amy Harhoff, Durham County Council’s corporate director of regeneration, economy and growth, explains how securing the prestigious title of UK City of Culture 2025 for County Durham has the potential to deliver positive change for generations to come.


In County Durham there is a long history of cultural-led regeneration, with an action-packed festival and events programme, vibrant arts venues, rich heritage and world-class tourist offer pumping millions of pounds into the economy each year.

And it is this commitment, along with a firm understanding of how culture can enhance the vibrancy of communities, that is driving forward the county’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025.

The prestigious competition, delivered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is all about harnessing the power of culture in placemaking, creating opportunities and changing lives.

The eight longlisted places now have just weeks to finalise their bids ahead of the deadline on Wednesday 2 February.

Read more: Jobs and investment top of the list for council

For Durham 2025 partners Durham County Council, Durham University and Culture Durham, ensuring the county’s bid supports the levelling up agenda is a key focus. The development of County Durham’s Inclusive Economic Strategy gives further emphasis on the role of culture and creativity in the economic growth of the area

County Durham is already a major economic force in the North East. It has 533,100 residents, supports 174,000 jobs in 14,565 businesses and contributes £9 billion to the region’s economy each year. The county’s vibrant and inclusive cultural offer and  tourist industry is part of this, contributing almost £1 billion to the economy in 2019.

Securing UK City of Culture 2025 status for the whole of the county would build on this, attracting millions of visitors and raising the county’s profile as a fantastic place to live, work, visit and invest. It would be a chance to shine a light on lesser-known parts of Durham, ensuring opportunities are spread to communities and businesses across the county.

Hull was UK City of Culture in 2017 and this was directly responsible for almost £90 million of investment. It also contributed to a 10 per cent rise in tourism and an increase in the number of visitors staying overnight. In 2019, 20 million people visited County Durham but only eight per cent stayed over. Doubling this to 16 per cent would boost our economy by £415 million and the impact would be felt across the wider north east region.

Just this week, DCMS launched a new inquiry - Reimagining where we live: cultural placemaking and the levelling up agenda – to explore the role culture could play in levelling up the country. More information about this inquiry can be found at:

Gaining the UK City of Culture title is a chance to position the entire region as a place of innovation and opportunity.

To find out more about the Durham 2025 campaign, visit


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