WEEK by week we edge ever closer to learning whether Durham will be crowned as the UK’s City of Culture for 2025. Since making the final four, the bid’s campaign has gathered real momentum with local communities and businesses from across our great county working with organisers to make sure the judges see the very best of Durham. There are increasingly few local landmarks where the campaign’s eye-catching, pink giant inflatable logo has not photo-bombed in recent weeks.

This week the campaign has reached Westminster, where I joined colleagues from across the county to speak in a special debate in the House of Commons on the Durham City of Culture bid, although sadly the giant pink inflatable was not in attendance.

In the debate, it was wonderful to hear voices from across the political divide uniting to draw attention to the county’s unique assets. From the stunning skyline of the castle and cathedral, that make up the Unesco world heritage site in my own constituency, to the coast in the east and rural dales in the west on the county, our cultural heritage touches every corner of the county – and that is why it was fantastic that MPs joined to back the first county-wide bid for city of culture.

Make no mistake – although integral, Durham’s bid is about far more than honouring our history. The campaign has adopted the motto of the Durham Miners Association: “The past we inherit – the future we build." Those profound words carry great weight in our county. They are deeply significant to me – I uttered them in my maiden speech in the House of Commons – and I know many people across Durham share my view.

The words of the Durham miners resonate so strongly with this bid because what is the City of Culture, if not an opportunity to shape Durham’s future.

Durham 2025 will not provide a magic wand to the challenges the county faces, it provides a unique opportunity to utilise our area’s strengths, kickstart investment, and to help our county realise it’s enormous potential. This investment will undoubtedly act as a springboard, to showcase our new and existing culture, as it has enabled the previous winners such as Hull and Coventry.

It’s impossible to read about the bid without being excited about what it could mean. As well as an exciting calendar of events, the bid promises genuine investment, with a pledge of over £40m of direct Durham 2025 spending and at least 50 per cent of contracts going to local suppliers, creating and protecting over 1,000 jobs in an area that is in desperate need of support.

In particular, becoming the City of Culture will have a transformative impact on our region’s creative industries and visitor economy. These sectors were hit extremely hard by the economic impact of the pandemic. Durham’s bid would offer an additional 2,500 jobs in the creative industries within the county by 2029, as well as generating 15.7m more visitors to Durham and creating 1,800 more jobs in the visitor economy.

Durham 2025 has the potential to be transformative. It will create good quality jobs, improve living standards and I hope disrupt the cycle of deprivation that exists in many of our communities.